The Portland nonprofit redeveloping Astoria’s former Waldorf Hotel into affordable housing may take on another building downtown.
Julie Garver, the director of housing development for Innovative Housing Inc., confirmed the nonprofit is discussing a partnership with congregants at First Presbyterian Church who purchased the large building on Marine Drive that houses Mallternative last summer. The church group, now a nonprofit called Copeland Commons, hoped to create affordable and workforce-priced housing in the building.
“Our talks are proceeding well,” Garver said. “We’re working through questions that both sides of the partnership have and we’re moving in a good direction.”
All plans are preliminary at this point, and funding will determine what can be created. Innovative Housing is waiting for the state to publish its guidelines for key grants.
Bill Van Nostran, the pastor of First Presbyterian who spearheaded the effort to buy the property, estimates it will cost nearly $3 million just to refurbish the building.
But Van Nostran said they have also discussed the possibility of applying for permitting and funding to build a second structure next door to the east.
“It could almost double the number of units,” he said. “That just sounds intriguing to me.”
The building — often referred to as the State Hotel — already includes 50 units on its second and third floors. Copeland Commons hopes to make around 40 units available, but Van Nostran said even more space may be opened up on the ground floor and in the basement in partnership with Innovative Housing.
Some retail space will remain at the street level and there are no plans to make existing businesses move.
“We’ve tried to assure (Terry Erickson, the owner of Mallternative) it’s business as usual,” Van Nostran said.
Renovating the building and operating it for housing is a massive undertaking, and one the board of Copeland Commons discovered may be beyond them alone, Van Nostran said.
Innovative Housing would bring important resources, oversight and expertise to the project, he said.
For Innovative Housing, it would make sense to have another housing project in Astoria.
The nonprofit plans to create 40 new studio and one-bedroom apartments in the former Waldorf Hotel, also known as the Merwyn.
“We always wanted to have a companion property to the Merwyn,” Garver said. “The Merwyn on its own is a little bit small to operate at an optimal level. It’s nicer when you have companion properties so you can share management services and maintenance.”
Not only has First Presbyterian attracted the interest of Innovative Housing, but they have fielded calls from other churches in the region about starting similar projects. They have also received offers of volunteer work groups.
“The bottom line for me is that we, this small group of interested Presbyterians, set out to be a catalyst to see if we couldn’t stimulate interest enough and create available, affordable housing,” Van Nostran said.