PENDLETON — Developer Al Plute’s latest project is adding another boost to Pendleton’s downtown housing stock.
Plute is remodeling the 125 year-old Odd Fellows Temple, 19 S.W. Dorion Ave., to house 12 upscale apartments.
The city issued Plute’s AGP Visions LLC a demolition permit on Sept. 6, 2019, and a building permit Sept. 6, 2022, to remodel the building. According to city documents, the project has a job value of $1.5 million.
Plute has specialized in remodeling upper floors of historical Pendleton downtown structures, often unused or commercial spaces, into luxury apartments.
“My wife and I have added 200 units to downtown Pendleton that weren’t there before,” he said. “The area had low-rent housing, so we didn’t want to compete in that market. We decided to remodel vacant or office space into upscale residential units.”
A member of the Pendleton City Council and Pendleton Development Commission from 2011-16, Plute became familiar with the urban renewal district as a developer and policymaker.
Before joining the council, Plute in 2005 used urban renewal grants to renovate the Brown Building, 110 S.W. Court Ave., and later the St. George Plaza, 15 S.E. Emigrant Ave. The Pendleton Development Commission then awarded him $340,928 in two grants to remodel the third floor of the Bowman Building, 17 S.W. Frazer Ave. The grants covered about 27% of the project cost.
“We couldn’t go full bore on this project until the last unit was complete at the Bowman,” Plute said. “We’re just waiting for the city inspection.”
$670,000 in grants help Odd Fellows project
Past and present ground floor commercial tenants of the Odd Fellows Temple have vacated the premises or plan to do so soon. Calico Country Florist closed shop in May and the owners of Loftus Jewelers intend to retire in the near future. Plute estimated the building’s second and third stories hadn’t been used since the 1980s. He said he hoped to preserve or reuse as much as possible from the existing building.
To comply with modern fire codes and restore the building’s original brick facade, Plute needed to strip stucco layers from both its inside and outside, exposing windows beneath the material.
“In the ‘30s, art deco was the style,” he said. “Before they applied stucco, they roughed up the bricks. The sealant with which to coat the bricks just arrived.”
Besides removing stucco, Plute also needed to install an elevator and a fire suppression sprinkler system. To do so, he applied for financial assistance from the Pendleton Development Commission, which on March 16, 2021, approved a $60,000 facade grant and a $610,000 upper story grant for the project, according to PDC Associate Director Charles Denight. The grants covered about 45% of the cost of facade restoration and second-story development.
The PDC is considering revamping its grant rules, including implementing caps.
Plute aims to complete restoration by January 2024, but expects some units to be ready before then.
“Everything is new,” he said.”Plumbing, sprinklers, electrical, windows, roof, all new in an old but renovated facade.”
Plute rattled off the familiar names of local contractors and suppliers on whom his projects rely.
“We buy as much locally as we can,” he said. “We like to spread the money around.”
Among finishing touches for the exterior of the Bowman Building, Plute plans to order a large neon sign from Sign Men in Pendleton.
The remodeled Odd Fellows building is to feature a roof garden. Plute’s St. George complex includes a roof garden covered with artificial grass.
Plans for the Odd Fellows Temple include a balcony with planters above an awning over the ground floor commercial area.
“We have extra bricks from the chimney,” Plute said, “which we’ll cut in two to repair the most roughed up area (high on the Main Street side).”
The floor plan features four two-bedroom and eight one-bedroom units. Full kitchens feature islands, while the baths have laundry washers and dryers. Besides the elevator, a number of stairs and fire escapes are to provide access and safety. More windows offer plenty of light and ventilation.
Plute can’t be sure on rents yet, but the two-bedroom apartments might cost $1,250 to $1,300 per month, with all utilities included except electricity.
“Water, sewer, garbage, internet,” he said.
All of Plute’s units now allow animals, but his projects didn’t start out pet-friendly.
“My wife and I were living in the St. George,” he recalled. “We had our dog with us. She said we couldn’t be the only ones, so we changed the rule. It turned out to be a good thing. We’ve found that pet owners are better tenants.”
Readying for a ‘swan song’Plute, 70, recently returned from a year-long vacation traveling the country with his wife.
“I feel rejuvenated,” he said. “I’m ready to give it one hard year. Maybe 18 months.”
In addition to completing the Odd Fellows Temple, Plute said the project he said he has planned is to transform space in the St. George Plaza into lofts. The space is empty or dedicated to offices.
“We want to make use of every square foot of floor space,” he said. “It will be our last hurrah. We love Pendleton. We’re going to stay in our condo on the North Hill. We can see all of our buildings from there. They all have flags.”
From the St. George’s roof garden, Plute pointed out flags on the Brown and Odd Fellows buildings.
“The lofts will be our swan song,” he concluded. “Then we will be done with building.”