Despite all accounts of its apartments to be sold “at market rate,” the Logan Municipal Council unanimously voted to grant $500,000 toward the Mill Creek apartment project from the Redevelopment Agency’s affordable housing budget.
Paul Davis voiced concern prior to the vote on Tuesday in an email sent to the council.
“‘None of the $500,000 … will provide any affordable housing, even though it is supposed to be for moderate income housing,” Chair Amy Anderson read from Davis’s email. “We’d like to see a few units fall into fair-market rate calculations. I think using this money for upscale housing defeats the purpose of what’s satisfied.’”
The average price of a studio apartment in Logan ranges from $450-525 per month. A one-bedroom apartment in the city proper tends to run an additional $100, and a two-bedroom can cost anywhere from $700-750.
None of the 75 units in the Mill Creek development will be reserved for low-income or offer rent vouchers. Leases will start at $750, going up depending on if the apartment is a studio, one- or two-bedroom, the length of lease and furnishings, according to Paul Willie of the Mill Creek development team.
“It’s actually at the high-end of the rental market,” said Kirk Jensen, Logan’s economic development director. The developers “didn’t feel like they could just bring a run-of-the-mill or an ordinary housing project downtown and be able to attract the kind of new tenant flow that they need.”
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development defines “affordable housing” not costing more than 30% of an individual or family’s gross monthly income.
According to the city’s Housing Plan, adopted by the council in 2019, “Approximately 64% of Logan households are at, or below, 80% of HUD’s area wide Adjusted Median Income levels … Approximately 45% of Logan’s rental households are cost burdened,” spending more than 30% of monthly income on housing.
Jensen said depending on the career and number of roommates in a Mill Creek apartment, it may still count as “affordable housing.” As another benefit, the downtown location may not necessitate a vehicle to get to work or shopping.
Though Mill Creek is not defined as an affordable-housing project, the budget can also be applied to the development as it falls in line with both state code and the city’s downtown project area plan to eliminate blight.
“That particular project is located in a redevelopment project area where a blight finding was made” nearly 20 years ago, Jensen said. “If you’ve got a project area where there’s a number of incidences of blight, particularly in a downtown area, then the introduction of new housing in there can be a great stimulus to revitalize and get the local economy in that particular project area going forward and improving.”
Increasing higher-density housing has been part of the city’s plan to revitalize the economy and make a name for downtown. The Center Block project initially featured a multi-level, multi-family development and parking terrace, but in removing the housing component, the RDA’s budget was reallocated for several smaller projects, such as the Mill Creek development.
“There’s a different dynamic that comes to a neighborhood if you’ve got tenants or owner-occupied units, you know, basically people that live there,” Jensen said. “They’re not just visiting, they’re not just there for part of the day or for a few hours. You know, that’s their neighborhood and you start creating a new level of demand for goods and services.”
The project was approved in September 2019 but was shelved due to economic concerns over the future of multifamily developments and, later, the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Willie, with construction yet to begin.
Both developers and the city said return on the investment is expected to be modest, and Willie said the RDA funding will help recoup some of the loss from the “challenging hillside site” and removal of a fuel tank (from when the location served as the old V1 “Grizzly Station”), as well as ensuring the project moves forward instead of remaining on the shelf as it has through the pandemic.
Another hurdle of the project is that it is adjacent to the ruins of the Thatcher Mill — one of the first industries and oldest remnants under the protection of the Historic Preservation Committee. One proposal in the works would be to demolish the ruins (categorized as a Grade-A historical feature since 2011) to make way for more amenities and to cut down on illicit activities at the currently abandoned site.
Multiple members of the committee were wary of the idea, most vocally Thomas Graham, who said though the Thatcher Mill is classified as a ruin, “It’s a piece of history that will be lost.”
No date has been set for the HPC vote on the matter.