At last night’s KNA Board meeting, dozens of neighbors were given a chance to hear directly from REACH CDC and voice concerns on the changes to their development of TriMet’s property at 2133 N Argyle St.
While neighbors might have differing opinions about the project having some market-rate units or not, neighbors did send a clear message on the commercial space: This should be a mixed-use project.
With retail included, the project is facing roughly a 4 million dollar shortfall. REACH CDC’s solution to this is to use an affordable housing exemption to the state of Oregon prevailing wage law, allowing REACH CDC to receive millions of dollars of public funding without having to pay the wages normally required for public works projects in Oregon. By not paying prevailing wages, REACH CDC can save about 10% in construction costs, closing their funding gap.
This exemption, however, prevents any space intended for commercial use from being built, but REACH CDC still plans to build out the ground-floor retail as community spaces. Unless Oregon state law were changed, REACH CDC could never convert this space to actual retail or charge any rent for it.
REACH CDC was clearly looking for ideas how they could activate these ground-floor community rooms from neighbors, but those in attendance had little interest in partaking in that conversation. Frankly, it’s hard to envision storefront community spaces not turning out to be more empty storefronts.
The big misstep here is that REACH CDC wasn’t coming to neighbors to figure out how they should proceed with the project; they were here to tell neighbors what had already been decided. It’s now late in the process, and options appear limited.
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. REACH CDC was receptive to working with the KNA in engaging Prosper Portland, for example, in looking for additional public funds.
The KNA Board will be looking at sending letters to TriMet and Prosper Portland in the coming days along with establishing meetings with REACH CDC and government officials.
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