Mayor Clark: Tear down this hall
Wood Village hopes to hook a retail and residential development worth $29 million when fully leased — but there's a catch.
Once councilors push the button, City Hall itself will be razed to make way for the new project.
"What we're doing with City Hall is (creating) a catalyst for what we really want for the Halsey corridor," Mayor Tim Clark explained. "It'll become a seed for business on our new main street."
Wood Village Commons, planned for Halsey Street at the corner of 238th Drive, would add roughly 8,400 square feet of retail space facing Halsey, plus 166 residential apartments that range from studios to three-bedroom units.
Blueprints call for three and four-story residential buildings, a two-story parking garage and approximately 277 total parking stalls.
Dwellers' amenities will likely involve common rooms, a barbecue area, courtyard, sports court and two play structures for children.
Councilors have already signed a deal to sell for $3.75 million about 275,000 square feet of city-owned land to developer Williams & Dame, whose handiwork has reshaped the skyline of the South Waterfront and the Pearl District in Portland.
The agreement hinges on city officials buying a 25,000-square-foot triangle lot from the adjacent Best Western for roughly $350,000.
Accounting for that, the broker's 5 percent commission, other closing costs and a traffic study necessary for rezoning — and the city still comes out ahead by $3.16 million.
The builders aren't dipping into public housing funds, but have pledged to keep rents affordable for those making 80 percent of the metropolitan average. For a family of three, that equals about $57,000 in yearly income.
"Doing this type of housing — given the emergency and the lack of available housing that we have in the area — is critical," developer Dike Dame testified at a city meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
"Now, are we doing this out of the goodness of our heart? Heck no! We're doing this to make a profit," he continued. "But we want to do good. We want to leave a legacy. We're not carpetbaggers. We live here."
The prospect of wrecking balls has some citizens wondering where city employees will work. In the short term, City Manager Bill Peterson says about 8,000 square feet is available in the office building owned by Morasch Meats and Pressure Safe, a food-processing business.
And in the long term?
"We could end up (building) a, say, two-story building on Halsey Street, put City Hall on the top, and have the bottom be a small-business incubator, hypothetically," Mayor Clark said. He noted that there's vacant land available across the way from Donald L. Robertson Park.
The sloping land between Halsey and Interstate 84 is within the city's urban renewal area, which means Wood Village can pocket the increase in property taxes expected to total roughly $3.76 million over the next decade. Normally, the funds are shared with overlapping jurisdictions.
About 25 percent of that money, or $966,000 will be paid back as incentives to the developer to reduce fees and pay for the relocation of existing sewer lines so they aren't below the new buildings.
Peterson says it's worth it. Wood Village City Hall has long been considered a 100 percent corner — real estate slang for the most valuable and visible property in town. Municipal buildings, however, don't pay property taxes.
Moreover, the city's revenue ticks along at a growth rate of 3 percent to 3.5 percent annually. Expenses are rising 4 percent to 4.5 percent a year. That math adds up to trouble in the long run.
"(This development) can increase dramatically the underlying value of our city," Peterson said.
City Hall was constructed in the early 1940s as a community center for the WWII-era employees of the now-demolished Reynolds Aluminum plant in Troutdale. It hosted USO dances and served as a kindergarten.
The building has been remodeled at least six times, has several interlocking roof structures and four separate foundations.
The freeway adjacent parcels to the north once contained a gas station and the Diebold Lumber yard that dated back to the 1960s. Both buildings were condemned when transportation officials rebuilt the I-84 interchange in the early 1990s.
A pre-existing drinking water pump will be grandfathered into the new site plan. City leaders are also negotiating with firearms accessory manufacturer GrovTec for permission to route a fire lane between the company's two buildings.