The Clatsop County Housing Authority may decide to sell the dilapidated Waldorf Hotel instead of engaging a contractor to renovate it. That was the suggestion that seemed to gain the most traction at a meeting of the CCHA's project committee Wednesday.
After learning that the Housing Authority believes the building is worth between $400,000 and $500,000, Astoria City Manager Paul Benoit floated the idea of putting the Waldorf on the market at the end of a two-hour-long meeting that had made little progress toward a game plan for renovating the building.
Benoit has been working with CCHA because the city would like to secure space on the first floor of the Waldorf as a long-term option for possible expansion of Astoria City Hall, which shares a wall with the hotel building. Also attending Wednesday's meeting was Greg Hamann, president of Clatsop Community College, who has expressed interest in the possibility of student housing at the Waldorf.
The 80-year-old hotel, known as the Merwyn until a new owner changed its name in 1980, stands between Astoria City Hall and the public library in Astoria's downtown core. It has been vacant except for rats, pigeons and occasional vagrants since 1989.
CCHA received the property at no charge in 2005 in a deal brokered by John Berdes of ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia with help from the Bank of Astoria, with the expectation the building would become local affordable housing.
The Housing Authority sent out a request for qualifications earlier this year. The agency has been working with Medford-based Oregon Architecture, one of the two firms that responded to the RFQ in October. Headed by developer John Batzer and architect Mark McKechnie, the firm is eager to get started on the project, according to Dave Phillips, who chairs the seven-member CCHA board.
"Our developer's ready to roll," Phillips said, but the board first needs to find out where the city and Clatsop Community College stand. Other agencies are interested, he said, but CCHA's first preference is to work with the city and the college.
Benoit said the city's No.1 goal is to restore the derelict building.
"If the housing authority has a developer champing at the bit, tenants interested in locating there, and they feel it's worth $400,000 to $500,000, that's the winning combination that gets it renovated," Benoit said today.
However, he said he feels there should be room in the deal to protect the city's long-term interest in expanding City Hall into the Waldorf. He suggested that could be done by discounting the selling price to reflect the fact that the city would own two-thirds of the first floor and that the buyer would have to meet performance requirements.
Phillips said the next step will be to invite Batzer, the developer, to Astoria. In the meantime, he said the agency will go back to the interested parties. "If they are serious they need to be at the table with Batzer, too," he said.
Others attending the meeting Wednesday were project committee members David Smith, filling in for Steve Olstedt, outgoing CCHA board member Robert Stang, consultant Kirk Fausett and CCHA director Kathy Lucas.