An Astoria developer is proposing a new 66-unit apartment complex behind Safeway with the city’s workforce housing crunch and illegal vacation rentals in mind.
The Northpost Apartments would provide a mix of long-term and short-term options in four three-story buildings on vacant land between 31st and 32nd streets. Most of the units would be one-bedroom apartments.
“From a price point, I was really trying to gear it towards what would be reasonable housing expenses for a single individual if they’re making that $15 to $18 wage band,” said developer Walt Postlewait.
Postlewait is the executive vice president for nonprofit lender Craft3, which has worked with city leaders on a number of projects over the years, but the Northpost Apartments proposal is not a Craft3 project.
The high cost of building has forced him to drift from his original model, but with short-term vacation units as part of the project, he says he will be able to offset rental costs for the long-term units and provide apartments that are still slightly below market rate.
Of the 66 apartments, 34 will be for short-term rental and 32 will be for long-term rental.
City boards are scheduled to review the project at public hearings in July. If the project is approved, Postlewait hopes to break ground in August and begin renting out apartments by next June.
A countywide housing study completed earlier this year identified a need for workforce and affordable housing in Astoria. City leaders have struggled with how to provide or encourage this type of development. At a recent work session, city councilors discussed the need to provide incentives to developers, but plan to continue to delve into various recommendations that came out of the study.
The city is also moving forward on enforcing rules about homestay lodging, or Airbnb-type vacation rentals. Second homes and the transformation of homes into vacation rentals have eaten away at the city’s housing stock, city councilors say.
The short-term rentals at the Northpost Apartments will be furnished, self-contained and include a kitchen — halfway between a hotel room and an Airbnb-type vacation rental. Postlewait believes he can appeal to people who are in town for vacations or here on extended business trips who might be tempted to book the illegal vacation rentals city leaders have been trying to curb.
The Northpost Apartments would be built on commercial property within the Civic Greenway, a section of the Riverfront Vision Plan that guides development along the river, and the Gateway Overlay Zone. The units Postlewait is planning are allowed outright on the property. He is not asking the city for any exemptions.
City planning staff completed a preliminary review of the project but have not issued a final review with a recommendation.
Postlewait said he has worked closely with the city on design standards for the new buildings and believes the location is ideal for denser housing development.
“Right now, even after you build this complex, it’s not really changing the view from the road,” he said, adding, “Unlike other properties that I would call riverfront, where if there are projects built they’re really going to change the streetscape, we’re removed from that and, in a lot of ways, are insulated very much so from the highway.”
The property sits behind a gas station and other buildings and is located between the bulk of Safeway and city shops and storage. It has several unused buildings and was previously home to the A-1 concrete plant.
“That’s definitely a stretch that could use some revitalization,” said Postlewait, who has a purchase and sale agreement for the land.
Though Postlewait owns and operates two duplex rentals in Astoria, the Northpost Apartments will mark his first foray into larger-scale development.
It’s a big leap, he said, “but there’s a need and the opportunity existed and I think I can get it done so why not? If nobody tried to take a big bite out of the apple, nothing would get done.”
The Design Review Committee will hold a public hearing to review the project on July 11. Another review, conducted by the Historic Landmarks Commission, will be held on July 16.