Groundbreaking Celebration – Friday,October 5!
Help celebrate the beginning of Townhouse construction with friends and neighbors. Free Ice Cream will be provided by the Red Wagon Creamery for the first 100 visitors! Enjoy music by Sonic Bent, and learn more about the Community we’re building! 27th and Friendly Street, 5:00-7:30pm.
Friendship hub on Friendly | The housing-commercial project will be very green, partners say
Appeared in print: Wednesday, Sep 8, 2010
Food entrepreneur Mel Bankoff, builder Jason Elmendorf and architect Jan Fillinger are planning to build a dozen individually owned town houses plus a commercial building with a funky, friendly store and restaurant.
“The three of us have the same philosophy. What we’d like to do is create a beautiful hub for community, friendship building, neighborhood building,” Fillinger said.
Townhouses in what the trio are calling the LUCiA Community Project are to be arrayed around raised-earth beds where “everybody can go and garden together,” Fillinger said. “We will have birds and butterflies, too, and a sand box for the kids.”
The partners started planning the $3 million project to be located along Friendly Street — across from the existing Friendly Street Market — about 4½ years ago, but they were stalled by the national credit freeze.
“Nobody was going to lend us money two years ago for anything,” Fillinger said.
But the group had a breakthrough about a month ago, Fillinger said, when it met up with a lending unit of Eugene-based Pacific Continental Bank, which is familiar with sustainable, mixed-use projects.
“They said they would give us a construction loan if we could presell all 12 townhomes — and then that would convert into a mortgage for each of the homeowners,” Fillinger said.
Once the residential buildings were halfway through, the bank would “seriously be interested” in financing the planned two-story, 10,000-square-foot commercial building, he said.
So in August, the developers began a marketing push to bring in buyers, with a golden-shovel groundbreaking with Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy.
Besides the gardens, the complex would include a restaurant with outdoor seating and a farmers’ market to promote interaction among the residents.
“They can have privacy when they want it and need it,” said Teri Reifer, Fillinger’s wife, who is helping with the project. “But they have the advantages of having a community when they want that.”
The developers will seek the U.S. Green Building Council’s gold-level LEED and Earth Advantage certification, which means the project will have a reduced environmental impact.
They’ll get points for redeveloping land inside the city — which has included digging out polluted soils — instead of developing agricultural land at the edge of town.
The housing units would be equipped with solar-powered hot water tanks, and the roofs would be wired to accept photovoltaic cells that residents could add.
The units would be two or three stories tall. They’d be attached but with a 1 inch vertical gap between each unit to prevent sound being conducted from one unit to the next.
The units would be heavily insulated and come with a heat exchanger to allow for fresh air and an even temperature. The windows would be placed for maximum natural light, Fillinger said.
“The spaces we design affect human beings in very subtle as well as powerful ways without those people knowing why and how,” he said.
The units are meant for a range of ages and family types.
Eight units would be 1,400 square feet and four would be 1,800 square feet, Fillinger said.
They’d be townhouses rather than condominiums, meaning the residents would each own the dirt underneath and near their units. A homeowners association would govern the exterior of the buildings and the common areas.
The designs include space and wiring for an elevator in each of the three-story units and a chair lift along the stairs in each of the two-story units, so residents could age in place (see the plans at lucia-community.com).
Now, the developers are facing the bank’s challenge — preselling all the units to obtain a construction loan, so they can begin as hoped in October.
Whether there’s demand for such units and whether the trio will be able to presell them remains to be seen.
Other developers with similar projects and ambitions have been stymied in recent years. In part that’s because adding costly green features to homes can drive up the price, making them too expensive.
A pair of Eugene builders went broke two years ago building a row of Earth Advantage certified town houses as part of the mixed-use Crescent Village project in north Eugene.
Meanwhile, this spring, much of the units of The Farm on Cal Young Road, a high-grade, 30-unit condominium project, were put up for auction after the project had sat completed but unsold for two years.
The super-green, mixed-use The WaterShed residential complex — with rain-flushed toilets — on the south bank of the Willamette River west of the Ferry Street Bridge has been largely vacant for a couple of years.
The LUCiA Community Project is risky, Fillinger said, but he believes it will succeed where the others have faltered.
“Our buildings are priced better than The WaterShed would be, and they’re much better designed than The Farm and there’s many fewer (units) than over at Crescent Village,” he said.
The LUCiA units will be priced at roughly $300,000 to $400,000, Fillinger said. “We’re working on that budget. We want to bring the sales price down and the construction price down, too,” Fillinger said.
Also, the LUCiA is seeking to fit into an existing neighborhood, not build a neighborhood almost from scratch.
“The location of this one is key,” said Jenna Garmon, the city of Eugene’s green building coordinator. “It’s in an established great neighborhood. There’s already services there. The Market of Choice (grocery store) is nearby. I’m excited about it and looking forward to seeing it.”
Julie Marchini, owner of the Friendly Street Market across the street from the LUCiA site, welcomes the development. “It’s exciting,” she said. “It has potential to bring more energy to the neighborhood.”
The developers will live in the development, Fillinger said, so they will make it the kind of place they’d want to inhabit — from the quality of the fixtures, the thickness of the walls to the cobbles under foot.
So far, the developer said seven of the 12 units are spoken for: Three are for the developers themselves and four for potential buyers who’ve already put down $3,000 to reserve a unit.