Not long ago, Tigard, Ore., a suburb of almost 48,000 residents close to Portland, faced a challenge many cities have encountered. Over the years, a freeway overpass and new malls had diverted traffic away from downtown, leaving the area with little activity. To add to the isolation, no new residences were being built. In 2004, city officials initiated an urban renewal project to bring back Tigard’s street life, density, and green space. Two years later, Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH), a nonprofit organization based in Tigard that had secured funding for affordable seniors housing, became one of the first developers to want in.
“There are usually no easy buildable land opportunities in urban renewal areas. That was especially true for a multifamily building for downtown Tigard,” says Sheila Greenlaw-Fink, CPAH’s executive director. When a prime one-acre site with three single-family homes became available, CPAH grabbed it, and the first new downtown residential project in 20 years got off the ground.
“The location was perfect for apartments,” Greenlaw-Fink says. “It was on bus and rail lines and within walking distance of amenities such as a senior center, a library, shops, restaurants, and a park,” she says. CPAH had another objective, too—to cater to low-income seniors over age 55. “There were few affordable, accessible, and quality options in the area” for this target market, she says. Many in this age group are also expected to continue working and help boost the local economy.
The construction team broke ground in April 2010, and Tigard-based Carleton Hart Architecture’s low-rise, 48-unit design, known as The Knoll at Tigard Apartments, opened one year later. The result proves that good green design can be achieved within a tight budget.
Land and construction costs totaled $10.8 million, with funds coming from both private and public sources. Rents range from $597 for a 650-square-foot, one-bedroom unit to $707 for an 890-square-foot, two-bedroom. Occupants must earn between $10,000 and $20,000 annually to qualify. Twelve units have been set aside for homeless veterans who meet income restrictions and qualify to pay a maximum of one-third of their income for rent.
Carleton Hart achieved economic and green success at The Knoll by using standard wood-framing techniques; locally sourced, durable materials such as fiber-cement panels and lap siding; and an energy-efficient, sound-reducing wall system.
For added sustainability, the firm built a 15,000-gallon cistern to collect rainwater for flushing toilets and added drought-tolerant plants and a plaza with permeable paving, among other features. So far, half the units have been leased.
The results meet the criteria of Enterprise Green Communities, a national green building program for affordable housing.