PENDLETON — Developer Al Plute continued his run of success in securing grants from the Pendleton Development Commission, and even landed some moving expenses thrown in this time.
The commission approved $247,204 in grants from its facade and second floor grant programs to continue adding apartments to the Bowman Building. But in a first, the commission also gave Plute up to $10,000 for moving expenses, although none of the grants exceeded 40% of the total cost of the projects.
For the past year-and-a-half, Plute has been turning office space at the Bowman, located at the corner of Southwest Frazer Avenue and South Main Street, into apartments. The latest phase will add 11 apartments to the Bowman’s second floor, but it will cause Plute to move one of his commercial tenants, Umatilla County Veteran’s Services, to another of his properties, the Brown Building at 110 S.W. Court Ave.
Plute told the commission that moving expenses included the cost of moving internet service and furniture, but some members brought up that approving moving expenses would be setting a new precedent.
“If we make a decision here, we have to be consistent down the line,” Councilor Kevin Martin said.
Councilor McKennon McDonald said adding moving expenses to the commission’s grant programs could bring in more businesses to the downtown area and Kate Dimon, the chair of the Facade/Second Story Committee, said her committee could begin working on adding new rules to the grant program so other applicants could access grants for moving expenses.
Plute is familiar with the city business on both sides of the dais, having served on both the Pendleton City Council and the development commission from 2012-16, although only McDonald remains from Plute’s time in city government.
Plute has also been one of the few developers to take advantage of the commission’s second story grant program. Including the latest grant, Plute has received $622,419 from the second story grant program over three phases of the Bowman project in addition to $64,030 from the facade program.
Ultimately, the commission unanimously approved the grants.
Switching roles from commissioners to city councilors, the members of the Pendleton City Council also approved a $1.4 million bid from McCormack Construction Co. to build a flex hangar at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range.
The city will pay for the grant with a low-interest loan from the state, which the city expects to pay back with proceeds from federal COVID-19 relief money. City Engineer Tim Simons told the council that there’s already interest from a UAS company in renting the hangar.