Sabrina Thompson, The Observer

The City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency awarded funds to BR Office Condominiums, owned by David Baum, to update its building at 1902 Fourth St. in June. The project revitalized the building’s interior and exterior.

Baum bought the office building in 1989 and though some construction had been done since then to improve the building, it was in need of a more extensive upgrade, according to Baum. When one of his tenants came to him in 2018 asking for renovations to be done, Baum saw the opportunity to reach out to the Urban Renewal Agency for help, as it met the URA’s funding requirements.

According to the report given to the URA by Urban Renewal District Manager Robert Strope and Economic Development Director Christine Jarski — which lists all the findings by the city regarding the application — the URA agreed that Baum’s proposal met three of the four goals of the Urban Renewal Plan: revitalizing downtown, creating family-wage jobs and retail development. With a new exterior, employees already hired and now updated empty suites, Baum has met those goals.

“The building is totally restored,” Baum said.

Currently the only tenant in the condominiums is Dr. James R. Kopp, an orthopedic surgeon who has set up a weight loss clinic in one of the three suites. MetTrim MD provides a medical designed clinic using the principles of the American Medical Association, National Institute of Health and Obesity Medical Association. Kopp’s business uses one of the three suites in the building for his practice.

The work listed in Baum’s Urban Renewal funding request included upgrading and remodeling Suite 1 and Suite 3, in addition to exterior repairs.

In Suite 1, which is set up as a satellite law office for law firms to work La Grande, the funds were to be used for electrical and lighting upgrades, new windows, an ADA bathroom, improved walls and a new front door. Suite 3 was gutted and remodeled for the weight loss clinic, which included creating four new exam rooms, installing an ADA bathroom, redoing the flooring and replacing the windows and door on the Washington Avenue side. Outside called for installing a new roof system and replacing rotten boards on the building’s facade. Also, trees and fencing on Fourth Street were removed so that artwork by Brenna Tyler can be seen in the windows.

The remodel was estimated to be completed by June 1. The third suite was ready to be moved into by June 9, but the rest of the upgrades were not finished until Aug. 1, according to Baum. Now the only work to be completed is tidying up the remaining suites for tenants to rent and move into.

The project in total has cost Baum just over $250,000. After he submits receipts and invoices, the city will reimburse him his award of $63,211 from the URA fund. The project was eligible for $75,000 but did not receive the full award as it was one of the last projects to receive funding and that was all that was left, according to Baum. The remaining $187,000 is coming from a loan from Community Bank and out of a Roth IRA owned by Baum. The largest costs of the project have been the MetTrim sign in front of the building and the remodeling of Suite 3.

Construction work was completed by Palmer Roofing, Michael’s Trees and G. L. Lequerica General Contracting. Baum said he was very happy with the work done by all companies. He also said how grateful he is for the help the city has provided in this project.

“The city has been great through all of this,” Baum said. “They have been very cooperative on everything.”