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Woodburn increases urban renewal grants


City boosts grant program by $50,000 in the hopes of attracting major renovation projects downtown

The Woodburn Urban Renewal Agency has greatly increased the maximum amount of its matching grants in an effort to attract more large-scale renovation projects to the city’s downtown development and conservation zoning district.

The urban renewal grant and loan program was established by the agency — which is comprised of the City Council — in February 2011 to aid business and property owners with the rehabilitation of properties in the urban renewal grant and loan district.

The program was conceived to provide matching funds for exterior improvements up to $10,000 and interior projects up to $5,000. The program also provides loans of up to $25,000.

The new amendment, which was adopted at the agency’s July 14 meeting by a 4-1 vote (with one absent), will now allow property owners to apply for matching grants of up to $50,000 for renovation projects in line with the program’s key objectives, to “eliminate blight, promote economic development, create jobs, provide community benefits and beautify the downtown.”

Woodburn Economic Development Director Jim Hendryx said the original program, while popular, did not facilitate many larger-scale projects.

“We’ve done a lot of maintenance projects,” he said. “We’ve done roofs, heating and air conditioning; we’ve done some windows. A $50,000 grant lets us really step up the projects, really get major projects downtown.”

Hendryx said his office has been in contact with property owners in the district who have expressed interest in applying for a larger grant.

“We have had discussions with two or three individuals downtown who would like to utilize this toward large projects, well in excess of $100,000 — $100,000 on up,” he said. “As all of you recognize, some of the buildings are in dire need downtown.”

Under the terms of the amendment, every grant is required to be matched, at least dollar for dollar, by private investment. The program is limited to commercial or mixed-use properties (not residential), and the grants are subject to the availability of funds.

The program further specifies that any work requiring a permit must be done by a licensed contractor, and the projects must be completed within a year of approval.

Councilor Lisa Ellsworth was the agency’s lone voice of dissent against the proposed change.

She rationalized that, while the maximum grant size is increasing significantly, the pool of available funds ($150,000) is not, which means that it’s possible that fewer projects would be funded.

She also expressed concerns about the possibility that a property owner could accept a large grant, improve his or her building, and then sell it quickly, without any long-term plans to stay in Woodburn.

“We’re talking about a small pool of money, and potentially, only three people getting it, when we have a lot of properties downtown,” she said. “I don’t want three people to get, basically, a $50,000 bonus, and leave town, when we have 15-20 businesses that could have utilized some of that funding.”

Council President Pete McCallum responded that, while the owner could sell the property, the invested dollars remain in Woodburn.

“Business is business. They want to make money. People flip things, and what have you,” he said. “But the building stays. It has been improved, it’s available for other people to move in, and that’s what we’re after.”

Hendryx concurred.

“Could we stop someone from selling? No we could not,” he said. “However, the major investment that is done to the properties downtown is a betterment for all the community.”

For more information about the city’s urban renewal programs, or for applications, visit online at www.ci. woodburn.or.us/?q=urban_renewal.

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.