Monday, January 9, 2017

Lansing-NESCA Plan meets Tuesday on State Hospital North Campus

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 10th, the Lansing-NESCA neighborhood plan, "Envision," is meeting to discuss the North Campus of the State Hospital.

Meeting Flier for January 10th on the State Hospital
On the one hand, this is yet another "meeting" in a series of them that has never quite seemed to blossom into real collaboration and action on the North Campus. More often it has seemed like they were merely platforms for the State to say "here's what we're gonna do," especially as the neighborhood has seemed mostly to want more single-family dwellings and parky nothingness. The City would like a larger property tax base for it, and the State simply wants to unload and monetize it. Getting everybody's interests to align more or less has been a challenge.

But on the other hand, things have not yet proceeded so far that course-corrections are not possible. So each meeting still has "opportunity," even if that opportunity seems more slender than folks might like.

By now you will have heard of the plan to renovate Yaquina Hall for some affordable housing. The City is purchasing it and plans to create 50 1-bedroom apartments ranging from 420 - 650 SF in size. The latest published budget for this has a total cost of about $9.8 million and $195,000 per unit.

Yaquina Hall, 1946 - to be affordable housing
Let's do a back-of-the-envelope comparison to another project going on right now.

245 Court, December 2016 - via CB|Two
The project at 245 Court Street is will have 40 for-rent residential units, and 2,180 square feet of ground floor commercial space. It has a current estimate of $9 million. If we ignore the retail space, that's about $225,000 per unit (if you subtracted the retail component, the per-unit price would be even less.)

What I want to focus on here is not the detail about exact per square foot costs or quality of finishes or anything. I just want a crude order-of-magnitude comparison.

And what you see is that the cost to rehab Yaquina Hall is not all that different from the cost of new construction.

If we assume that Yaquina Hall was in significantly better shape than the other buildings on the North Campus, especially with regard to things like asbestos remediation and other legitimate environmental safety things, it is far from obvious that saving those other buildings was ever going to yield meaningful savings. The opposite, in fact, seems more likely, that trying to rehab most or all of those buildings was going to be a debilitating money pit.

Reusing all those buildings sounds like a great and thrifty idea, but given the abatement and mitigation work that would be required, new construction is not obviously more expensive.

That's a sad conclusion, but the most reasonable one given public information at the moment.

Dome Building in the fall - still to be saved
Saving Yaquina Hall and the Dome Building is a reasonable compromise that honors the history and positions the land for a vibrant redevelopment.

At the Lansing-NESCA meeting, there should also probably be more talk about how the development here fits with city and regional priorities and values, and is not only a small, local neighborhood matter.

Community Priorities Survey
part of the Strategic Planning Process
But it's not difficult to understand worries about making the development into a giant parking lot studded with three-story particle board walkup apartment blocks. That's the path the proposal for the Rose Garden/Epping parcel on Portland Road is heading down, and I'm not sure that project is being positioned for long-term health, success, and neighborhood vitality.

Site Plan concept for 3350 Portland Road
180 units of affordable housing
(and lots of parking)
While some of the neighborhood concerns for the State Hospital parcel seem wrong or overblown, especially in light of the site's citywide significance, other concerns still seem reasonable. The fiasco at the Blind School, and the snail's pace out at Fairview both should more explicitly inform this project, and it doesn't seem that the City has ever published any sort of "lessons learned" on those projects, and attempted to use the struggles there to inform a better way here. That seems like an important feedback loop!

January 2014
At this point, though, there doesn't seem to be much new to say, so here are some previous discussions you might not have seen or might feel like revisiting.
The meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Tuesday the 10th at Salem First Church of the Nazarene, which is located at 1550 Market Street NE.

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