Audrey Love

Patrons of La Grande’s downtown area have no doubt heard the symphony of construction happening at 1106 Adams Ave. Two once-vacant, conjoined buildings have undergone significant transformation into the city’s newest upscale residences — Imperial and Oddfellows apartments.

Through the Call for Projects grant, a program designed by La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency to revitalize buildings in downtown’s Urban Renewal District, Pennington Rental Properties secured funding to purchase the buildings in December 2017. Brothers Seth, Jason and Caleb Pennington (via their construction company, Wes Pennington Construction Co.) commenced further demolition and construction of the space at the first of the year.

“It’s considerably nicer than anything we’ve worked on,” Seth Pennington said. “It kind of fits our taste, but it’s also a mix of easy-to-do (construction) styles, with the barn doors and exposed brick. It kind of happened organically. There wasn’t a huge set plan before we dove into it — it was kind of just decide as we go.”

The Imperial building houses six apartments while Oddfellows houses eight, both offering studio, one- and two-bedroom spaces ranging from $750 to $1,350 a month. Construction on the residential portion of both buildings has been completed and were given a certificate of occupancy Thursday, though some residents have already moved in.

Currently, all units in the Imperial building have been claimed, but there are still vacancies in the Oddfellows building. According to Ashley O’Toole, a real estate agent managing the properties, so far the apartments have attracted the occupancy of college students, young couples and professionals in their 30s and 40s.

Rent includes all utilities, fiber internet, an energy-efficient heating and cooling system per unit and three washer/dryer units per floor (non-coin operated). Residents won’t have designated parking and will likely use the public parking lot behind the building off Washington Avenue. One of the buildings, however, has an alleyway entrance via staircase.

“They’re certainly above average (cost) for La Grande’s rental market, but when you consider what’s included in the rent it certainly makes more sense. You’re getting a lot for what you’re paying,” said O’Toole, who was asked to manage the property after working with the Penningtons on a major renovation project on a separate property he oversees.

It’s definitely a business investment and hopefully something that can be a long-term source of income for us,” Pennington said. “(It) is something we can be proud of, knowing that we took two of the ugliest buildings in town and made something useful and productive out of it. Once we get the outside done, I think it’ll be something everybody can appreciate.”

Construction on the buildings’ outer facade is set to wrap up in six to eight weeks. In addition to the residential portions on the second and third floors, a local business (yet unnamed) will expand into the ground floor of the space by fall 2019, as that area currently remains under construction.

“I think it’s a good start at alleviating the housing crisis, but there’s a crisis even after all these are occupied,” O’Toole said. “I’m still getting phone calls at my (real estate) office every day for houses and apartments. We have a huge demand and small availability, and when things do become available it’s beyond what (a lot of people) can afford.”

The reasoning behind the Penningtons construction and design aesthetic was not only physical appeal, but aimed to provide current and potential residents with modern, upscale housing options.

“We knew (more upscale housing) didn’t exist here, with the exposed brick and quartz (countertops) and stainless (steel appliances). We figured there would probably be a lot of interest in that, because it seems like something you’d (find) in more trendy areas,” Pennington said.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.