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Umpqua Homes Executive Director Natasha Atkinson stands in the organization’s new location in downtown Roseburg on Wednesday.

Individuals with developmental disabilities will have a bigger, more accessible space to meet in the old Wells Fargo building at 662 SE Jackson St. in downtown Roseburg.

Umpqua Homes Inc. bought the 22,600-square-foot building for $810,000 at the end of June, according to the Douglas County Assessor’s Office. Executive Director Natasha Atkinson said the nonprofit plans to renovate the space into 15 offices and three conference spaces to better support individuals with developmental disabilities in Douglas County.

“It’s a great way to have this beautiful space that’s also functional, and not have to rent a conference room or a hotel,” Atkinson said.

When Atkinson walks into buildings, she always thinks about how the 100 people who participate in Daily Support Activities or are in residential homes would function in the space.

“That’s one of the reasons it was important to us that there was an elevator on-site, that there was a ramp up to the building,” Atkinson said. “The entire company is founded for individuals with disabilities, not for me.

The current office is built in an old house with tight, narrow hallways and a small conference room that works for activities, Atkinson said, but it is not as accessible as she would like.

Atkinson said the organization was not looking to buy an office building and had been planning to build a new one at the current location at 1051 W. Harvard Ave. to accommodate the growing staff. The site of the former bank, however, met all of its needs.

The nonprofit has added two employees since Atkinson started at Umpqua Homes two years ago — bringing the total number of staff to seven — and she is hoping to add another.

“It legitimately fell in our laps,” Atkinson said. “I’m excited to have everybody under one roof and have space to expand.”

The conference spaces will be used for all-staff meetings twice per year, along with some Daily Support Activities programs.

“We just did birdhouse painting,” Atkinson said. “For Mother’s Day, we painted plates for significant others — not always mothers. We’ll do things like that. That won’t be specifically regular.”

The organization plans to rent out office space on the north side of the building to offset the cost.

“(Downtown) seems like it’s starting to get reinvigorated,” Atkinson said. “We wanted to make sure that the admin building wasn’t taking away from the day-to-day reserves. This allowed this project to be nearly cost neutral.”

She was a little nervous about the community reaction to bringing individuals with developmental disabilities downtown. So on the conditional use permit with the City of Roseburg, she listed the use as just office space and didn’t mention who the offices would serve.

“Unfortunately, I’ve had co-workers in this field who’ve had actions taken against them for their offices being in a location because it means more people with disabilities will be in that location,” Atkinson said. “People will be visiting and it will be our office.”

The Dial-A-Ride buses will be stored off-site but still be available. Atkinson said the organization has not decided what they will do with the old space yet. The organization has not filed a site review application to the City of Roseburg in order to apply for a building permit, but Atkinson is hoping the remodel will be done in about six months.

“People who experience developmental disabilities are the one area that most people feel it’s OK to still discriminate against,” Atkinson said. “We’ve already gone around and talked to neighbors about what we do. It’s more the idea of it than the reality of it that people often get hung up on. Part of our job is to educate the community and show we’re more alike than we are different.”

Reporter Janelle Polcyn can be reached at jpolcyn@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter

@JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is a reporter at The News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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