Five projects received funding during the Urban Renewal Agency’s Call for Projects funding meeting Wednesday night.
Countertop Solutions, Grande Ronde Animal Hospital, Lottes Building LLC, and Steve’s Outdoor Adventure each received its full eligible funding from the URA, while the BR Office Condominiums Associations received part of the maximum amount.
One project, Laurence’s Auto Body & Paint, was not granted funding.
Ahead of this year’s Call for Projects, the URA adjusted its scoring system and how it chooses to award funds. Urban Renewal District Manager Robert Strope told The Observer the URA’s “explicit intent was to fully fund the top-ranked projects first,” which has not always been the case.
In the past, he said, the URA has at times split its funds among all the proposed projects rather than rewarding only those the agency felt were the strongest.
This year, funding was distributed based on how well the projects ranked. Full funding was first allotted to the top-ranked projects, then given to second-ranked projects, then third, etc., until the amount the URA had to grant was exhausted.
Proposed projects had to address at least one of four goals put forth by the La Grande Urban Renewal Plan: revitalization of downtown, creation of high quality family wage jobs, retail development, or housing. They also received points rated in a range of criteria. Strope and Economic Development Director Christine Jarski assigned points for Impact on the Central Business Zone, Private Investment to Public Dollars, and Return on Investment, The URA then assigned points for Mitigation of Blight, Business Viability, and a Community Comment prior to the meeting. At the meeting the URA assigned points to complete the rankings. The items projects were scored upon included:
• Impact on Central Business Zone (up to 60 points)
• Private investment to public dollars (up to 30 points)
• Return on investment (up to 50 points)
• Mitigation, reduction or removal of blight (up to 30 points)
• Business viability (up to 25 points)
• Evaluation of community comments (up to 15 points)
• Discretionary points given by URA members at the meeting (up to 40 points)
This year, the URA had $250,000 to distribute to proposed projects not in the La Grande Business and Technology Park, and an additional $100,000 for projects in the Business and Technology Park.
Of the proposed projects, all of which must be inside in or adjacent to the Urban Renewal District, the Lottes Building received the top ranking by the URA and was granted $75,000, the full amount for which it was eligible. Grande Ronde Animal Hospital also received its full $75,000. Countertop Solutions was granted the $36,789 for which it was eligible, and BR Condominiums was awarded the remaining $63,211 available for projects is this category.
Steve’s Outdoor Adventure, the only project in the Business and Technology Park, was granted its fully eligible amount of $75,000.
Scoring the projects was not an easy task for agency members, most of whom commented on the strength of this year’s proposals and the thoroughness of the submitted applications.
Below is a brief overview of the projects in the order they were ranked.
Lottes Building (205 points)
The Lottes Building, at 1413 Adams Ave., is one of the most blighted buildings in the Central Business Zone. Portland-area developers Tony Ngo and Mark Chen, who purchased the property in 2018, said in their application the building, which has been vacant for about a decade, “needs a major rehab to bring it back to life.” In addressing the URA, Jarski pointed out all of the building’s major systems need to be replaced, including wiring, HVAC and plumbing. There are also structural issues in the basement that must be addressed.
The renovation, which is estimated at $289,300, will yield space for up to six retail businesses or restaurants. The project meets two of the four goals of the La Grande Urban Renewal Plan — revitalizing downtown and retail development.
Grande Ronde Animal Hospital (194 points)
The site of the old Quail Run Motor Inn, which was destroyed by a fire in 2017, at 2400 Adams Ave., will become the location of GRAH, which the staff report said was “one of the strongest projects in the field of applications this year.” The project will require the construction of a new 3,000-square-foot building for the treatment of small animals and pets. “The facility will have modern medical, surgical, dental and diagnostic equipment,” according to the staff report and will have the capacity to see and treat between 45 and 120 patients daily.
Applicant Lee Darch, who has more than 40 years of veterinary experience, believes his business will employ 12-15 people when it’s fully operational, and that they would be “competitive” waged jobs, which meets goal 2 of the Urban Renewal Plan. The full budget for the project is estimated at $708,000.
Countertop Solutions (185 points)
Countertop Solutions, a custom manufacturing and retail business that builds and installs stone, acrylic and laminate countertops, is expanding its own business while at the same time filling a building that has been vacant for about nine years at 1417 Jefferson Ave., which is adjacent to the Central Business Zone. Business owners Chris Loman and Sam Jacobson, who have between them close to 30 years of experience, said the move will add three additional jobs and addresses the concern of blight in the city.
The project, which will include electrical upgrades, structural reinforcement and the installation of new doors and a concrete floor and drainage system, will cost $250,365. Most of that cost, though — $176,787 — will go toward equipment. The project will meet three of the URA’s four goals — revitalizing downtown, creating high-wage jobs and retail development.
BR Office Condominiums (165 points)
An interior remodel will help an existing business to expand and open the possibility for future renters at 1902 Fourth St., a building owned by David and Anna Baum. The project will include remodeling one of the suites to expand Dr. James Kopp’s orthopedic practice and add a weight loss center. Another of the building’s suites will receive several upgrades, including electrical and lighting, and a new front door, to make it ready for use for commercial operations. The building’s exterior will also be upgraded.
The project’s URA grant of $63,211 covered most of the $75,000 for which it was eligible. The overall cost will be $272,373. It meets the goals of revitalizing downtown and creation of high wage jobs.
Steve’s Outdoor Adventures (148 points)
Steve West’s business at 316 Antelope Drive will add a second building next to its current location in the Business and Technology Park. The new building, which carries a cost of $185,000, will be the home of Pendleton Ammunition, a business that West projects will sell $2 million in product in the next year, according to the staff report on the project.
Laurence’s Auto Body & Paint (156 points)
The lone project not to receive URA funding is looking to expand its business at 1208 N. Willow St. Laurence’s Auto Body’s application encompassed adding a shop and installing a paint booth, which would create two new jobs as well as an internship. The total project cost is $154,977, and it was eligible for $50,000 from the URA. It would have met the goal of adding high-paying jobs, according to the staff report.
The Observer will follow up with more on the businesses that received URA funding for 2019 at a later date.