Affordable housing — Construction to begin next week on $13 million, 56-unit complex at historic property

Construction on the estimated $13 million, 56-unit affordable housing complex on Meridian Street, known as Deskins Commons, is expected to begin in earnest next GARY ALLEN - Getting underway - Minor work preparing the site, including the removal of a number of trees, has already been completed on the property of the historic Ellen D.  Todd House at 1103 N. Meridian St. Construction on the estimated $13 million, 56-unit affordable housing complex that is to be built around the existing house is expected to begin as early as next week.

The project, spearheaded by the Housing Authority of Yamhill County (HAYC) is a unique one in several ways, not the least of which is the fact that the complex is being built around an existing historical structure, the Ellen D. Todd House, built circa 1905. The house will be renovated, restored and converted into a combination of common space and a private residence to be used in the future by the property’s HAYC-employed site manager.

The size of the site (3.3 acres) is also unusually large for HAYC and Deskins Commons will mark the housing authority’s first newly constructed property in Newberg (it manages three others in town, but those were all acquisitions of preexisting structures).

“This is completely different than anything we’ve ever done,” said Elise Hui, executive director of HAYC. “We are very excited to get started.”

It has been a long time coming. HAYC first proposed rezoning the property to high-density residential in 2010, drawing the ire of neighbors who were worried about traffic, compatibility and other issues. The rezoning request was eventually approved by the Newberg Planning Commission the following year, albeit narrowly.

Opposition to the project was more tempered when HAYC returned to the commission in December for the review of its site plans. Although a handful of neighbors, including those representing the Spaulding Oaks 55-plus retirement community across the street, still expressed concerns, the housing authority’s plans for the site ultimately won the commissioners’ unanimous approval.

Hui said some minor work has already been done at the site, including the felling of a number of trees, the installation of a chain-link fence and the removal of an outdated heating oil tank. (She said most of the largest trees, including the native Oregon white oaks, will be preserved.)

More significant construction efforts are slated to begin next week, she said, after final financial documents are signed this week. The project is being funded through a variety of sources — much of it in federal tax dollars administered by the state, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

“We’ve done a couple preliminary things on the site, but people should be starting to see more movement there this month,” Hui said.

The general contractor on the project, Portland-based Bremik Construction, expects it to be completed in about 12 months. Hui said HAYC will probably begin accepting applications for the Deskins Commons waiting list around the end of this year and begin signing leases in June.

The complex will primarily serve those whose income is 50 percent or less of the area median gross income.

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