Following up on their presentation at last year’s KNA General Meeting in June, REACH CDC has announced two significant changes to the planned development of TriMet’s property at 2133 N Argyle St across from Nelson Plaza: Converting the project into 100% affordable housing, removing a mixed-income component, and eliminating any commercial space, scraping a mixed-use element.
The project is facing a multi-million dollar funding gap, and these modifications allow for an exemption to Oregon’s prevailing wage law required for projects that receive considerable public funding. However, while allowing REACH CDC to reduce labor costs to stay within their budgetary restrictions, these changes represent a vast departure from the original guidelines for the project.
In TriMet’s Request for Statement of Qualifications (RFQ) for the project that REACH CDC was awarded, TriMet noted that they sought “a development team to provide mixed-use building(s) with both market rate and affordable housing, and a ground-floor retail presence to create an active street frontage.”
While TriMet offered flexibility in the mixed-income aspect by only requiring that at least 25 percent of the units be affordable, TriMet was very clear that project must include “improved availability of retail goods and services near transit station.”
TriMet’s goals for the project tied back to a study by Prosper Portland that, as pointed out in the RFQ, found that this property was “recommended to be the first of a potential phased development plan that would dramatically change N. Argyle Street into a dense node of activity at the north end of the Kenton downtown.”
Hoping to keep the project moving forward, TriMet has lifted the commercial activity requirements.
After discussing the matter at last month’s KNA Board Meeting, the KNA Board issued a statement to REACH CDC in which the KNA Board took the following positions based on current information:
We would rather wait for the right development at 2133 N Argyle St over having the wrong development happen now since this project will impact the neighborhood for years to come.
We believe the Prosper Portland studies and the TriMet RFQ provided a clear vision for the right development for 2133 N Argyle St and strongly supported the original proposal by REACH CDC.
We disagree with TriMet’s decision to allow the removal of commercial space, disconnecting this site from the Kenton business district and no longer activating the “gateway” to the neighborhood.
We desire a mixed-use, mixed-income project at 2133 N Argyle St and are unsure that 100% affordable housing is the right fit for this project given the planned low-income housing facility at 2221 N Argyle St.
REACH CDC intends to attend the next KNA Board Meeting, which all neighbors are encouraged to attend, on January 10th, 7pm, at the Historic Kenton Firehouse (8105 N Brandon Ave) to begin discussion with neighbors about these changes to the project. As well, the Portland Housing Bureau, which granted significant funds to REACH CDC, will be having their N/NE Oversight Committee discuss the REACH CDC project with a public comment period on the 11th at the New Song Community Center (220 NE Russell Street) at 6pm. Mayor Wheeler is expect to be in attendance.