Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Feb. 24, 2021

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Vancouver to seek $3.5 million loan for Fourth Plain Commons project

Plan includes public plaza, offices, affordable housing

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Vancouver will work to secure a loan to help fund the next phase of the Fourth Plain Commons project, a multimillion-dollar investment that will bring housing and a community space to the Fourth Plain corridor.

This week, city councilors unanimously gave staff the green light to pursue a $3.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program — called a Section 108 loan — allows municipalities to multiply their Community Development Block Grant funds for projects, offering loans up to five times the amount of the grants.

According to Peggy Sheehan, Vancouver’s community development manager, the loans have a 20-year repayment plan. The city has accessed them before to fund $5.4 million in improvements to Grant and Esther streets.

“It’s a very popular program, the city of Vancouver has used it once before,” Sheehan told the council this week. “It has very flexible financing — you can use it for anything CDBG authorizes us to use it for.”

The Fourth Plain Commons is the largest single piece of the city’s broader Fourth Plain Forward strategy, which has been in the works since 2015.

The space — which will eventually be located on the southwest corner of East Fourth Plain Boulevard and Norris Road — will consist of a ground-level public facility with gathering spaces, an outdoor plaza and shared offices for community services like business training and housing assistance. The first floor of the building will also include a commercial kitchen for a culinary training program.

“There’s going to be lots of opportunity for community gathering,” said Rebecca Kennedy, the city’s planning manager.

The top floors will include 106 apartments, with rent set to meet affordable housing metrics.

Altogether, the full facility is expected to cost $41.4 million. The vast majority of that, around $36 million, will go toward the residential units, Kennedy said. The common space will cost around $5.4 million.

In spring of 2019, the Legislature helped kick off the project with an $800,000 grant. City staff held a workshop in March — “just a couple weeks before everything was shut down,” Kennedy said — followed by a series of remote focus groups over the summer.

The city plans to break ground on the project by September of this year.

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