Developer presents plan for affordable apartments and grocery on former Beets Auto Body location

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If you’re a supporter of density and affordable housing in Montavilla the new building planned for the former Beet’s Auto Body shop (518 SE 76th Avenue) would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

But since many of the nearby neighbors’ primary concern was the loss of parking, a lot of frustration was expressed at the meeting with developer Randy Rapaport Thursday, June 24th.

Rapaport (2007 interview) said he came out of retirement to build Mount Tabor Villa, and he seemed excited at the chance to provide affordable housing for East Portlanders. He’s one of many developers competing for funding from Portland’s $258.4 million housing bond passed last fall.

He expects about 30 projects will vie for funding, and ten will be funded. Rapaport said he got his proposal in early, so that’s helpful, and he said there’s a 50-50 chance he’ll receive funding for the project.

Best case scenario, Rapaport said they would break ground next June or July and it would take a year to build. The building would eventually be turned over to the City of Portland, he said.

The plans call for a four-story apartment building with ground floor retail. It would be four stories, with 60 units, a small grocery store, a community art gallery, and another business that could be a coffee roastery. The plan also calls for 15 resident parking space, and 10 for the businesses. Five of the spaces would feature electric car chargers.

Rapaport said the plan called for three-bedroom apartments, even though they’re generally not profitable. One of the coolest things, he said, was a plan for an indoor atrium heated by solar power. The atrium would have subtropical vegetation like a lemon tree, Japanese maple, and jasmine.

He said he wouldn’t work towards a green building certification, but would build for energy efficiency and invest in features not required by any green certification. There would be a seven foot wide sidewalk, which means they lost 800 square feet that could’ve gone to development.

Each unit would have high ceilings (9.5 feet tall), a split air conditioner / heater, disposalls, and a smaller refrigerator and stove. All the units would have disposals, and the three bedroom units would be the only to have dishwashers. A laundry room would be on each floor.

Rents would be on an income-based sliding scale with a credit for utilities like electricity and garbage. Studios would cost $500 – $800; one bedrooms: $550 – $850; two bedrooms: $700 – $1,050; and three bedrooms: $850 – $1,200.

A full-time minimum wage worker could afford a one bedroom, he said. When choosing residents, he said he wants to give preference to those who work at the grocery store, current neighborhood residents, and those in helping professions.

Rappaport said he has a signed non-disclosure agreement with a local grocery store, so he couldn’t share its name. He said the 4,400 foot grocery store would be like a New Seasons with to go food, but also fresh vegetables and the ingredients to bake a cake. The founder of Stumptown is starting a new roastery, and he said that would be a good addition to the project.

“Montavilla would be lucky to get this project,” Rapaport said. “Every other neighborhood want it.”

One neighbor said they project wasn’t a good fit for the neighborhood because the new businesses would compete with current ones like La Bouffe (the grocery store associated with Ya Hala), Montavilla Brew Works, and Bipartisan Cafe.

Responding to the criticism about parking, Rapaport said people at this income level don’t own cars. Some disputed that claim. When a neighbor asked about underground parking, he said it didn’t make sense financially, because it added an additional $60,000 per space.

There’s been no traffic impact study, he said. Neighbors were concerned that the development would bring too much traffic to the alley behind the property.

Rapaport said Portland’s Comprehensive Plan, passed in June of 2016, will bring 1,000 more units within walking distance of the development. If this affordable housing apartment didn’t go through, he said the neighborhood might get a worse deal with what eventually gets built.

Along with complaints about lack of parking, some neighbors present complained that Rapaport wants buy in, but wasn’t responsive to neighborhood concerns.

On June 19, the MNA board approved a letter to support the project:

“It is our belief in evaluating the facts of the project (Mt. Tabor Village Apartments) and considering neighborhood sentiment, current supply needs, the project’s alignment with 2035 Comprehensive Plan, and zoning at the site that this project broadly aligns with affordable housing goals and density goals of the city, and serves immediate needs of the neighborhood which is rapidly gentrifying.”

MNA board member Michael Sonnleitner, said the problem isn’t parking, but gentrification and he said the best way to slow that is to add more housing. He circulated a petition in support of the project, and Rapaport said they need the support of neighbors to make the project happen.

Rapaport built these three buildings in Portland: Belmont Street Lofts, Clinton Condominiums, and  Sunrose Building. Several were controversial, including the Clinton Condominiums at 28th and Division, where he lives and Little T American Baker is located.

Rapaport said he sees some of the neighbors that fought against the Clinton at the bakery, proving to him that his building was eventually accepted by the neighborhood.

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