Washougal Towne Square apartments sold for $1.7 million

Improvements are expected to be completed in May 2015

The temporary relocation of some Washougal Towne Square apartments residents has begun, after REACH Community Development, Inc. purchased the 40-unit complex with a plan for extensive improvements.

The apartments, located at 2900 “H” St., have 72 residents. The complex was built in 1977, with funding from USDA Rural Development.

The $1.7 million purchase from Towne Square Associates Limited Partnership was made in an effort to keep rent affordable and extend the life of the buildings, according to Leah Greenwood, the Affordable Community Environments housing development project manager.

ACE is a subsidiary of REACH CDC.

“With the purchase, we renegotiated the loan with USDA Rural Development, to extend out another 30 years to preserve the rent subsidy,” Greenwood said.

The original loan was to be paid off in three years, and the rent subsidies would have gone away.

Robert Christenson, of Mercer Island, Wash., is the managing member of the Towne Square Associates Limited Partnership.

The overall cost of the project, including the purchase, renovations, moving costs and other expenses, is $7 million.

“For those that are moving to off-site and on-site apartments, their stuff is going with them,” Greenwood said. “For those choosing to go with friends or family, their stuff is going into a storage facility owned by the moving company.

“They will continue to pay whatever rent they currently pay, and we will pay the differential,” she added.

ACE has contracted with All My Sons Moving & Storage, of Vancouver, and DDV Consulting, of Washougal, is managing the relocation activities.

No rents will increase after the renovation, according to Greenwood.

The median income of Towne Square households is less than $10,000 per year.

Marilyn Wagner will be out of her apartment for seven to eight weeks.

“It will be wonderful at the end,” she said regarding the renovation project. “We’re all looking forward to it.

“It’s a trial for now, but we’ve had other trials in our lives,” Wagner added about the temporary relocation. “Why not enjoy this one?”

Wagner has lived in a Towne Square apartment for 10 years. She will live in another complex during the renovation project.

Safety improvements will be made

The siding on all of the units will be replaced. Other improvements will include ADA accessibility upgrades and new windows and staircases, carpeting, kitchen cabinets, plumbing, heating and fresh air ventilation systems.

Fire sprinklers will be added to all units. There have been two fires that gutted units, including one with a fatality, at Towne Square.

Walkways that are cracked or tilted will be replaced. The amount of exterior lighting in the complex will be increased, for safety, security and mobility reasons. Greenwood said apartment residents brought up the lighting issue.

The management building will be reconfigured to repurpose a storage area as a new office with a window overlooking the parking lot.

The current management space will be converted into a community room, with computer stations. A kitchenette will be replaced, and residents will be able to reserve the room at no cost.

It has not been decided what will be offered in the community room, but potential options include financial education, one-on-one eviction prevention and after-school programs.

A resident services coordinator, paid by REACH, will be hired or reassigned to work at the apartment complex.

While Guardian Property Management will be retained during the renovations, the intention is to eventually transfer the management of the complex to REACH.

The Nike Employee Grant Fund will provide $15,000 to help pay for a new outside play area.

“The former play structure was rickety and unsafe,” Greenwood said.

It was removed in 2013.

There could also be a community garden for residents.

“We have not designed the play area and garden yet,” Greenwood said. “We will get input from residents.”

Some vegetation will be removed, including bushes next to buildings. Some of the plants will be salvaged by the Washougal Parks Department, for use elsewhere.

The project is financed with funding from Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc., State of Washington Housing Trust Fund, Clark County HOME Investment Partnership, Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks(R) America. Permanent financing is being provided by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Camas) provided assistance on obtaining final approvals from the office of USDA Rural Development.

Construction is expected to be completed in May 2015.

The development team includes REACH CDC, LMC, Inc., Carleton Hart Architecture and the Housing Development Center.

ACE owns several multi-unit buildings in Clark County, including the Gateway Garden Apartments, at 4300 Addy St., in Washougal.

In 2010, the 32-unit Bethea Park Estates complex was renamed Gateway Garden Apartments. ACE bought the apartments for $1.8 million and paid another $1.8 million for renovations.

The project included the replacement of flooring, cabinets and siding and the addition of energy efficient appliances and lights, as well as a community kitchen, computers and gardens.

“There has been stricter management, better accountability and [the addition of] some programs,” Greenwood said, regarding Gateway Garden.