Kelso reviews plan to house library, senior center and affordable… – The Daily News | NutSocia

Kelso officials are considering creating a central location for the town library and senior center and alleviating the local housing shortage by constructing a building to house all three in West Kelso.

Council members on Tuesday reviewed plans to build 40 affordable housing units above the library and seniors’ center in a three-story building where West Main Street curves and merges into Catlin.

The City Council commissioned the study in December 2021 to determine if the combination of housing and community space is viable and would provide a pedestrian attraction in the area.

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The area was designed to provide walking distance to shops and homes as part of the realignment of West Main Street, and the proposed building — with 12,000 square feet on the ground floor — would add another destination for the neighborhood, according to a draft report.

Today, the Kelso Public Library is located at Three Rivers Mall — about a three-minute drive from the proposed site — and the Kelso Senior Center is on Eighth Avenue, about a two-minute drive away.

Both the library and the senior center would have to be downsized to fit in the new location. Several city officials felt that given the uncertainty about the long-term future of the mall’s library and the maintenance requirements of the 90-year-old Kelso Senior Center, the building would be a net benefit to needed local housing and both city services.

Kelso Mayor Mike Karnofski told The Daily News he had questioned moving the library from where most townspeople live, but added: “We will probably lose our library location at some point.”

Councilman Jim Hill asked if the senior center was too noisy for upstairs apartments because visitors would practice musical instruments and play games like bingo downstairs.

The council has yet to vote on the plans, and Karnofski said the council will likely discuss the proposal at the first meeting in February. If plans move forward, city officials estimate that funding and design could take a year, and the building would not open until 2026 at the earliest.

The report estimated the project would cost $18 million, including nearly $15 million for construction costs alone. The city would probably have to buy the Sons of Norway building across the street to have enough space for the new building and a usable parking lot.

Hill and Karnofski both expressed concern about the number of parking spaces, which the report estimates at 48 spaces.

Council member Lisa Alexander said she would like a way to pay for the project without raising taxes.

“If we can figure that out without costing the citizens, then yes, that would be amazing for anyone,” Alexander told The Daily News.

Affordable housing

The city’s draft report on the project notes that housing vacancy rates are low across the county, leaving people vulnerable to homelessness. Between 2010 and 2020, Kelso added 158 more households than new housing units, the study said.

Kelso owns land on West Main Street, having acquired it during the West Main Street realignment, and the city plans to donate the space to the project, according to the report.

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The approximately 12,000 square meter basement of the planned building would house the library and the senior center. The above units would be half 408 square foot studio apartments and half 600 square foot one bedroom apartments. There would also be room for case management offices.

Lower Columbia CAP is expected to be the lead developer on the project, and the Longview-based nonprofit — which also provides rental assistance, a food bank and a thrift store — would own and manage the property, the report said.

Kelso City Council Members Jim Hill and Lisa Alexander discuss the idea of ​​providing temporary student housing during the council meeting on Tuesday December 6th. (KLTV recording, contributed)

Housing would be funded with low-income tax credits and federal, state and local housing grants, the report said. A quarter of the units would need Section 8 rental credits to qualify for millions in low-income housing tax credits.

Kelso’s study design was prepared by the same Spokane-based housing development consultancy that is working on the housing options at the new Sunrise Village condominium complex in southwest Washington’s Longview.


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