Civic Neighborhood plots sold for a song
Developers of two huge, high-density apartment complexes going up in the Civic Neighborhood purchased the acreage from the Metro regional government for millions of dollars below market value.
In one case, the developer paid $1,000 for 7.4 acres of prime Gresham real estate.
Metro is selling the two parcels for a song in exchange for the developers agreeing to build pedestrian-friendly, high-density housing and include features such as a public plaza.
"Metro acquired the sites so that it could ensure they were developed in a way that took advantage of the proximity to the Civic MAX station — with a pedestrian oriented design, retail and creating more opportunities for people to live in walking distance of MAX service," said Jonathan Williams, Metro's senior development project manager in an email.
Williams said if the property was simply sold to the highest bidder "we expect that we would have gotten an inferior project with no public spaces or retail and probably about 150 homes total."
Taken together, the two projects will add 753 apartments to the Civic Neighborhood, making the area the most densely populated neighborhood in Gresham and with the tallest building in the city. There will be commercial space and huge public plazas and easy access to the Gresham Station shopping center across the street.
The 7.4 acre NW Parcel hugs the northwest side of the MAX tracks along Civic Drive and was sold to developers for $1,000 after Metro purchased the land for $2.3 million in 2001. It recently was appraised at around $6.4 million if there were no specific requirements to be met concerning development.
The deal "represents the culmination of years of effort to develop the NW Parcel as an anchor of the Gresham Civic Neighborhood," Metro documents said.
The northwest plot will become a 318-unit mixed use complex called Alta Civic Station. Alta Civic Station is being developed by Atlanta-based Wood Partners.
The Alta Civic Station project, which is already under construction, has an estimated value of $68.2 million.
The $1,000 sales price "reflects a land value write down to support the extraordinary costs associated with higher density development and key transit oriented project elements including five story-construction of the two largest buildings, tuck under (underground) parking, the 22,000 square foot publicly accessible plaza, and publicly accessible pedestrian paths," Metro documents said.
The sale of the southwest parcel has not yet closed, but is expected to be sold for "much less" than $2 million, which is an estimate in one Metro document. Metro bought the Southwest tract for $1.4 million in 2001. It runs along the south side of the MAX station and rail line on Civic Drive.
Metro reduced the cost of the southwest parcel "to support creation of public spaces with access easements (plaza and pedestrian paths) and inclusion of density related cost premiums including structured parking," Metro documents said.
In addition, bidders for the southwest parcel had to agree that a portion of the housing units be regulated as "affordable workforce" housing.
The southwest project will be a mixed-use development with 435 apartments called Civic Southwest. It will be built by Portland's Palindrome Communities. The value of the Southwest project is estimated at $102 million.
Two of four
The two Civic Neighborhood parcels sold to private developers are two of four Metro owns in the neighborhood. In 2017, Metro put out four parcels for bid. Metro received two proposals for the NW Parcel and three proposals for the southwest parcel. The agency decided to hold the other two Civic Neighborhood parcels, a 1.91 acre northeast tract and a 0.42 acre southeast parcel for future development.
"For all the parcels, Metro and the city of Gresham were seeking projects that would enhance the Gresham Civic Neighborhood with good design, create a destination with a mix of housing or offices and retail and provide more opportunities for people to live near light rail service compared to garden style apartments for townhome type projects we would otherwise expect on the site," Metro's Williams said.
These developments fall under a Metro program called the Transit Oriented Development Program.
The goal of these two projects, Williams said, "is to help transform the Civic Neighborhood into a new, walkable, active neighborhood for the city."
He said the aim "was to get the best possible project that would contribute high quality design and construction, open space, and vitality to the neighborhood, create tax base and economic activity for the City, and provide needed housing options for renters seeking access to light rail service."
Alta Civic Station
All market rate apartment rents
Commercial space: 12,000 square feet, including a food hall
Parking: 338 stalls
Public plaza: 21,000 square feet with playground
Completion: End of 2021
Architects: YBA Architects
Apartments: 435, with 160 of those units rented at "workforce" pricing
Parking: 368 spaces underground, 14 above ground
Commercial space: 10,500 square feet
Public plaza: 2, including a playground
Architects: SERA Architects
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