Empty lots around St. Helens have some residents wondering about what future developments will be placed there.
Those lots include a few sites next to the new Legacy Medical Group building at 475 S. Columbia River Highway, the ground next to the St. Helens Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at 500 N. Columbia River Highway, a site on the intersection of 14th Street and Columbia Avenue, and the big empty lot that was the location of the former transfer station on Gable Road.
There are two other subdivisions planned, named Forest Trails and Elk Ridge.
The lot next to the DMV will be a subdivision called Graystone Estates, according to City Planner Jacob Graichen. This is an 80-lot land parcel, of which two lots will be larger commercial lots, and the remaining lots will be for attached single-family dwellings, according to Graichen.
Graichen said Graystone Estates is right in the middle of their development. It had its preliminary plat approved in September of 2018, and the site is working on public improvements to make the site ready for development. These include civil plans like the sewer and storm system. Once those plans have all been approved, the final plat will be approved for the site, and development can begin. However, Graichen said it is impossible to tell when exactly development will start.
Right next to Legacy is a large parcel of land that will have several uses.
One of those uses will be for a 204-unit apartment complex.
“This is probably the first large apartment complex that St. Helens has seen in a long time,” Graichen said. According to Graichen, the apartment complex will include 18 buildings total, including 17 three-story buildings of units, and one common building for the residents.
“I’ve been here 12 years,” Graichen said, “and I haven’t seen something like that.”
The land where Legacy rests was once the site of Violette’s Villa, which was sold to a developer in 2017 after having rested vacant for over a decade, according to Graichen. The developer that bought the land divided it into five large lots, Graichen said. One lot is the site of Legacy, another is the site of the future apartments. The remaining three lots are commercial lots, and Graichen said as of yet, there are no official plans for those lots.
At the intersection of 14th Street and Columbia Avenue, there is a large plot of land that often has a large excavator digging up the ground.
That place, nicknamed the “Houlton Hole,” will be the site of Frank Robison’s Veterinary Services, an existing veterinary clinic that currently operates at the corner of Highway 30 and Firlock Park, according to Jennifer Dimsho, Associate City Planner. The area has been the site for many different businesses, like an Italian dry goods store, a grocery store, and an ice cream shop back in the early 1900s, Dimsho said.
According to Graichen, the veterinary clinic has all its permits issued, and getting the facility up is only a matter of time.
“It’s an investment in the Houlton area,” Graichen said about the veterinary clinic.
A few new subdivisions are also in the works.
One is Elk Ridge, which just completed phase six, and has 58 new lots. “I anticipate people to start submitting plans to start building homes up there pretty soon,” Graichen said. Dimsho said that the way the development is situated, on a good day, residents will be able to see downtown Portland from their homes.
Another is Forest Trails, which Dimsho said will have 18 lots of single family homes. Graichen said the subdivision is getting close to submitting its final plat, at which point they can start building homes on the lots.
A final subdivision is in the works for an area next to Gable Road, at the site of the old transfer station, behind the small strip mall where Starbucks and MOD Pizza are located. According to Graichen, the city has received an application for a 238-unit apartment complex.
However, the complex is contingent on a lot of things, and the project will not receive its land use approval until September, according to Dimsho.
“I think the major sticking point for them is going to be traffic because that’s a huge impact to that intersection,” Dimsho said.
An additional impact will be wetlands for the project, because there are a lot of wetlands at the site, according to Graichen.
However, “A lot of that is already in motion,” Graichen said.