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News / Business / Clark County Business

Project Safe Haven fills former site of Kasper Recovery Housing in Hazel Dell; Kasper owner files lawsuit

Kasper founder sues owners of former Value Motel, says they broke promise to sell him property after he spent $1.5M renovating it

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 29, 2024, 8:34pm
5 Photos
The sign for the former Kasper Recovery Housing, also known as Ironhorse Recovery, is no longer visible, as seen Monday morning.
The sign for the former Kasper Recovery Housing, also known as Ironhorse Recovery, is no longer visible, as seen Monday morning. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Vancouver nonprofit has taken over operations of the former Kasper Recovery Housing site in Hazel Dell, rebranding it as Project Safe Haven.

Vancouver’s James Kasper — who recovered from addiction — made waves as he remodeled the infamous Value Motel, 708 N.E. 78th St., into a recovery home in 2020. Kasper Recovery Housing opened in 2021 and served people recovering from addiction. The complex was at its maximum capacity of 58 people and had a waitlist of about 100 people, Kasper said.

But over the past few months, community members have noticed the recovery program’s sign and its skull logo had been painted over.

That’s because Kasper’s lease for the property was not renewed after it ended in August.

When The Columbian visited the property Monday, Jeff Talbott, chief operating officer with Lumen Fidelis, said his nonprofit has overseen the property since Sept. 1. On its website, Lumen Fidelis shows a photo of the Value Motel before Kasper’s renovation.

“Through a comprehensive hotel remodel, we envision a revitalized space where people find more than just shelter — they find a true haven,” the website states. “Our actions focus on empowering residents to regain their dignity, fostering a sense of community and providing a foundation for a brighter future.”

Now, Kasper is suing the motel’s owners, alleging they broke their promise to sell him the property.

In January 2023, Kasper filed a lawsuit in Clark County Superior Court against several companies, alleging breach of lease and breach of contract at four properties. In March, he amended the complaint to add a seventh cause of action over the motel property.

Brenda Christina and Milton O. Brown govern the company, Commercial Adventures LLC, which owns the motel property. They also control the other companies named in the lawsuit.

On Friday, Christina declined to answer The Columbian’s questions. She confirmed someone else is overseeing the recovery house, but she refused to say who. When contacted again Monday for follow up questions, she hung up the phone.

Kasper’s lawsuit alleges Commercial Adventures LLC, through Christina and Brown, promised to sell Kasper the motel property “if he spent the time and resources necessary to substantially improve the building and to do all work and repairs necessary to obtain an occupancy permit and make it habitable again.”

Kasper said he spent more than $1.5 million renovating the property.

In the suit, he alleges Christina and Brown were aware he was spending substantial amounts to renovate the property.

“We think that they led Mr. Kasper along, thinking that he was going to be able to stay in the building long-term either by renting it or by owning it,” Kasper’s attorney, Steven Turner, said in an interview Monday. “Instead, right after the initial three-term lease was up, they gave him the boot. There’s no way he would have put that money into it if he thought it was only going to be for three years.”

The lawsuit states Christina and Brown “did nothing to dissuade Kasper” from spending money and time on the property, and then they went back on their promise to sell it to him.

“Commercial Adventures LLC has been unjustly enriched by reaping the rewards of Kasper’s efforts renovating the property based on Brenda Christina’s and Milton O. Brown’s false promises that Kasper would be allowed to purchase the property after the renovations were complete,” the suit states.

The defendants filed a response April 1 denying Kasper’s allegations about the motel property and disputed other claims. Kasper is seeking more than $1 million in economic damages for all of his claims, according to court documents.

On Monday, Kasper told The Columbian he is looking for a new property to purchase to create a recovery home. He plans to open the new housing by the end of the year, he said.

“My ideas haven’t changed, and losing time and money at the Value didn’t dissuade me from continuing on,” Kasper said.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.