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Tokola apartment project ready to move forward

Forest Grove Urban Renewal Agency paves way for summer construction


Forest Grove City Council members agreed to commit more than $2 million in public money to a $15 million project that most of them believe will revitalize Forest Grove’s business district.

In three separate 5-1 votes Monday night, city council members — acting as the Urban Renewal Agency Board of Directors — entered into a financial agreement to sell the 1.5-acre Times-Litho site to Tokola Properties and also created a development agreement between Tokola and the urban renewal board.

The city will end up spending $2,062,561 from its capital projects fund on the former Times-Litho property (including the orginal purchase), which currently sits empty along Pacific Avenue between A and B streets.

The financial agreement approved Monday means the Urban Renewal Agency will take on that $2 million debt and pay the city back over 15 years through tax money from the city’s urban renewal district.

For its part, Tokola will cover 88 percent of the total $15.5 million project cost (an estimated $13,682,912), barring any unforeseeable complications.

If complications do arise and the project falls apart, a “subordination” arrangement approved Monday simply ensures another developer could step in and finish the project — and be paid through rents or other income from the property.

That “subordination clause” sparked a lot of confusion among councilors/URA directors — particularly Victoria Lowe, who asked to table the vote until the council got a clearer explanation.

Councilor/director Malynda Wenzl seconded the motion to halt the vote and started to explain that she wanted to give Lowe more of a chance to understand and discuss the issue.

But based on Robert’s Rules of Order for public meetings, Forest Grove Mayor/URA Chairman Pete Truax had to cut off Wenzl so the motion to table could be voted upon without discussion.

The motion failed 4-2.

Tokola owner Dwight Unti later told city Finance Director Paul Downey that Tokola would be willing to seek a different arrangement that did not re-quire a written subordinate clause in the official agreement. Downey and Unti discussed the issue further Tuesday morning.

On the next three votes, Lowe was the sole opponent.

After the hearing, Lowe was excused for medical reasons to leave the building instead of reconvening with the rest of the council to finish the council meeting.

The next steps for the city will be to prepare design and property lot-line adjustments and to schedule engineering and architectural surveys.

Meanwhile, Tokola will finalize its designs and collect the required permits and financial backing before returning to Forest Grove to begin the actual construction sometime in August.

Broken into two phases, the agreements made Monday will only cover the first: a 78-unit, four-story apartment/retail complex. Apartments will be available in the studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom varieties with prices ranging from $805 to $1,575 per month.

The second phase, which would cover the remaining third of the property, on the B Street side, has not yet been planned out.