K-Street Commons, on Northeast Killingsworth Street near 17th Avenue, is about a mile from campus. But university leaders hope the new, modern building - touted as the first of its kind in the neighborhood - will help better integrate the school into the community.
On Sept. 9, Concordia University held a dedication ceremony for the official opening of the K-Street Commons apartments, a project realized through a collaboration between Concordia University, Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program and development firm Urban Development + Partners.
"What’s good for the community is good for the university,” said Concordia Pastor Bo Baumeister, who led the people in prayer at the ceremony. "We praise you for making this apartment a reality for those who study at Concordia University.”
The four-story building features 15 studios, 13 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units, with additional space for retail units. The apartment complex is in a retail district a few minutes from the Concordia campus, and is two blocks from TriMet’s No. 8 Jackson Park/NE 15th bus line.
“It’s another big step in fulfilling our role as an anchor institution,” said Concordia executive vice president Gary Withers. “Concordia’s been in the community for over a century and it’s a beautiful opportunity to be able to move a residence hall off-campus and immerse our students in the community.”
The housing project was partially funded by Metro’s Transit-Oriented Development Program, which provides funding for projects in order to promote and “enhance the economic feasibility of higher-density, mixed-use projects served by transit.” Through such projects, Metro aims to promote more walkable neighborhoods and transit ridership.
“I’m excited about the Concordia project because it transforms a vacant lot along a frequent service bus line into 34 units of housing plus retail and parking,” said Jon Williams, a senior development project manager at Metro. “In a time of rapidly rising rents, the project will help meet students’ need for housing, while bringing more retail options to the Vernon neighborhood.”
Metro’s transit-oriented development funding provided about $250,000 to the $6.4 million housing project. Without Metro support, the building would have been developed into a two-story building with eight housing units, Williams said.
“The financing model for this project is interesting because a private developer is bringing the capital needed to help meet the housing needs of Concordia University,” said Williams. “This allows the university to preserve its own endowment and capital for its academic mission while meeting its students’ need for housing.”
Metro Council President Tom Hughes said the project shows a combination of Concordia’s and Metro’s core values. He adds that Metro wants to do what the community wants done.
“I'm pleased this unique public-private-university partnership can help bring more housing options to the Concordia community,” Hughes said. “By making a relatively modest investment, Metro was able to help create more housing opportunities. We're proud to be part of this project."
The apartment complex opened in time for the 2016-2017 school year. Withers said that the university has already seen a difference in the residence halls.
“It’s taken pressure off our residence halls,” Withers said. “It underscores how we really want students to continue to have a vibrant and residential experience in the community.”
Additionally, the building is a way of relieving housing competition between students and residents of the Vernon neighborhood. At the ceremony, Vernon Neighborhood Association president Robin Stevens welcomed the housing complex to the neighborhood, a comment that pleased Withers.
“We were thrilled to hear the president of the Vernon neighborhood speak, and we appreciate her presence and warm welcome. Our goal is to be as sensitive and inclusive as possible - and we try to keep that in mind as we further develop,” he said.
Williams said the building is the first in the neighborhood with a few floors of wood-framed housing above a concrete-shelled ground floor, called a podium.
"The podium is expensive to build, but allows for better retail space and more parking to be provided on-site," Williams said.
While Concordia signed on for a 10-year lease, Withers says that there may be further development benefitting students in the future.