St. Helens asks for $15 million in federal funds to fix up waterfront
The city of St. Helens is hoping to secure nearly $15 million dollars in federal grant funding to be used for redevelopment of the city's 22 acres of waterfront property. If approved, the funding could be the catalyst to secure millions of dollars in private investment to develop the currently vacant property.
City staff recently submitted a grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation's BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grants program to request millions of dollars in funding to construct a waterfront boardwalk, trail and new street grid to redevelop the former industrial veneer property.
St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh noted that the significant funding source could be a game changer and could be a major tool to take designed plans and make them a reality.
The goals of the project titled "St. Helens Riverfront: Restoring Access, Economy, and the Environment," in the application include establishing transportation access and capitalizing on private investment by creating a waterfront boardwalk and walking trail with a connecting street grid on the 22 acres of city-owned property, which was a former mill site.
The grant request identifies a city contribution of $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions to facilitate the project. Funding would come from a combination of hotel and motel tax, along with projected revenue through 2022 from the city's urban
renewal district. The full cost of the project totals $18 million.
Walsh noted Tokola Properties, a private developer that expressed interest in developing a 100-unit boutique hotel after the city sent a request for property proposals in January, would invest millions of dollars on the property if the grant funds can be secured, which was also noted in the grant proposal.
"This strategic BUILD federal transportation investment will catalyze Tokola's private investment of over $50 million in project site development," Dwight Uniti, president of Tokola Properties, stated in the application.
In addition to the hotel, the developers proposed a three-phase development of mixed-use residential buildings to house 158 units if the federal transportation funds can be used to prepare the site.
Since 2014, the city has been pursuing a series of community engagement and feedback sessions to compile a unified vision for the property based on uses residents want. Many of those efforts have resulted in grant-funded studies focusing on transportation connectors, environmental impacts of brownfield sites, branding and wayfinding plans.