Yes, it’s still just part dream and part wish at this point. But still, think about it for just a minute and what it would mean for downtown Roseburg: a six-story apartment complex, with shops and maybe a restaurant on the bottom floor and as many as 70 units above, and — get this — underground parking.
That is what the nonprofit group NeighborWorks Umpqua is seeking permission to build, in the earliest of stages, in paperwork submitted to the city.
At roughly 80,000 square feet of gross building area, “It would likely be the largest building in downtown, other than the county building complex,” said Brian Shelton-Kelley, director of acquisitions and development at NeighborWorks Umpqua. “That said, we are very sensitive to making the building fit within the neighborhood and making the mass aligned with the existing build environment.”
The agency is looking to build the apartment complex on about 3/4 of an acre located at 911 SE Lane St., at the southeast corner of Southeast Jackson Street and Southeast Mosher Avenue. It is currently a gravel lot used as a parking lot for tenants in the building just to the north, the Kohlhagen Apartments, which NeighborWorks Umpqua also owns.
The site is zoned general commercial, which would currently allow about two dozen units on it. NeighborWorks Umpqua has said it would need to build at least 40 units at the site just to “pencil out” financially. The zoning designation the agency is asking for, central business district, would allow up to 70 units at the site.
However, Shelton-Kelley said it is unlikely that 70 units would be built, in large part due to the high cost of providing parking. The agency has been working on plans for a complex that has 45-55 units, he said.
The apartment complex would provide quality housing to individuals and families, who in turn would boost the energy and economy of downtown Roseburg, NeighorWorks Umpqua said in a report submitted with its application for the zoning change.
“The (apartment complex) will stimulate more patrons to visit the existing businesses in the area as well as create more job opportunities,” the report said. “The entirety of the current central business district is within a half-mile of the subject site. This proximity creates palpable walkability for all future residents while encouraging biking and walking as primary sources of transportation.”
Misty Russell, owner of Brix Grill at 527 SE Jackson St., said the proposed apartment complex was “promising,” as long as it’s designed well and provides adequate parking. She said finding enough workers has been an ongoing problem, and the lack of housing is one issue that exacerbates that search.
“Housing has been another aspect of the staffing shortage, so that is promising,” she said. “Parking concerns are always there as well, so hopefully there’s proper planning for that.”
R.J. Mills, co-owner of North Forty Beer Co. at 435 SE Jackson St., said based on the little he knows about the proposed apartment complex, he’s all for it. Mills, like Russell, said if the complex is built, it’s imperative it provide enough parking spots for tenants and their guests and not exacerbate the current parking situation.
Other than that, the proposed complex looks like a positive addition to the downtown core, he said.
“I appreciate the concept,” Mills said. “I think having people living where they work and where there are places to shop, to buy food, to have things to do, is a good thing.”
MORE HOUSING NEEDEDThe zoning change request is scheduled to come before the city Planning Commission at its next meeting on June 7. Even if the zoning change is approved, permits will need to be obtained for the construction of the building if the project continues.
One of the more unique — and expensive — aspects of the proposal is the plan to build three levels of underground parking, which would be a first for Douglas County. Such parking would be needed due to the “constraints of the size and parking requirement,” Shelton-Kelley said.
“It is very expensive, about $40,000 per stall, and will be one of the limiting factors in the project design and number of units,” he said.
Shelton-Kelley points out that according to a housing needs analysis recently conducted on behalf of the city, over the next 20 years Roseburg will have a demand for more than 2,500 new dwelling units, 30% of which are assumed to be multifamily.
“This site has a unique opportunity to provide some of the city’s projected multifamily needs in a location that also serves the core of the city — the central business district,” Shelton-Kelley said. “This rezoning would help support this policy and Roseburg’s projected overall need for multifamily units.”
If NeighborWorks Umpqua does eventually decide to go forward with the project, it will take several years to get off the ground, Shelton-Kelley said. In general, on a project like this the agency would be starting the design and pre-development work within two years, and be ready for financing/funding applications within three years, he said. On that timeline, construction would begin within about four years.
“This project is in the very early stages of development, although we have owned the property for several years,” he said. “We have existing housing in downtown, and think continuing to invest in housing options downtown is good for the community.”
NeighborWorks Umpqua is considering “many options and variables” for the site, he said.
The agency primarily does affordable housing, and it is likely that this project will have an affordable housing component, including possibly some housing opportunity for homeless individuals, he said. NeighborWorks Umpqua also sees an increased need for affordable housing for seniors, he said, as well as units sized for singles and couples — studios and one-bedrooms.
Another option the agency has discussed is workforce housing and even condos, although Shelton-Kelley said there are major hurdles to condominium development in Oregon, and NeighborWorks Umpqua has not done any market study to determine if there’s a demand for condos.
NeighborWorks Umpqua already owns a sprinkling of other properties downtown.
In addition to the Kohlhagen Apartments, the agency owns the 37-unit Grand Apartments at 730 SE Cass Ave., which the agency got a state grant to refurbish, and the 40-unit Rose Apartments at 805 SE Stephens St., which provides housing for elderly and disabled residents.
NeighborWorks Umpqua also has its main office downtown at 605 SE Kane St., and a second office at the Willis House at 734 SE Rose St.
AN UPTICK DOWNTOWNNeighborWorks Umpqua was established 30 years ago under the name Umpqua Community Development Corp., and provides low-cost housing and social services to residents in Douglas, Coos, Curry, Jackson and Josephine counties.
The agency has been struggling financially for the past few years. A review of its tax returns showed that the agency spent more money than it received in every year but one between 2015 and 2019.
Between 2016 and 2019, NeighborWorks ran up deficits of $3.5 million, including a net loss of $1.8 million in 2019 alone.
NeighborWorks Umpqua also had a shakeup in leadership in February, when the agency lost its CEO and chief operating officer on the same day. The agency hired a new chief financial officer in April and continues to search for a CEO.
That shakeup in leadership could affect the timeline of the apartment complex, Shelton-Kelley said.
“Given the leadership transitions here at the organization in the last few months, it may be some time before we engage in a new major development project,” he said.
The rental housing market in downtown Roseburg has already been picking up of late.
The Flegel Center, located at 1034 SE Oak Ave, which was used as an armory from 1914 to 1977, began housing male student-athletes from Umpqua Community College in November 2019. About 20 students live there now. The college signed a three-year lease agreement with the owner of the Flegel Center to house students.
More recently, the old Valley Hotel at 950 SE Washington Ave. began taking in renters, also mostly students, around mid-April. Currently, about a dozen tenants live there. When completed, the building will have 34 studio apartments for rent, owner Magnus Johannesson has said.
Johannesson also owns the historic building next to the Flegel Center, at the southeast corner of Main Street and Oak Avenue, which used to house the Mark V Grill & Bar.
Johannesson said he plans to renovate the top two floors into about 40 studio apartments. Johannesson hopes to complete the renovation on that building, which he has named Jane’s Vision, by spring of 2023.