January 22, 2002 11:00 pm
NEW LOOK: A concept sketch depicts what redevelopment at the vacant burned-out Bohnenkamp lot will look like on Adams Avenue. (HDN Architects).
NEW LOOK: A concept sketch depicts what redevelopment at the vacant burned-out Bohnenkamp lot will look like on Adams Avenue. (HDN Architects).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

If the La Grande City Council accepts the recommendations of an advisory group, the D.W. Sivers Co. of Portland will buy and develop the burned-out Bohnenkamp site with a new building to complement the historic character of the downtown area.

The Urban Renewal Advisory Commission, meeting at City Hall at noon Tuesday, unanimously chose the Portland company over the only other firm that submitted a proposal. A dozen firms picked up packets containing the requirements the city set down for developing the Adams Avenue site. The two-story Bohnenkamp Interiors building burned on April 4, 1994.

The commissions recommendation now goes to the city council for consideration Feb. 6, said Community Development Director Mike Hyde.

The advisory commission liked several aspects of the Sivers proposal over that submitted by the Telos Development Co. of Salem, even though the latter had been in discussions with the city about the property for several months.

Sivers would buy the 80 by 110-foot lot, now basically a hole in the ground, from the city for $28,600, with no reliance on governmental assistance. The commission was attracted by Sivers plan to begin construction in June.

Telos proposed that the city contribute the land (now valued by the city at $60,000,) and $15,000 in pre-development, site investigation and closing costs to the project. The city bought the site for $55,500, based on the value as determined by a city-hired appraiser.

One reason the commission shied away from recommending Telos was that the firm was offering a project contingent upon the company getting low-income housing tax credits from the state, for which there is intense competition.

The project might not receive the tax credits on the first try, although Telos has been successful in getting such credits on projects in Burns, Pendleton and Prineville, Hyde said. The tax credits wont be awarded until August, which would mean the building couldnt be finished until 2003, Hyde said.

Sivers indicated it would have no problem getting financing.

The Sivers concept envisions a three-story building with brick columns, with a design showing a lot of glass on the front. That may need to be modified to be acceptable in the historic district, Hyde said.

The Sivers plan calls for ground-floor commercial space, with the upper floors having housing. A restaurant has expressed interest in locating in the site, the company reported.

In issuing requests for proposals. the city stated its objective was to offer this site for redevelopment to a developer capable of designing and developing a project that reflects the pedestrian values of a traditional historic downtown environment.

The guidelines sought designs that would provide a street frontage that promotes a high level of pedestrian interest, including space suitable for retail use. The project should complement the historic architecture and character of the downtown, the requests stated.

The Telos proposals contain more detailed information regarding building design and development costs. The plan called for a four-story brick building with a 4,400-square-foot commercial ground floor, 14,400 square feet of residential space (26 apartments 12 one bedroom and 14 two bedroom), and a parking garage in the rear.

The Sivers proposal is superior, commission member Mark Davidson said. It does not rely on tax credits, is offering to pay the city 50 percent of what the city paid for the land and their time schedule is earlier than the Telos plan.

Commission member Sharon Dykes agreed, adding, Sivers is willing to spend now. Telos is looking for public funds and grants and wouldnt start until the spring of 2003.

Sivers did not present its estimate of the anticipated cost of the project. Telos said it would be $3.75 million.

Sivers is the same firm involved in the construction of the integrated services building to house several state agencies on Eastern Oregon University property on Gekeler Lane.

The family-owned company has been active in developing property in the Northwest, including several mixed-use projects, since it was founded in 1952.