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Eugene project challenges design team

Daily Journal of Commerce

April 21st 2014

Myhre Group Architects' Ray Yancey and Jeff Reynoldson are relieved to see the 150-unit Waterford Grand senior housing complex on Goodpasture Island in Eugene nearing completion.

Yancey, a principal, and Reynoldson, a project architect, have worked on the $24 million project with Portland-based developer BPM Senior Living since 2007. At several points, the project drew land use appeals citing environmental concerns about the eight-acre site's proximity to the Willamette River. Also, the design became a moving target as the economy faltered and demands for senior housing shifted.

"Just as we were putting the initial concepts on that, the economy tanked," Yancey said. "As the economy changed, the client asked us to reconsider the (residents)."

BPM originally conceived the project as an independent living facility, but changed plans to include memory care units and assisted living units to respond to market demand. Myhre Group designers were then tasked with creating a building that was similar to the development planned initially, because it had already received approval from the city of Eugene, Yancey said.

"Our challenge was to redesign the building and the project, and stay within the tentative planned unit development that had already been determined," he said.

As a result, the design shifted from four stories to three, but with the same footprint and about the same number of units, Yancey said. The 120,000-square-foot building will have 64 memory care units, 64 assisted living units and 22 independent living units. The primarily one-bedroom and studio apartments will flank a central lobby and amenities including a pool, exercise rooms, a dining room, a salon, a kitchen and a bistro.

Crews with Eugene-based Chambers Construction broke ground on the project this past June; work is scheduled to finish in August.

The project stalled for about three years during the height of the recession while the developer pursued federal funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Yancey said. Ultimately, BPM officials decided to go with conventional financing.

Then the project's future was threatened by appeals to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, Yancey said. Many of the concerns focused on the development's potential environmental impact on the previously undeveloped riverfront site off of Alexander Loop on Goodpasture Island, he said.

Working on the site was a challenge that involved establishing a three-acre setback from the river that will be preserved as a natural area, Reynoldson said. The proximity of Waterford Grand to the river meant the complex also had to be raised several feet to reduce the risk of damage from flooding.

A wrought iron fence will prevent people from entering this part of the property, where invasive plants will be removed and native species will be planted, Reynoldson said.

"It's going to be very open, but it will prevent anybody from going onto the protected area," he said.

Residents will be able to take advantage of the view from a path along the river that also meets a city requirement to provide access for emergency vehicles along the back side of the Waterford Grand building, Reynoldson said.

"Everything is built to be geared toward the river, having nice places to stop (and) a nice relaxing atmosphere," he said.

The site's prime location along the Willamette River makes the extra hurdles during the design and development process worth the effort, said Michael Baugh, BPM director of construction and facilities management.

"It was a long process, but it's going to be a beautiful property," he said.