Friday, August 28, 2020

Affordable Housing for German Baptist Church set for Hearing at Planning Commission

A proposal for adaptive reuse and affordable housing in the former German Baptist Church, more recently known as Evergreen Presbyterian, will finally get its day in a Public Hearing. The City's published a formal Hearing Notice for a September 15th date before the Planning Commission.

The main facade on D Street doesn't appear much changed
Earlier this Summer Council knee-capped the first iteration on a proposal for the 1928 Church building. See:
At the time it very much looked like Council preempted the normal process, pulling funding from a separate Federal source in order to halt the project. But the grounds on which they halted it were a zoning matter - which hadn't yet had any hearing. It was strange and seemed premature on the surface.

Councilor Andersen explained in July:
At the last Council meeting, we determined that we would not be awarding a Community Development Block Grant to DevNw, to develop low income housing in the Grant neighborhood because the group planned to seek a zoning change to commercial use in order to place its office on the premises in the old manse. This has caused some concerns in the blogosphere that we are against low income housing, which is not at all the case. We were against the inclusion of commercial zoning in a residential area.
Now, the developer has revised the concept with different zoning, zoning the Neighborhood Association initially said they found acceptable. Preliminary reports from the NA suggest the NA has flip-flopped and still opposes the project. When the Staff Report is published we'll have a better sense for any lingering NA opposition.

But this is the right process. On the zoning question, people will have to argue more closely to the merits, and this will be fairer than the round-about and perhaps even devious way Council checked the project earlier this year. If Council does weigh in, they will do so on appeal, and on the merits, not by some other and more distant procedural matter.

There will be more to say later once the Staff Report is out.

Public House Pub in Springfield, via City of Springfield
In the meantime, we might consider what is now the Public House Pub in downtown Springfield, right on the edge of the commercial district and the Washburn Historic District, mostly older, single detached homes on the original streetcar era grid.
The building at 418 A Street is the former home of First Christian Church before being purchased in 2011 by NEDCO and turned into Sprout, a local food incubator. As that endeavor came to an end, PublicHouse was created so the building could continue to be a gathering space for the community ­— yet refashioned with an updated personality.
DevNW, formed after a merger I believe, used to be NEDCO and this was an earlier project on another former church.

By all accounts they did a sensitive job with the church architecture; and both as food hub and then as pub, the new enterprises complement the neighborhood and downtown edge.

Unless someone comes up with a documented history of problems with NEDCO, it has seemed like they deserved the benefit of any doubt on zoning, design, and operations.

DevNW do not seem positioned to be villains here.

More to come.

Addendum, Saturday, August 29th

There is a second matter at the Commission that is also a little interesting.

This is now apparently an "an empty, abandoned, care facility"
An older care/rehabilitation center on the corner of Browning and Kurth, across from Belcrest Cemetery, has apparently been closed, and a small group of apartment homes is proposed for the site. This sounds like demolition and new construction, not like any adaptive reuse. But it is also would be a cluster of multi-family homes set among single, detached homes.

Cemetery at top, mostly single detached homes
It will be interesting to learn more about this project when the Staff Report comes out also. There may (or also may not) be more to say.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added second item on the Planning Commission's agenda, the apartments proposed for Browning and Kurth.

Unknown said...

I wish your opinion carries more weight. I was told to read your blog before I ran for election but the comments about affordable housing project downtown and the references to the Salem reporter are right on the money my friend. Please take care and I hope everyone is doing well in these difficult times.