EUGENE, Ore. - One of the biggest housing projects ever for downtown Eugene, got the go signal Wednesday.
The Capstone student high rise has been approved by the Eugene City Council.
Local college students will be able to hang their hat downtown in big numbers, starting in 2013.
Eugene councilors voted for the tax breaks to make the apartment project possible.
City councilors gave the thumbs up for the Alabama-based firm to build an $89-million, 5 story high rise for student housing. The shuttered Peacehealth downtown medical building (13Th and Olive St.) is the site for the project.
"Actually the whole project is on the spur of the moment," said city councilor Betty Taylor in opposing the deal.
Taylor and councilor George Brown objected to big tax breaks in the package.
It includes 10 years of property tax breaks for Capstone equaling $8.5-million. George Brown pushed for a shorter term and fewer tax breaks, saying $8.5-million is too much for local government to give up.
He told the council, "Oh now it's risky...no, it's too risky. It's like, you seem like you can't have it both ways."
It boiled down to either 7 years of tax breaks, the Brown plan or 10 years, the original plan. In the end, 6 out of 8 councilors felt 7 years would be a deal killer.
"Moving this from 10 years to 7 makes the project financially nonviable--which means it would basically kill the project," remarked Ward 8 councilman, Chris Pryor.
Capstone has said it needs the 10 years of tax breaks to boost its return on investment ratio.
Councilors went with ten years for the tax breaks.
A downtown neighborhood leader said his concerns of too many college students dumped on downtown were resolved. David Mandelblatt said after the meeting,
"They agreed to put in 2 phases, so that relieves the pressure of dropping the big load (of students) all at the same time."
North Eugene councilor Mike Clark added, "I think that this moves our downtown just another few yards down the field.
"The next "first down" comes in June when demolition starts on the old Peacehealth building.
Planner Nan Laurence told KVAL News construction on phase-1 could begin
by late this summer.
Betty Taylor said concerns from the nearby Olive Plaza senior high rise are not being addressed. She read a letter from Plaza managers concerned about construction noise when work begins
at the site, dust pollution and future parking needs.