In response to Clatsop County's and Astoria's affordable housing crisis, in late 2021, the Astoria Development Commission (ADC) issued a Request For Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to develop workforce housing on the City of Astoria-owned Heritage Square. Two developers responded, each with proposals to utilize State grants and Federal tax credits for affordable housing. After a public ADC meeting followed by two City Council meetings, the City entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Edlen & Co.
The ENA is for 180 days with the possibility of two 90 day extensions. Either party may withdraw from the ENA without cause. During the period of the ENA, the parties will attempt to negotiate a project design acceptable to the City.
Edlen & Co.’s initial program concept includes the development of the easterly portion of the block with as many as 75 units serving households at 60% and 80% of median family income (MFI), with the possibility of some unrestricted units (i.e. no cap on income). The ground floor of this building might include some mix of childcare, community space (including a community room facing the Garden of Surging Waves), residential lofts, and/or retail.
Edlen & Co. also initially proposed to develop a building with Clatsop Behavioral Health (CBH) in the smaller southwest corner of the block, incorporating 33 studio units serving CBH clients earning no more than 30% of MFI, along with wrap-around services. In response to community feedback, Edlen & Co. and CBH have developed a new option that would incorporate the entire program (workforce housing, CBH, and ground floor uses) in the east portion of the block, leaving the SW corner of the block as parking. The SW corner surface parking could potentially serve both the housing and the public.
The building would be designed by Astoria architect Stuart Emmons, in consultation with the City of Astoria Historian. The building is subject to Historic Landmarks Commission review, as well as final approval by the City Council.
“Astoria’s affordable housing crisis, which particularly affects those at lower and moderate incomes, has worsened during the pandemic and shows no signs of abatement,” says Mayor Bruce Jones. “The Astoria City Council has maintained a goal of redeveloping Heritage Square with housing since 2017. We now have an opportunity to leverage State grants and Federal tax credits to provide vitally needed new housing that will be affordable for members of our workforce earning up to 80% of MFI. We are pleased to be working with the Edlen & Co. team to achieve a project compatible with our local historic architecture which will serve our community for decades to come.”
The City of Astoria acquired the Heritage Square site in 2002, when Safeway (the former owner) announced its intentions to build a new store on the east side of town. The property represents most of the block bounded by Duane, Exchange, 11th and 12th Streets, excluding the American Legion building. Over the years the City considered various options for this property, engaging the community in visioning efforts. An initial effort in 2010 called for a town square, a concept that was never further pursued due to lack of funding. A subsequent effort culminated in the Garden of Surging Waves, in the northwest quadrant of the block. Another effort that was abandoned called for a multi-use, multi-story building housing a library, offices, retail, and housing above. Nonetheless, the remaining site has remained either vacant, as parking, or abandoned (the collapsed former Safeway site).
Meanwhile, the City and its partners in Clatsop County (and many others) have struggled to respond to the region’s growing housing crisis, with increasing demand alongside rapidly rising construction and property management costs driving housing costs rapidly upward. While all income levels are affected, it is particularly challenging for the middle (80% to 140% of MFI) and lower (60-80% of MFI) income residents. Because no State or Federal grants or other incentives are available to support housing for tenants making 80% to 140% MFI, this project focuses on lower-income levels for which grants and incentives make construction feasible.
City Council has urged the Edlen team to engage the community during these early stages of the project. Two public open houses have been scheduled (information below), which represent an initial opportunity for the public to learn more about building design, parking, the relationship of the building to the adjoining Garden of Surging Waves, income levels of residents, etc. Edlen and its team members are at an early stage in the process, providing ample opportunity for the public to influence the project. There will be future City Council meetings and decision points on the project (including a decision, in Fall, 2022 on whether to approve a Disposition & Development Agreement, which will be the formal agreement between the City and the developer).
The purpose of this web page is to describe the City’s intentions with regard to the development of workforce housing on the Heritage Square site. Links are provided below to background documents and other information on this project. The City encourages those who are interested in this project to check this website occasionally, for project updates and for information about upcoming opportunities to learn more about the project and influence key aspects of it.
The City appreciates the sincere community interest in this project, and we recognize the many concerns about design, parking, and income levels associated with the project. The City Council urges those with concerns or interest to continue to participate in our efforts to solicit input.
Quick Links to Referenced Documents:
Heritage Square RFEI
Edlen & Co
City Council Meetings and Documents
Clatsop County Housing Study
Heritage Square History