The Odd Fellows Building in downtown Astoria is in local hands.
Jessamyn West, executive director of the Astoria Arts and Movement Center, which uses the historic building’s ballroom for exercise and dance classes and community events, and Andrea Mazzarella, a real estate agent and the center’s board president, closed the sale Thursday.
Together with Mazzarella’s mother, Nancy Mazzarella-Tisch, the women make up the newly-formed Astoria Odd Fellows, LLC.
The nearly 100-year-old building was listed for $575,000 and sold for around $425,000. West and Mazzarella estimate they face about $260,000 worth of repairs, not including major updates to plumbing or electrical systems or aesthetic changes. The building has been neglected for years, they said, and they will have to look into replacing historic windows, among other costly repairs.
They said they will not pass these costs onto tenants. The building houses a coffee shop, an antique store and a gift store that features local artists, as well as the Astoria Arts and Movement Center, which has operated there for six years.
The tenants shouldn’t have to pay for a previous landlord’s neglect, Mazzarella said. They plan to keep all the current tenants in place and bring in a new tenant.
The Odd Fellows Building was at the center of a fierce debate last year about gentrification and differing views on what Astoria needs.
Portland-area entrepreneur Tacee Webb attempted to buy the building last summer. She created a stir in the community with her statements about the building, Astoria and what she believed the city needed. At different times, she said she hoped to turn the building into an event space, a music venue, and a bar and retail stores.
Tenants feared Webb would force them out of the building when she took ownership. Webb at times stated she wasn’t interested in making them leave, but tenants weren’t reassured. A petition circulated online addressed to Webb and other potential buyers.
“Although we understand that real estate changes hands and new owners may do what they wish with their property, we also believe that communities have a voice that deserves to be heard — in particular regarding what is best for the community itself,” the petition stated.
When the building first went up for sale, West and Mazzarella hoped for a good buyer — someone who wouldn’t double everyone’s rents or displace them.
“It became clear very quickly that just about every potential buyer that came along, their vision of the building didn’t include what was already there,” West said.
West and Mazzarella began seriously considering what it would take to buy the building themselves.
Webb’s offer ultimately fell through. Several other people looked at the building, but nothing stuck. Astoria Odd Fellows jumped in.
Mazzarella grew up in Astoria and West has lived here for 13 years. They strongly believe the Odd Fellows Building should serve the community.
“Andrea and I could care less about money,” West added. “We understand it’s going to require funding to take care of and repair the building. But if you ask me if this is a wise investment? Yes, it’s an incredibly wise investment in the community.”