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Eugene makes progress on downtown mixed-income housing project

 Building in downtown Eugene
Rachael McDonald
The building at 1059 Willamette Street has been vacant for 10 years. The plan is to tear it down and build a mixed-income housing project there.

A former department store in downtown Eugene that’s sat vacant for a decade is still set to be torn down to make way for a mixed-income housing project. 1059 Willamette Street was once a Montgomery Ward. Starting in 1979, it was home to Lane Community College’s downtown campus. It’s been vacant since 2013.

On May 31, the City of Eugene signed a development agreement with Eugene-based deChase Miksis, and Edlen & Company of Portland. The firms plan to build a 129-unit building. 66 units would be income qualified—for households earning up to 80% of median income. The other 63 would be market rate housing.

An artists rendering of the proposed multi-income building at 1059 Willamette Street in Eugene.
City of Eugene
An artists rendering of the proposed multi-income building at 1059 Willamette Street in Eugene.

Amanda D’Souza is the Development Program Manager with the City of Eugene. She said she is pleased to be moving forward with this unique project.

“We’re really excited for this project to be moving forward," she said. "We’re hoping this is going to be a pilot project we can model elsewhere in the city—this idea of mixed income housing.”

D’Souza said the soonest passersby will see any activity on the site is in 18 months.

“Because the property was acquired using federal funds, they’ll have to go through an environmental review process," she said. "They’ll be applying for the Multi-Unit Property Tax exemption, which is a 6-month process. They’ll have to work on finalizing all the design elements.”

D’Souza said given Eugene’s housing shortage and ongoing challenges downtown, the hope is that this development can help with both of those issues. She said when the community talked with city officials in the fall, there was a lot of support for more housing downtown.

“It also helps achieve other goals of just the housing shortage in Eugene," said D'Souza. "So, we’re really focusing our efforts in downtown to what can we do to make housing happen? So, this is a great first step in working towards that goal.”

D’Souza said it’s been a long process in their work on the development agreement because of some of the challenges in the development and construction industries with rising costs, and an unstable labor market. Also, rising interest rates have meant the developers had to revisit their financing strategy.

The 80 year-old building has lead and asbestos in the construction.

D’Souza said the city looked into trying to preserve the building, but it was just too expensive.

"Any historic value there was to the building has been kind of covered up with all the renovations over the years," she said. "We did work with the State Historic Preservation Office to look at the building. So the building will be torn down and an new building will be built on the property.”

Copyright 2023 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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