A 74-unit affordable housing project for active seniors will be built at Third Avenue and Lincoln Street, the site of a former funeral parlor. A Craftsman-style house next to the vacant building will be relocated on the site and restored as part of the project.

The project — called Benessere Village — is being undertaken by Bienestar, a nonprofit community development corporation based in Hillsboro. Executive Director Karen Shawcross says the downtown location is ideal for active seniors.

“The location is near the MAX line and near downtown, where there is the Farmer’s Market and other activities,” Shawcross HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - A former funeral parlor at 3rd and Lincoln that is set to be demolished to make way for Benessere Village.

According to Beinestar, the project will also be good for downtown, which is undergoing a revival that has attracted another housing project. Called 4th Main, it is a mixed-use development that will include 71 market rate apartment at Fourth Avenue and Main Street.

“Benessere Village can also be looked at as an economic development project,” Shawcross says.

Beinestar means “well-being” in Spanish and Benessere means the same in Italian.

“We adopted these names to reflect our mission, which is to build housing, hope and futures for the well-being of working families and seniors,” Shawcross explains.

Other projects begin work

The funeral parlor was occupied by the Donelson, Sewell & Mathews Mortuary until 2008, when it relocated to 1070 W. Main St. The building has been vacant since then.

Bienstar recently bought the .84-acre parcel for $910,000. Plans call for the vacant funeral home to be demolished and the Donelson House turned into a community resource. Total project costs are estimated at $12.8 million with financing coming from a variety of public and private sources.

Bienestar was founded as the community development corporation more than 30 years ago for the purpose of building safe, clean and affordable farmworker housing. The organization subsequently expanded its mission to include working class housing and has completed 11 projects in Aloha, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Scappoose.

According to Shawcross, the board expanded the organization’s mission again to include affordable senior housing. The decision was driven by the increasing number of seniors in need of such housing, a byproduct of the aging baby boomer population.

“The Housing Authority of Washington County currently has 520 seniors on its waiting list. Many senior currently live in two and three story homes that won’t meet their needs as their grow older,” Shawcross says.

Shawcross says Benessere Village is intended to be a catalyst for the creation of a community network of volunteer neighbor-to-neighbor services that support sustained independence and the ability for seniors to age in their homes. It will be based on a national model and will connect the project residents with the larger community in a network of mutual support. In addition, a comprehensive array of social amenities and programs will be offered onsite to Benessere Village residents.

The organization’s first project geared towards seniors will be a library topped by two floors of housing in Cornelius.

The Washington County Office of Community Development and The Community Housing Fund provided the initial predevelopment financing for the Benessere Village project. The primary site acquisition financing is through the Network for Affordable Housing, a nonprofit consortium of banks and investors. The project development team working with Bienestar includes The Nielson Group LLC, a development finance consultant, Scott/Edwards Architecture and the Housing Authority of Washington County. 

Two other affordable housing project are either under construction or planned in Hillsboro.

Construction recently began on another affordable senior housing project in Hillsboro. The 45-unit Alma Gardens apartment complex is being developed by the nonprofit Northwest Housing Alternatives at Northeast Orenco Station Parkway and Campus Court, near the TriMet Park and Ride lot that serves the MAX station. The $9.3 million project is scheduled to be completed next winter.

And REACH Development Corp. recently announced it has received $500,000 from the Meyer memorial Trust to help finance construction of the first phase of The Orchards at Orenco, a 57-unit affordable apartment complex located near the Orenco MAX station. Work is expected to begin in the fall.

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