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Application approved for $4.25 million, will open more doors to future funding next year.

COURTESY PHOTO: JENNIFER BRANDLON - Three old Marylhurst University dorms will be replaced with affordable housing.The affordable housing project on the Marylhurst campus recently received an initial round of funding, which is a key step to ensure the viability of the effort.

Mercy Housing Northwest — an affordable housing nonprofit organization that's working with The Sisters of the Holy Names organization — received $4.25 million from the Oregon Housing and Community Service office through their Local Innovation and Fast Track program this past June.

"(It's) probably one of the most exciting things and probably the biggest lift to moving the program along, or this project along," said Joe Thompson, president of Mercy Housing NW. "So that's really the first money in and really a key step because, just as the name implies, it is a fast track which makes it highly likely other funding through the state tax credit program will follow next year."

Marylhurst University, which was founded in 1893 and known as the oldest Catholic university in Oregon, closed in 2018 due to declining enrollment numbers.

In the three years since Marylhurst closed, The Sisters of the Holy Names have been exploring options for the 40-acre property — and affordable workforce housing emerged among the top contenders.

In 2019, the Sisters gathered input from local community members, the religious community, neighborhood associations, administrators at the adjacent senior living facility Mary's Woods and others about the property's potential uses.

Affordable housing for those in need was popular.

The site houses 14 existing buildings, five of which are historic landmarks and not subject to development. The Sisters indicated that their intention is to replace three existing dormitories and build affordable housing there.

At the end of last year, the Lake Oswego City Council unanimously voted to approve code amendments that would allow for affordable multi-family housing on the Marylhurst campus. The Lake Oswego Planning Commission also found that the proposed comprehensive plan and code amendments met applicable criteria and the specific housing needs in Lake Oswego.

"It's a great thing that Lake Oswego is moving toward its goals to have affordable housing available to people who work in Lake Oswego but can't afford to live here," said Jennifer Brandlon, director of communications for the Sisters.

Thompson said there were a couple other major steps taken this year. Mercy Housing NW has officially engaged with Carleton Hart Architecture for the design of the project. That process, Thompson said, will likely begin late summer or early fall and will include a design focus group comprised of local community members and members of the Sisters.

"The idea is to get lots of input on the design — recommendations that will help us make for a better design," Thompson said.

Brandlon also noted that the city's project approval process includes opportunities for the community to engage with the design team.

According to Thompson, there are some unique aspects to consider with the Lake Oswego site: the history and architecture of the Marylhurst campus, as well as the natural setting. Thompson said they need to be cognizant of that and have a design that "integrates really well with that but also looks for opportunity to appropriately update that."

There will be 100 multi-family units with many two- and three-bedroom units to accommodate larger families.

"We want to make sure it has not just apartments but a lot of good community gathering space as well," said Thompson, adding that another priority will be to make the building as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.COURTESY PHOTO - Joe Thompson, president of Mercy Housing NW.

The housing project will be 100,000 square feet including the ground floor common space. The buildings will be three to four stories to visually integrate with the rest of the campus, Thompson added.

Brandlon said the design process will determine the number of buildings and Thompson added that although the design is not finalized, the initial concept was an outdoor common space in the middle and "one building with sort of two wings to it."

The Marylhurst housing project will be the first project in Oregon for Mercy Housing NW and Thompson said it will be a "showpiece project for us ... The setting is absolutely beautiful. Lake Oswego is such a high-opportunity, amenity-rich community that we feel extremely fortunate and excited about being able to have our first project be there."

Construction on the project would likely begin in spring 2022 with a completion date set for fall 2023.

Visit the Sisters' website for future updates and more information.


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