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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Vancouver council OKs tax exemption for Academy site

By Katy Sword, Columbian politics reporter
Published: September 17, 2018, 9:43pm

The Vancouver City Council approved a request by Marathon Acquisition & Development for a multifamily tax exemption Monday evening, allowing the developer to avoid paying eight years of property taxes in exchange for public benefit at the Providence Academy site.

The developer will construct two new buildings on the 7-acre site that include both apartments and commercial retail space. The buildings will be five and six stories tall and incorporate 140 apartments and seven commercial spaces totaling 163,000 square feet. The apartments will likely cost $1,433 a month for a studio, $1,597 for a one-bedroom and $2,155 for a two-bedroom.

The multifamily tax exemption is available to developers building either affordable housing or market-rate housing with public improvements.

Aaron Wigod, Marathon vice president in charge of development, said the opportunity is unique.

“We are directly creating an economic engine that will help preserve (the site),” Wigod said.

Public plaza, art

Marathon proposed building a 5,026-square-foot public plaza at the corner of C Street and East Evergreen Boulevard, which will serve as a pedestrian gateway between downtown Vancouver and the mixed-use property.

The northern half of the plaza will be reserved for café seating, and the southern half will be designed for public use, Wigod said.

Marathon will also provide historical informative and abstract art. The current proposal suggests informative plaques between the buildings’ columns, informing passers-by about the site’s history and significance.

As for the abstract art, Wigod said their initial proposal has been deemed “creepy,” and needs further review. But the developer is conceptualizing 3D art on open brick walls, one on each new building.

The buildings will also feature high-end bicycle amenities, including bike storage for each apartment, service stations and a washing station.

“We’ve found the more convenient you make it and the more high end you make it … the more likely (residents) are to commute,” Wigod said, adding he hopes that the features would encourage more bicycle commuters.

He said the proposed features are worthy of the tax exemption. Although one speaker objected to the site design and was concerned about degrading the historical asset, the council agreed with Wigod’s assessment.

“I say build it. If this is the path we are going to take I am very excited about it,” said Councilor Bart Hansen.

Pat Jolotta, local historian and former city councilor, said this sort of project is exactly why the multifamily tax exemption program exists.

“In a land of unicorns and rainbows, we’d have a garden all around the Academy, but it’s not the 1870s anymore,” Jolotta said. “We have to draw people into downtown. We don’t want this to be a drive-by and ‘look ain’t this pretty.’ ”

With the tax exemption now in hand, construction on the Academy site could begin as early as next summer.

Columbian politics reporter