Potential buyers of the historic Odd Fellows Building in downtown Astoria could turn it into a bar and event center, according to emails exchanged between a tenant and the buyers and social media posts.
A sale is pending on the 93-year-old building at 10th and Commercial streets, and the potential buyers are expected to close in the next month or two. Current tenants include the antique store Old Things and Objects, Sea Gypsy Gifts and Downtown Coffee Shop on the bottom floor and the nonprofit Astoria Arts and Movement Center, which uses the floor above for a variety of dance classes, community classes and public events.
Jessamyn West, executive director for the arts center, sent an email to the potential buyers. She introduced herself and asked them if they could meet in person to discuss the possibility of the arts center continuing to use the ballroom as a studio.
Tacee Webb, who described herself as the partner of Tommy Habetz, the co-owner of Bunk, the company behind a chain of bars and sandwich shops in Portland, wrote back. Though plans are not firm, she told West, the buyers plan to use the ballroom space as a venue. She thanked West for understanding.
On April 18, a domestic limited liability company named Oddfellows Astoria LLC was registered with the state. The articles of organization list a Thomas Edward Habetz as the organizer and registered agent, as well as a Portland mailing address.
On April 26, Webb had posted a picture of the Odd Fellows Building and the location “Astoria, Ore.,” on her personal Facebook page.
“Isn’t it romantic?” she wrote. She added, “I’d love to form a collective of old Portland places, try to invite or reinvent them here … calling all artists and dreamers! Sure, it will be a fleeting moment …”
In the comments below the post one person asked, “What’s your plan?”
Webb replied with a description of the building — the number of levels, its square footage — and wrote, “I plan to open a venue in the ballroom with a bar. You’ll looooove it. Eventually I will have a shop on the main level also, apparel.”
In an Instagram post from March featuring a picture of the ballroom she wrote, “Come back to me. The future looks like 1923. October masquerades in this very unloved ballroom. Vintage coast fantasies …”
Bunk representatives and Habetz did not reply to a request for comment by press time.
Astoria real estate agent Peter Tadei of Myriad Commercial Properties Ltd, who is working for the building’s current owners Luottamus Partners LLC, confirmed a sale was pending. He could not comment any further on the matter at this time. He said he first listed the building last summer. It is listed at $575,000 on the Myriad website.
“The property is well-positioned to capitalize on the town’s ongoing resurgence, embarrassment of treasures, and ever-growing tourism,” states a description of the property on the Myriad website. “The highly visible corner makes a very desirable location.”
For West and others concerned about the future of the building, the situation is frustrating.
“They’re wanting to offer a bar and event center across the street from another bar and event center that’s also for sale,” West said, referring to the Astoria Event Center, located down the road and listed for sale on Myriad’s website at $650,000.
West worries, too, about what the buyer’s plans would do to the historic nature of the building.
“It’s been a ballroom since the 1920s,” she said. “Before we moved in, the Astoria School of Ballet was there.”
She says she knows locals who are interested in buying the building, keeping it available to the current tenants and preserving its historical integrity.
Astoria’s Community Development Department has not seen any permits yet related to the building or Oddfellows Astoria LLC, but said any change of use would likely come before the Planning Commission.
Odd Fellows Hall is zoned as commercial, the type of zoning that covers downtown Astoria, and certain uses are permitted outright: eating and drinking establishments, communications business, studios for artists, among others.
A switch from using the space for retail and a dance studio to using it as a bar and event center would likely trigger review by city building officials and community development, according to City Planner Nancy Ferber.
“But it just depends on what they’re proposing,” she said.
Community Development Director Kevin Cronin confirmed that the department has not seen any permits related to the building. He said he had heard “through the grapevine” that there was a change in ownership at the building.
Odd Fellows Hall is listed as a local landmark included in Astoria’s downtown area which has been designated a historic district, according to John Goodenberger, and instructor for Clatsop Community College’s historic preservation program and an architectural historian and preservationist.
Under this designation, some restrictions apply: If a developer wants to change the exterior of the building, for example, or use different materials, add on to the building itself or take out or enlarge windows.
Dulcye Taylor, president of the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, which advocates for the downtown area, said she also heard about the potential buyers for the building. She says she has questions about the “ramifications and repercussions of modifying that building” given its historic nature.
From her own personal perspective, she said she is “very saddened” to think the arts center might have to vacate the building.
“The Arts and Movement Center is a viable, wonderful part of our community that does a lot of great things for a lot of age groups and economic levels,” she said.