Apartment complexes get $2.1 million facelift from new owners

After a $2.1 million facelift, two Sweet Home apartment complexes have a new lease on life.

Stone Brook Apartments at 300 W. Holley Road (Highway 228) and Linnhaven Apartments at 1220 Long St. both were acquired last December by Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services.

The organization celebrated the grand opening of Stone Brook last Thursday with a ribbon cutting and lunch in the new community center it built in the complex.

Jim Moorehead, WNHS executive director, said that the organization was able to purchase the two complexes, totaling 51 units, from two different owners for close to $3 million and completely renovate them, adding a new community center in each one.

He said that WNHS’ purpose was to extend the life of the complexes, which were both constructed with federal funding and received federal rent subsidy contracts that enabled them to rent to low-income residents.

Moorehead said WNHS got involved because those contracts were expiring and the complexes needed rehabilitation.

“We did this with an eye toward making this place last another 30 years,” he said.

Linnhaven is made up of 26 apartments for senior citizens, while Stone Brook has 25 units available for families.

Garrick Harmel, who managed the project, said both complexes got “a complete gut rehab” that included new roofs, windows, interior and exterior paint, new ventilation, new utility systems, new flooring €“ “the list is too long.”

As a final touch last week, workers were putting up a new sign at Stone Brook that featured a waterfall trickling down stone pillars.

Harmel said that residents who wanted to stay in the complexes were moved to Sweet Home Inn for three weeks while their apartments were rehabilitated.

On Thursday landscape work was still under way at the Stone Brook complex while WNHS staffers and board members, city and chamber representatives and residents enjoyed the festivities.

John Golden of Swiss Home, a graduate of Sweet Home High School and longtime former resident, was digging a ditch.

“We’re setting a new standard with this complex,” he said.

Moorehead noted that the projects generated approximately $3 million for the region and “supported” 33 jobs.

“When we’re doing affordable housing we’re not only doing it for the people living here, but for the community,” he said.

WHNS Board member Barbara Sackett, of Corvallis, said the organization, which was founded in 1991 as an effort to create low-cost housing in the Corvallis area, merged with Linn County Affordable Housing four years ago. WNHS operates seven complexes, totaling 162 units, in the Corvallis area. She said the Sweet Home investment is part of its effort to move beyond Corvallis.

“This is going to be an asset to the community,” she said of the projects.

Resident Jennifer Williams, who has lived in Stone Brook for about a year and was one of the tenants who lived in the motel while her apartment was being renovated, said the six-month rehabilitation project has been worth it. She said residents have responded to the upgrades in a positive manner.

“Before, when it was run down, everybody was kind of like ‘who gives a crap?'” she said. “It’s a little bit more peaceful now.”

Linda Ladwig, another resident, moved in to live with her sister Kathy Rodgers a couple of weeks ago.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said, noting that there were still some things to be completed in their apartment.

Moorehead credited Bob Gillespie of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department for arranging the funding for the project.

Gillespie noted a couple of times during the celebration that he has a warm spot for Sweet Home because he spent his summers working here years ago as a forestry student at Oregon State University.

On the business end of things, he said it makes better economic sense to purchase older apartment complexes and do a complete rehab than to build new ones from the ground up.

“There are a lot of these properties around the state,” he said. “It makes a big difference (to upgrade them). A lot of times, in small communities, this is the only affordable housing that exists.”

Gillespie and Moorehead said money for the Sweet Home project came partly from the federal stimulus fund package passed by Congress last fall. Moorehead said Gillespie and his department colleagues were able to do some creative thinking and arrange to grab some of the funds that became available, right at the opportune time.

“You hear all the time about government doing things wrong,” Moorehead told the crowd during the ribbon cutting celebration in the community center. “This is an example of something right with government. This building wouldn’t exist if they hadn’t figured out a way to get this funding.”