Observer old office becomes apartments for working professionals

Construction workers with CB Development Group work outside of the soon-to-be apartment building on Fourth Street in La Grande on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. The former Observer office will become apartments upon completion, which may finish ahead of the November deadline, according to the developers.

LA GRANDE — Progress on a new apartment complex previously home to The Observer is nearing completion more quickly than expected, according to CB Development Group project manager Jason Pennington.

“Everything’s been going pretty smooth,” he said. “There’s some covered parking and other stuff on the outside that still has to be done, but I’m guessing by the end of July we can head inside and finish developing the interior.”

The 20-unit apartment complex, situated at 1406 Fifth St., La Grande, likely will be finished before its original November deadline. Pennington said he believes it might be completed as early as August. Partially as a result of this quicker timeline, the costs of the project are lower than the $2.2 million budget originally estimated.

“It’ll be under that,” the contractor said. “I think just because of good luck and trying to be as efficient as we can with materials and supplies. Hopefully it comes in underneath that estimate, but we won’t know until the end.”

CB Development Group, a real estate company that specializes in commercial and residential sites, bought the property from Western Communications, former owner of The Observer, on Jan. 8 for $450,000. CB Construction is the contracting company leading the development of the building.

According to Pennington, there are many individuals hoping to secure one of the units in the apartment complex, which will have two three-bedroom apartments, 10 studio singles, six two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units. Each unit offers keypad entrances, complete laundry sets and covered parking. Sizes will range from 650 square feet in a studio to 1,400 square feet in the three-bedroom units.

According to Derek Howard, president of CB Construction, this location is ideal for an apartment complex for several reasons.

“The location of it is prime to live in, because it’s close to downtown, it’s close to the hospital, it’s close to EOU,” he said. “It’s going to enhance the overall look and feel of that area of La Grande and it’s going to be a benefit to the whole community.”

Along with location, Howard cites a shortage of housing in the area for the high demand. According to a 2019 Housing Needs Analysis, La Grande must increase its housing units by 800 over the next 20 years to meet growing demand.

“The upscale sector of multi-family housing really hasn’t seen a whole lot come in,” Howard said. “Nice working professional apartments just aren’t really available here, so I think it’s a market that’s attracting quite a bit of business.”

Prior to being home to The Observer, the lot was occupied by the first LDS Church in La Grande until its move in the 1970s to its current location on Gekeler Lane. The church was torn down in 1984, a year before The Observer office was built on the site.

The Observer spent 35 years in the building before moving to its new location on Jefferson Avenue, and Pennington said he is glad that it will be put to good use.

“I am very excited to see this project be finished and put to use,” he said.

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