EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – A bold new proposal from Eugene's former mayor for a $67 million public-private partnership could add more apartments, hotel rooms, shopping and entertainment in a two block stretch of mostly Lane County-owned property in downtown Eugene.
The proposal comes from Brian Obie, the Eugene businessman who built the Inn at the 5th hotel at the 5th Street Public Market in downtown Eugene. Obie is proposing a series of new buildings to be constructed along 6th Avenue between Oak and Pearl Streets. The proposal includes three new apartment buildings, a grocery store, a movie theater, pavilion space and a new hotel.
Obie's proposal came in response to a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the old Lane County Annex Building property on 6th Avenue and Oak Street. The Annex Building, which used to house Lane County Public Health, was demolished last June. The RFP lasted from October 29 to December 4, 2012.
Out of the process, only two developers applied, including Brian Obie and the Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County (HACSA.) Over the last few weeks, both groups have come together to form one joint redevelopment proposal.
After reviewing the proposal, Lane County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday, February 26, to move forward with the initial steps of the Obie & HACSA proposal, allowing the county to begin drafting a short-term lease for the property. A short-term lease will allow the developers to begin analyzing the site, doing environmental work and other tasks to see what it will take to redevelop the site.
Obie calls the proposal the 'Market District'.
“We can talk about the Pearl [District[ in Portland, we can talk about the Pike's [Place[ Market in Seattle, but this will be the Market District and it will be in Eugene style,” said Obie.
Obie says the success of the Inn at the 5th hotel is a driving force behind the proposal.
"As the Inn at the 5th made a difference in perhaps how people feel about this community, I think this will as well in terms of being proud of a community that is moving forward, that is not stagnant, that does provide opportunity in lifestyle,” said Obie.
The proposal would put two new market rate apartment complexes with retail space on the vacant 6th and Oak lot. A movie theater would also be built there along with pavilion space.
On the west side of Oak Street, HACSA is proposing to build a more than 60-unit workforce (low-income) apartment complex with an adjoined grocery store and retail space. Currently, the property is a parking lot to the side of the historic Bus Barn Building. HACSA is proposing to keep the building and incorporate it into its part of the proposed redevelopment. About 3,000 people in Lane County are part of Section 8 housing programs. Hundreds of people are on the waiting list, looking for a space to live.
“The need is incredible. Our Section 8 waiting list has been closed for about two years now,” said Larry Abel, Executive Director of HACSA.
“Today what we've got is a surface parking lot and it seems that the next healthy thing that we can do in downtown Eugene is activate this . . . and have it become a development that's going to be great for this community, create a vibrant place for this community,” said Betsy Hunter, Development Director of HACSA.
HACSA says the typical family served by its apartments makes about $24,000 per household annually. Monthly rent is based on the amount of money a family makes.
An additional part of Obie's proposal is to build an expansion to the Inn at the 5th hotel by building another hotel in the parking lot of the 5th Street Public Market. The proposed new hotel building would be linked via skybridge to the existing hotel. A proposed skybridge would also link the new apartment complex with the hotel.
Ultimately, Lane County Commissioners will get the final say on the project because the land is owned by Lane County. Commissioners ultimately decided to keep the land instead of selling it because they wanted a constant revenue stream instead of a one-time payment that it would have gotten from a land sale.
If the proposal moves forward, Lane County would sign a long-term lease with the developers who build on the property. The lease would guarantee that Lane County receives a payment for the use of the property each year.
"This could be a really grand opportunity not only for . . . downtown Eugene but I think for Lane County as a whole,” said Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken in regard to the project.
Commissioner Pete Sorenson voted against moving forward with negotiating a short-term lease for the project at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday. Sorenson wanted to have a public hearing on whether or not the county should begin negotiating a redevelopment contract with the Obie group.
Although Sorenson sat on the Board of Commissioners while they made the decision to create an RFP to redevelop the land and had a public hearing about the RFP process, Sorenson said Tuesday that the public should have a say about the future of the property.
"I think the proper way to ask is, 'these are your resources . . . this is what we think we're going to be doing with them. What do you think?' And that way we wouldn't be in this situation today,” said Sorenson.
While the county is now drafting a short-term lease contract, that agreement will still have to go before the Board of Commissioners (BOC) for approval before it can be signed. A long-term lease would also need to be hammered out and approved by the BOC before the project went forward.
"This vote has to occur first,= to actually allow staff to negotiate with the proposed developer, otherwise there is no project to have a public hearing on,” said Sid Leiken, a Lane County Commissioner.
Obie said Tuesday he believes that if everything goes forward successfully, including the environmental assessment, construction crews could break ground on the project between eighteen and thirty months from February 2013.
Read NewsSource 16's original story about the demolition here: http://www.kmtr.com/news/local/story/Old-Lane-County-Public-Health-building-property/iljMD0ZEFUidG3j8d1sdmQ.cspx.