Clackamas County's 3 housing projects making headway
Progress is humming along on three housing projects underway from the Housing Authority of Clackamas County that will bring a total of 248 new units to the communities of Gladstone and Milwaukie.
Stephen McMurtrey, director of housing development for Clackamas County, gave the first of what will become monthly updates to the board of county commissioners on housing authority projects during the board's afternoon meeting Tuesday, Sept.15.
According to McMurtrey, the housing authority is making headway on the three projects, which include Webster Road in Gladstone, Hillside Park and Hillside Manor in Milwaukie.
The project at 18000 Webster Road will bring a total of 48 units to a 2.2-acre site with a 27,000 square foot building that will be remodeled to incorporate a mix of single-room occupancy and studio units for low-income seniors aged 55 and up.
"We've been working diligently with Walsh Construction and Carleton Hart Architecture to move forward on getting us through the permit process and repricing the project as we move along to look for opportunities to reduce construction cross," McMurtrey told the board. "What we anticipate in the next month is working primarily with the church next door to us for parking, as well as funding applications with Oregon Housing and Community Services and with Metro as we move this toward a construction closing which we hope to be in late first quarter of 2021."
On Hillside Park, McMurtrey informed the board that HACC is currently completing its "Section 18" application with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to be able to demolish and redevelop the 100-units of one and two-bedroom single-family homes and duplexes that currently sit at 2889 S.E. Hillside Court in Milwaukie. Eventually, the county aims to bring an additional 200 units to the Milwaukie property for a total of 400.
HACC is currently accepting public comment on the project through Monday, Sept. 21, at which time county staff will address those comments and submit them to HUD for review.
Hillside Manor is the only project that is currently in the construction phase. The top two floors of the nine-story building — the tallest in Milwaukie — are nearing completion of their renovation.
According to McMurtrey, they're preparing to transfer out the residents of the east end of the seventh floor in order to begin work there, but wildfire smoke causing poor air quality forced HACC to push their plans back one week. Despite the hold up, the process is going smoothly, he said, and also commended the work of all those involved in preparing residents to transfer to their temporary housing while the renovations are completed.
"With the pandemic and all of that going on there, it's been amazing to see the rallying of our resident services team, housing authority staff, outside stakeholders and our wonderful construction team with Walsh Construction and architects from Scott Edwards Architects," McMurtrey said. "They've really helped this thing move forward through all of that."
McMurtrey added that county staff is working with the city of Milwaukie on transportation impact study for both Hillside Manor and Hillside Park. Early assessments, McMurtrey said, show there wouldn't be any significant impact to roads in the area even when the full 400 units are finally constructed.
That claim had Commissioner Ken Humberston slightly puzzled. Humberston asked how the study could have found there would be no significant impact with the potential addition of 400 units near the intersection of Southeast 32nd Avenue and Harrison Street in Milwaukie when the intersection is already congested.
McMurtrey said that due to the already compressed issues at that intersection and the city of Milwaukie's plans to mitigate some of that traffic, the study is finding that 400 additional units of senior housing — added with the fact the development is being vetted for as many rideshare and transit opportunities as possible — wouldn't significantly add to the problems already seen there.
"One of the things we're taking into account and working diligently with the Ardenwald Neighborhood and Milwaukie on is to define what the through streets will ultimately become there on the property. The reason I bring that up is that there is some question about the north-south connection road and whether it would be open to vehicular traffic or not," McMurtrey said. "The reason that's an important piece is because what we'd like to do on the overall development is to try and provide alternative routes either through our site to bring people out either further north or south, but also to reduce vehicular traffic throughout the overall property."
Commissioner Sonya Fischer took a moment to ask about how concerns about air quality and filtration due to both COVID-19 and wildfires have played into the renovations at Hillside Manor.
Fischer pointed out that the effects of climate change could make wildfire smoke in the late summer a new annual reality for residents of Clackamas County.
McMurtrey explained that there has been significant time and money invested in upgrading the air-filtration systems within Hillside Manor, specifically the implementation of new WhisperGreen Panasonic fans in each unit's bathroom that continuously operates at a low cubic volume until it detects someone is in the room. The fans pull air from each unit into a central shaft and up out of the building.
McMurtrey also said they've invested in massive, electrostatic air scrubbers on top of the building which filter the air coming in and remove nearly all particulates and toxins in the air.
"It's not 100%, but it's worlds better than it was. There's really no comparison," McMurtrey said. "The concerns of climate change are real and valid, and it's something with these older buildings we'll have to continue to look at because you're required to draw fresh air, and so we'll have to look at those systems."
McMurtrey told the commissioners that as these projects begin to take shape over the course of the next several months, HACC will continue to give them monthly updates so the board can stay up to date with the latest developments at each project.
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