Plans to site the men’s cold weather shelter and two related social service agencies at a property on Southwest Second Street continue to spawn … more plans.
A group of Corvallis residents, led by engineer and downtown property owner Catherine Mater, offered a tour Friday morning of the city-owned Flomatcher industrial site just east of the Willamette River.
And Kari Whitacre of Community Outreach Inc. said she would be willing to host the three services at her 20,000-square-foot complex on Northwest Reiman Avenue as long as someone pays to relocate her seven programs elsewhere in town.
The men’s cold weather shelter for the homeless needs a new home after a year at the old Hanson Tire Factory on Southeast Chapman Place. The Stone Soup meal service and the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center also plan to locate their services on the ground floor of a building at 545 SW Second St.
Officials with the three services think working out of the same building would maximize their efficiency. Mater and her group like the co-location concept but oppose putting the services downtown.
Thus, the Flomatcher tour.
“Is there potential here?” Mater asked the group of city officials, social service and business figures in attendance. “Is this worth going after? Could we get the men’s cold weather shelter housed out here this season?”
The city owns the 9.8-acre site, but is using two-thirds of it for Parks and Recreation Department storage and as the scene shop of the Parks and Rec-operated Majestic Theatre. The final third of the 18,000-square-foot structure is planned for storage of logs from the sequoia trees that were cut down on Crystal Lake Drive. The logs will be milled and turned into accessories for South Corvallis parks.
Thus, Parks and Rec would need a new site for those operations if the shelter and the other services move to Flomatcher. Mater suggests using the closed Fire Station No. 5 off of Northwest Walnut Boulevard.
The maze-like Flomatcher building would be need to be remodeled and cleaned out, and a commercial kitchen would have to be added for the Stone Soup operation. Mater suggested that the meal service could continue using St. Mary’s Catholic Church until the Flomatcher site is ready.
The Flomatcher building is significantly larger than the one on Second Street, with Mater and her group noting that it could accommodate more people than the current nightly load of approximately 50 and also could work year-round. The extra space also could be used, Mater said, for medical services, and the surrounding acreage would be suitable for a community garden.
Although the property is zoned industrial, the parks master plan calls for it to be rezoned when park development occurs.
That's a potential hitch: City officials say that changing the use to social services would trigger the city charter amendment passed by Corvallis voters in 2014 that requires a vote of the people before the use of park property can be changed. Mater says that that is a “myth” because the 9.8 acres would be moving from industrial to social services with no stop in between the rezone the property as parkland; thus, in her eyes, the land never would be classified as parkland.
Infrastructure also would be a challenge, complicated by the fact that the land is owned by the city but is located in Linn County. The site would need to be hooked up to city water and sewer service, with any land-use approvals requiring the OK from Linn County officials. A 2,500-gallon water tank is on the premises, and it appears that there is a septic system of some sort. But further investigation will be required to establish whether the site meets the basic needs of the three social services.
Mater said a path could be built that would provide access from the building to the crosswalk at Highway 34 and the bypass. Such an addition would significantly shorten the distance that bicyclists and pedestrians would have to travel to get over the bridge to downtown.
However, vehicle access from Highway 34 to the site remains a potential problem. The only legal way for vehicles to get into the site is by turning right off of eastbound Highway 34 onto Southeast Ireland Lane. Access from westbound Highway 34 requires crossing the Harrison Bridge, turning south on Second Street and then east on Van Buren to go back over the river. And the best way to get back to Corvallis from Flomatcher is to make a right on Highway 34 and use Peoria Road to turn around. Oregon Department of Transportation approval would be required to change any of this.
Mater said her group has $200,000 to invest in the project, but “things have to happen pretty quickly.”
The men’s cold weather shelter generally runs on a Nov. 1 through March 31 calendar. Operation of the shelter is coordinated by the Housing Opportunities Action Council, which has received $60,000 per year from both the city and Benton County to help pay for the service. County officials still are discussing this year's appropriation, while the Corvallis City Council is scheduled to consider the $60,000 disbursement at a June 4 public hearing on the 2018-19 budget.
Ward 2 Councilor and mayoral candidate Roen Hogg was on the tour, and he encouraged the group “to make a proposal to the city, with real money and real figures. Ultimately, it will be a council decision.”
Shawn Collins, the United Way employee who serves as the project manager for the Housing Opportunities Action Council, said that he did not believe the Flomatcher property “offers a viable alternative to the location already selected.” Collins cited many of the issues noted above.
And Whitacre, from Community Outreach, said “if the Flomatcher site works, that’s great. We just want to be part of the solution.”
Community Outreach provides housing, meals, day care, medical care and treatment and case management services at its Reiman location.
“I do appreciate the positive efforts community members are taking to look for alternatives rather than just fighting the current proposed location,” said Corvallis City Manager Mark Shepard. “My hope is that an appropriate location can be found.”