Apartment project may replace former Aberdeen Armory

Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave wants to provide something good for Aberdeen residents in a place that once was home to disaster.

The property — 117 E. Third St., — which used to host the Aberdeen Armory, home of the former Aberdeen Museum of History, could see development in the form of a “high-end apartment complex,” Schave said. The proposed location is just a few blocks north of the downtown core of restaurants, shops, and bars.

The armory, which was destroyed in a fire on June 9, 2018, has been vacant ever since. Schave sounds like he’s tired of it being vacant.

“It’s just in the idea stage, I guess that’s the best way to put it” Schave said. “It’s city-owned property that’s sitting there, unproductive, and not being used for anything. If I could sell it the right way, then it would become not only productive for the community, but it would go back on the tax rolls and it would be a benefit to the revenue of the city, as well as the whole community.”

The value of the land, according to Schave, is estimated at about $230,000. The land itself is measured at 24,050 square feet, according to the Grays Harbor County Tax Assessor’s website.

Schave’s idea for the proposed apartment building, which could fit 24-30 units, would create more housing. People who are tired of maintaining their homes could move into the building, and then someone else could buy their home.

But, for Janis Gerhardt, who has lived in Aberdeen her whole life, an apartment building in that location is not ideal. Gerhardt, who lives in close proximity to the land in question, scribed a “Letter to the Editor,” to The Daily World.

Gerhardt said her main purpose in writing the letter was to make sure people were aware of Schave’s idea to construct an apartment building at that location. To her, it sounded like he was making a decision without community input. She said Schave was a guest on a local radio program in May. It’s how she heard about the apartment idea.

“I didn’t think that was correct,” she said. “There should be involvement from other community members who want to (share) ideas and participate, and not be excluded,” Gerhardt said.

Gerhardt said she would like to see something the public can use, instead of a private apartment building, even if it is a high-quality building. A couple ideas she mentioned for that area, were a community garden, a play area for children, and perhaps a basketball court.

Her main concern is the noise during late hours, and the constant traffic — both from cars in and out of the block near the intersection of North Broadway Street and East 3rd Street. She’s also worried about visitors parking, and then “coming and going,” at all hours, into the proposed apartment building.

“I would prefer the city officials consult with residents of the community,” Gerhardt said. “It is not a decision to be made by one person, which would be the mayor, or him presenting to the council. It should be something the entire community — the people who want to participate — can decide. So far, it seems like we’ve been totally shut out on any decisions about what would go on that site.”

Schave said he’s talked to developers to get an idea of what the city is looking at, in terms of getting an apartment complex at the location.

With the value at about $230,000, Schave described a problem the city of Aberdeen has in selling it to a developer.

“It won’t pencil out to pay that much for the property, and then build this kind of a complex,” Schave said. “If it was (in) Olympia it would (pencil out,) but it won’t in Aberdeen, so I have to try to be a little more creative, and find a way to make it pencil out for the developer. The idea is if we can show the value to the community at a certain amount, we can reduce the price for the property.”

Schave said how high-end housing is something Aberdeen needs.

“By making this available at a price that will ‘pencil out’ to a developer, I think has a lot of merit, and will benefit the whole community.”

Schave described what “pencil out,” means.

“The rate of rent is higher in Olympia, so if an investor buys a piece of property and builds a high-end apartment complex on it, they can charge rent rates that will pay the cost of doing that,” Schave said. “Whereas here, the rent rates are so much (lower) that it makes it more difficult. It’s a fine line, so the bit of difference there in rent rates is enough to not allow them to build something like this here.”

Schave said people talk about low-income housing, and while that’s important, he said there are already agencies working toward doing that, including the city.

“For high-end housing, there’s really nothing going on,” he said. “We need high-end housing as well. Like I said before, the idea there is if older folks are tired of taking care of their homes, and want to sell their homes, then (those homes) become available, and they can get an apartment in a place like this.”

Schave said he came up with the idea, and that he’s been working on it for a couple months.

Schave said he was told that if the rents were within what the market in Aberdeen calls for, the apartment building would be beneficial to the area.

As of now, Schave emphasized how the apartment project is a “preliminary idea” and that he’s still researching it. After that, there’s the legal process, which includes putting the project out for bids, reviewing the bids, and “so forth.”

Schave also said he wants to make sure the city gets what it wants.

“It’s the city’s property. We can make a contract however we want to, to sell it,” he said. “If I can get the price down so it meets the legal requirements, the city is supposed to sell the property at market value, so I have to find ways to drop the actual monetary number down enough to make this pencil out by factually showing public benefit by selling it cheaper.”

And since the fire, the building’s former tenants have new locations. Coastal Community Action Program, has a “beautiful building,” — 101 E. Market St. The Aberdeen Senior Center has a new location — 208 W. Market St., and the Aberdeen Museum of History has its new address within the 100 block of West Wishkah Street.

While the fire is a “dark” and “unpleasant” memory for Schave, he said the apartment project would create some positivity for that area.

“I think if the project is accomplished, it’ll be a real bright spot for that piece of property and for Aberdeen,” Schave said.