Plans for a six-story apartment complex featuring as many as 70 units in downtown Roseburg got a step closer Monday after the City of Roseburg Planning Commission gave its approval of the project.

NeighborWorks Umpqua is proposing to build the complex on about 3/4 of an acre it owns 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.

At roughly 80,000 square feet of gross building area, the project would likely be the largest building downtown, other than the county building complex, NeighborWorks Umpqua officials have said.

The site is zoned general commercial, which would currently allow about 26 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.

The Planning Commission on Monday unanimously recommended that the City Council approve the requested zoning change, subject to several basic conditions, including NeighborWorks Umpqua obtain site plan and building permit approval and that the development conforms to city code.

The decision on the zoning change now moves on to the City Council.

During Monday’s meeting, held via Zoom, one person expressed concern about the project. Victoria Hokanson, who helps run the historic Hokanson’s Guest House at 848 SE Jackson St., said that while she wants to see the site developed, she is worried that the new complex will not fit in with the number of historic properties in the area.

“Our home is on the historic registry, as is the church next door, and we want to make sure it fits in with the historic nature of downtown Roseburg,” Hokanson said. “We’d prefer not to change (the zoning) because that would maintain the historical landscape and aspect of that area as it exists currently.”

Betty Tamm, interim CEO of NeighborWorks Umpqua, and Jim Walker, owner and principal architect of the Portland firm hired to work on the complex, said they would do as much as possible to make sure the building does not diminish the historic nature of the neighborhood.

The apartment complex would provide quality housing to individuals and families, who in turn would boost the energy and economy of downtown Roseburg, NeighborWorks 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.”

The agency primarily focuses on 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.

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.

NeighborWorks 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.

NeighborWorks Umpqua already owns a sprinkling of other properties in downtown Roseburg.

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.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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