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New partner improves Cornelius Place image

Momentum is picking up for the long-anticipated $16.4 million Cornelius Place project featuring a new library and 45 affordable senior housing units.

The Cornelius City Council unanimously voted Sept. 6 to approve an agreement with affordable housing nonprofit developers Bridge Inc., of San Francisco, and Bienestar, Inc., of Hillsboro, to jointly develop the housing part of a project that could revitalize downtown Cornelius.

“Bridge will be the lead developer and Bienestar the public face of the project,” explained Anne Blacker, Bienestar executive director. Bienestar representatives will serve on the development steering committee and, upon project completion, will manage the residential units.

Rob Drake, Cornelius city manager, said Bienestar recruited Bridge “because Bridge is a national-level housing nonprofit with a wealth of knowledge in getting federal tax credits and development.”

Bridge will learn by mid-November if it has received $8,295,137 in federal low-income housing credits, a linchpin for Bridge and Bienestar’s $11,617,630 share of the project, said Community Development Director Ryan Wells.

A previous attempt to win those housing credits failed in the summer of 2015, when Bienestar was the only nonprofit behind the affordable housing part of the project.

The three-story Cornelius Place would replace the current city council chambers at the corner of Adair Street and 14th Avenue and adjacent lawn. The first floor would feature a 13,700-square-foot library and a 3,000-square-foot youth recreation center, said Ryan Wells, Cornelius community development director.

The second and third floors would have 45 units of affordable, senior housing and a residential community room. The concept is based on the widely lauded new mixed-used libraries in Portland’s Sellwood and Hollywood districts, which feature multi-level housing above first-floor libraries.

Plans for the new Cornelius Library include a business center, café kiosk, Friends of Library bookstore, Spanish collection, study/conference rooms, technology center and a community meeting room. The existing library will largely be converted into city uses, such as a council chamber room to replace the current one on Adair Street.

Financing has been slow since the City announced the project back in 2012, but Wells predicts the necessary money will come through.

Cornelius has $3,780,000 in commitments toward its $4,860,000 contribution, he said. “We’ve hired a half-time capital campaign manager to secure funds from foundations and businesses to complete the city’s portion,” he said. If all goes well, the city will break ground next summer, aiming for an August 2018 opening.

The city hopes to raise the remaining $1 million from foundations, a $100,000 Metro in Neighborhood grant, corporate grants and individual contributions.