Rocky soil. A lack of flat land. A tight urban growth boundary.
The reasons why developers find it difficult to build new housing in Pendleton are well established, but some are looking at Pendleton’s existing stock instead of bare ground for their newest housing developments.
Edwards Apartments is as good a candidate for redevelopment as any other piece of housing in Pendleton.
Built in 1908, the 602 S.E. Dorion Ave. apartment complex used to act as a combination stable and hotel, offering a place for both horses and their riders to sleep.
“You could ride into the hotel and stay upstairs,” said owner Darrinn Manuel.
In its later years as a non-equine, 14-unit apartment complex, Edwards struggled with blight and decay.
Former tenants reported a facility rife with roaches, drug use, black mold and other public safety and health issues. In a four-month period in 2010, Pendleton police responded to 112 calls at the complex. Edwards’ unsafe living conditions caused the city to condemn the building in 2010 and the complex has been unoccupied ever since. Today, most of the windows are boarded up, heavy cracks abound on the structure’s western wall and its exterior piping is thoroughly rusted through.
“As ugly as it is,” police chief Stuart Roberts said, there isn’t much local authorities can do once a vacant building is condemned besides ensuring that it’s secure from outside access.
According to Umatilla County records, the property was sold for $50,000 in 2014 to Boring Properties LLC, a Clackamas County real estate company owned by Manuel and his wife.
Manuel said Thursday that he would like to restore the building and turn it into four to six townhouses, but his company doesn’t have the funding to do it.
He would like to sell another property Boring owns in Pendleton to help finance the project, but if the company can’t start the project soon, he intends to put it on the market more aggressively.
Manuel said he’s already received inquiries about buying the property and Charles Denight, the associate director of the Pendleton Development Commission, has said about a “half-dozen” developers have approached him about using a commission grant to demolish Edwards and put something new in its place.
Whether its through restoration or demolition, other Pendleton property owners are already taking steps toward redevelopment.
Al Plute, a downtown property owner and a former city councilor, is looking to convert the third floor of the Bowman Building from office space to 18 apartment units. He wants to ask for $300,000 to $400,000 from the commission to assist with a project he expects to cost as much as $1 million.
On a smaller scale, the commission agreed to give Pendleton property owner John Fenton a $10,000 grant at a meeting Tuesday to demolish a dilapidated house at 356 S.E. Third Street and replace it with new duplexes. The new development will be required to have a property value of $105,000 or more as a part of the grant conditions.
An increase in interest in the demolition program would be a new development for it: Denight said Tuesday that the commission has issued only one demolition grant in the past three years.
The commission’s interest in redevelopment is significant enough that its advisory committee had Denight compile a list of properties that could be restored or demolished for housing purposes.
Presenting the committee’s findings at its monthly meeting Thursday, Denight identified 24 buildings with a total real market value of nearly $6.3 million, although he was unable to get the value of old city hall, the Pendleton Grain Growers building and several properties the commission owns on Southwest Byers Avenue.
While 14 properties are downtown buildings the commission has already targeted for its second-story restoration program, the members of the advisory committee also did a driving tour of Pendleton to find properties that could meet that criteria.
Some of the properties they put on the list include Edwards Apartments, the Christian Science building and the Elks Lodge. Out of those ten properties, Denight thought only two — the New Dragon Lounge and EO Fast Freight — should be demolished if the owners wanted to convert them to housing.
Denight said these were merely his opinions and didn’t reflect the will of the owners or the rest of the committee.
A new approach
Despite some of the other properties compiled by the committee, much of their focus remained on the two-story downtown properties.
Denight said some downtown owners aren’t willing to undertake a significant renovation project, but don’t want to sell the property either because of the rent they’re collecting on the ground floor.
In those situations, Denight said the commission could take a more aggressive tactic by buying the second floor spaces by themselves and partnering with a private developer to convert them into apartments.
Steve Campbell, a member of the committee, said the commission would need to be frugal in their offers because many of these second floors are in disrepair and would require significant improvements.
“This isn’t a bailout or a golden parachute,” he said. “It can’t be.”
Councilor Scott Fairley, the chair of the committee, told Denight to do further work on the list and report back to the committee at its next meeting.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.