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Too many apartment buildings planned for Woodstock? Depends on your point of view -- and what the future holds

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - This may well be your last glimpse of the old Chinese Presbyterian Church on Woodstock Boulevard, since its demolition is already underway - to be replaced by a four-level 84-unit apartment complex, with retail space below.As is also true of several other Inner Southeast neighborhoods, Woodstock has been seeing a lot of proposed and emerging apartment complex developments recently along the boulevard.

The "Joinery block" has been for sale and the existing buildings vacant for eighteen months. On March 11th of this year, the sale was finalized, as communicated to a few neighbors by the block's owner, and former Joinery proprietor, Marc Gaudin.

The new owner of the entire block is "Mill Creek Residential". Two years ago, Mill Creek proposed a five-story, 194-unit apartment complex covering the entire block between S.E. 48th and 49th Avenues, and Woodstock Boulevard on the north and Martins Street on the south side. Retail space, in this mixed-use project, is tentatively planned for the north side of the lower level of the new construction.

The Woodstock Neighborhood Association Land Use Committee (WNA LUC) was recently notified that the four houses that still sit on the block will be deconstructed, to recycle materials – as opposed to being demolished – beginning in from four to six months from now, although apparently the plan for the retail space is still a bit up in the air. There are no updates on permits for the larger plan, except that completion is now projected for March of 2023.

Meantime, the Chinese Presbyterian Church property has been purchased by developers Urban Asset Advisors, and a new apartment building is to be designed by Scott Edwards Architects. The church itself and the adjoining multi-purpose room are undergoing interior demolition, and exterior demolition will follow. The plan there is for 1,800 square feet of retail space on the lower southeast corner, bike storage on the southwest corner, and 84 units of multi-family housing on three other levels. The west-side parking lot's future is tentatively proposed for a new church building.

The most recently vacated property proposed for some sort of development is the U.S. Bank building, at 4727 Woodstock Boulevard. The property is listed by Brock Switzer HMS Pacific commercial realty. The 6,330 square feet building, and 20,000 square feet parking lot, are depicted as a "prime retail location with plentiful parking" in a "vibrant and hip" neighborhood.

The lot and building provide interesting business possibilities. In a recent Woodstock Land Use Committee meeting, some members briefly discussed the possibility of the bank building becoming a fitness center. It was observed that one of the goals set by the Woodstock Neighborhood Plan [viewable online – www.portland.gov/bps/comp-plan/area-and-neighborhood-plans], which was adopted by Portland City Council in 1995, was for an athletic or fitness center in the neighborhood.

In the past, a fitness center in Woodstock was deemed by marketing research as duplicative of the services of Mt. Scott Community Center on S.E. 72nd Avenue, and too close to the "24 Hour Fitness" on Holgate at McLoughlin Boulevard. However, it was pointed out that neighborhood demographics are changing, and a fitness center could be a practical option now, given the multitude of apartment units being built or proposed for the future. With ample parking, the U.S. Bank building could respond to a health and wellness need for existing residents and the hundreds of new residents.

Elsewhere in Woodstock, Lisac Brothers LLC, a Portland-based construction company, has built the 28 micro units located on the corner of S.E. 51st and Woodstock. These 330-square-foot apartments should be ready for occupancy by the time you are reading this. A separate BEE article will give more details about this development.

Last but not least, the seemingly-forever-empty grassy lot on the southwest corner of 50th and Woodstock was purchased several years ago by developer Green Canopy Homes LLC, but now it is up for sale again. Green Canopy did not respond to an inquiry about their decision not to build.

Some people who know the Woodstock neighborhood intimately believe that if the 194 apartment units proposed for the "Joinery block" are indeed built in the next year or two, there will then be a "super-saturation of apartments" in the neighborhood.

Commenting on all of the large apartment developments spread across Inner Southeast Portland, and referring to the Mill Creek proposal, Brentwood-Darlington resident Shauna Vincent remarked on social media: "I wonder what the rents will be? How many more empty overpriced apartments do we need?"

Vincent's comments may echo the concerns of others, who fear that the Woodstock neighborhood may wind up with too many apartments, with only a few of them "affordable". Only time will tell.


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