A dilapidated building that has stood for nearly 100 years will soon receive a breath of new life.
Portland-based developers Tony Ngo and Mark Chen are restoring the Lottes Building at 1413 Adams Ave. in La Grande, with the goal of turning the empty space into a hub that could potentially house up to six businesses.
The project received a $75,000 infusion of funds from the Urban Renewal Agency at its Call for Projects meeting last month after earning the highest score of the six projects the URA considered.
“It’s a unique building. It’s been vacant for at least 10 or 12 years,” Ngo told The Observer. “We want to bring it back to life. We (saw) a good opportunity to jump in and see what we could do with it.”
Ngo and Chen purchased the Lottes Building, which was built in 1925, last fall, but have been unable to lease the space.
“No businesses wanted to take the risk due to the bad condition of the building,” Ngo and Chen wrote in their application to the URA.
The long-vacant 6,600-square-foot building has significant issues. According to Ngo and Chen’s application, “Everything inside has been damaged and needs to be replaced.” The application goes further to detail that the structure is in need of vast electrical, plumbing and HVAC repair and/or replacement. There are three skylights that need to be repaired and work needs to be done to the basement floor, the load-bearing walls and the facade, which they intend to restore “to preserve the historical aspect of the building.”
In fact, the majority of the $289,300 in work the project is estimated at are in repairs. According to a cost breakdown in their application, the project calls for $41,000 for electrical repair, $21,000 for HVAC, $36,000 to repair the load-bearing walls and more than $20,000 of work on the facade, just to name a few.
Their vision, though, is of a location that will enhance downtown. In their application, Ngo and Chen say the project “will revitalize downtown by bringing in more retail shops after the renovation is completed.”
Their application expresses the company goal and notes that the Lottes Building fits right into it: “Our company mission is to create value by buying rundown, unloved properties and give them a new life. This is one of our development projects. Our plan is to keep this property as a rental and rent out to local business owners in La Grande for retail shops.”
Ngo said this is the first commercial restoration project he and Chen have done. Both have prior experience in restoring apartment complexes in Portland.
Part of their construction plan is to divide up the current retail spaces in the building. Currently, each of the three spaces in the Lottes Building are 2,200 square feet, according to their application. However, they point out that, “after getting many inquiries from the local business owners who want to rent from us, we learned they only want about 1,000 square feet for their business.”
But Ngo told The Observer there is still some wiggle room on the number of businesses and size of the plots in the building, depending on who they lock down for tenants. He said the duo would be open to renovating it for a single tenant that intended to use the entire space, or to split it up for multiple businesses.
“We’re open to different businesses that want to be in downtown La Grande. We’ll even cater to their needs (in construction) before we start to renovate,” he said.
Ngo said interested businesses that have specific ideas for the design layout they want can contact him at 503-281-8288.
Urban Renewal District Manager Robert Strope and Economic Development Director Christine Jarski, in their report to the URA on the Lottes project, noted that businesses ranging from a nail salon, massage parlor, coffee shop, bookstore, deli and more have been identified as possible tenants when the building’s renovation is complete.
Ngo said the plan is to start the restoration process within the next couple of months, and have the historic building ready to rent by early next year.