Lebanon celebrated the grand opening of a 48-unit affordable housing complex, primarily geared toward veterans, on Thursday afternoon. The project spanned about four years and is the culmination of many different partnerships making the dream a reality.
“This low-income housing project for vets is well-needed in our community and in every community,” said owner James Lutz, who said he invested “every last penny” into this project without knowing whether it would actually happen or whether he would see a cent in return.
Lutz is the grandson of Edward Allworth, who’s the namesake of Lebanon’s other veteran-centric development: a 154-resident housing complex run through the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs, built in 2014. Multiple speakers at the event pointed to these two local resources as proof of how much the community of Lebanon cares about supporting those who served.
“It was about a year ago we were out in this field just breaking ground,” said Lebanon Mayor Paul Aziz. “It takes a community to do this … it’s something that Lebanon is very proud of.”
The new development is called Applegate Landing and is located on Stoltz Hill Road in Lebanon. It was made possible through a combination of partners, including Gerding Builders, which built the units, and Crossroads Communities, a nonprofit that focuses on providing program-based housing for at-risk and vulnerable groups, as well as CASA of Oregon, a housing developer out of Sherwood.
These partnerships with social programs are big ones because Applegate Landing is more than just a housing complex, it’s also got professional health and employment resources for residents to take advantage of, like counseling services and career training for low-income individuals.
Crossroads executive director Michael Couch pointed to this mindset as why the organization joined in on the project, and why it’s such a needed addition for a vet-focused community like Lebanon.
“I can’t lift two tons but, together, all of us can,” he said.
But there were many people who felt that the project may never see the light of day. Linn County Commissioner Sherrie Sprenger was a state representative when she first learned about the project and said she saw it as a huge mountain to climb.
“I don’t want to say I was doubtful, but at the time I thought that if this is a dream that comes true, there are going to be so many blessed people,” she said during the grand opening event. “I’m very happy to stand before you, not as a naysayer.”
“It just goes to show you that when things seem far out of reach and hard, so what?” she added. “Get on board.”
The event also featured remarks from state representative Jamie Cate, a Lebanon native, as well as written remarks from the offices of U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and House Representative Peter DeFazio.
Being a veterans housing complex, the event was also very focused on honoring the servicemen and servicewomen of the community. A color guard was provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3437 out of Sweet Home, with an American flag and black POW/MIA flag mounted on either side of the speakers’ podium.
There are more than 20 people already living in units since move-in started on Aug. 31, 80% of them veterans, according to apartment staff. Two more buildings are yet to be opened, as the finishing touches get wrapped up.
In addition to be a low-income apartment complex, Applegate Landing is also gold certified by the Energy Trust of Oregon for its energy efficiency. Each building has a solar panel atop it, and Gerding built the units to retain heat and curb energy costs in other ways, too.
Many recognized how crucial such a development was for Lebanon, but there are hopes for similar housing complexes to be built in other communities.
“It’s been a great thing but, man, I’m glad it’s done,” said Dale Jenkins, commander of Sweet Home’s American Legion Post 133.
When asked whether he knew of local veterans who could benefit from low-income housing like this, he said, “I’m one of them.”
For those looking for more information, visit http://cascade-management.com/property/applegate-landing-apartments/details or call 541-405-1388.
Troy Shinn covers healthcare, natural resources and Linn County government. He can be reached at 541-812-6114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at @troydshinn.