Affordable housing an important

Prestige Development’s mission statement since inception has been to bring needed services and products to unserved and underserved communities.

As a retail merchant in the mid-1970s in downtown Portland, I learned that it takes public and private partnerships to advance goals and revitalize downtowns and communities. It took a group of caring business owners and community leaders with the leadership of the mayor and city council members to form the Association for Portland Progress. That business group and the Chamber of Commerce played a huge role in revitalizing downtown Portland and making it the jewel is it now.

My family moved to Vancouver in 1988 while my business continued to operate in downtown Portland. I never had a reason to visit downtown Vancouver. Esther Short Park was a home for undesirables, not for families. In 1994, I volunteered to serve on the city of Vancouver’s International Affairs Commission. The weekly meetings of the commission and the visits to our sister city, Joyo, Japan, gave me a reason to spend time in downtown.

Regal Cinemas was looking to lease a cinema in downtown to replace its aging fourplex at Jantzen Beach, hence the opportunity to build City Center 12 Cinema. We built the cinema and acquired the M.J. Murdock Executive Plaza to provide parking for the cinema patrons on evenings and weekends. The gar-age and plaza went through extensive rehabilitation, and occupancy went up to 100 percent.

The city had remodeled Esther Short Park and brought most of the blocks around it into public ownership. A wave of revitalization took downtown Vancouver by storm — Heritage Place Condominiums, Vancouvercenter, The Columbian building (now City Hall), West Coast Bank, The Hilton and Esther Short Commons were all built and occupied. Several other buildings were acquired and re-tenanted.

The city of Sandy, Ore., came calling in 2001 for Prestige to build a cinema, followed by Battle Ground in 2003 and Independence, Ore., in 2005. Regal and other national chains do not serve smaller markets so we found ourselves forced to be in movie theater ownership and operations.

Our present and former projects downtown include City Center 12 Cinemas, M.J. Murdock Executive Plaza, The Excel Building, Lewis & Clark Plaza, and Prestige Plaza . We are now in planning for Our Heroes Place, a two-building project bordered by 13th and E streets, and Mill Plain Boulevard and D Street.

Our goal is to continue to develop and deliver projects in downtown Vancouver. There is a huge need for market-rate and affordable housing, and we, along with other developers, hope to continue the downtown revitalization that Vancouver deserves.

This past year we brought Prestige Plaza, a 100-unit apartment building, to the downtown Vancouver market. The apartments leased up on target. While the city of Vancouver was excellent to work with, it is important to remember that the sales tax increases costs by 8.7 percent to all developers. Renters are not willing to pay anywhere close to what they pay in North Portland, creating a big challenge for developers.

While in the process of planning our new projects, we are facing increased construction costs, lack of trade labor and the still existing so-so faith in the downtown Vancouver market by many in the community. There is also a dire need for low-income housing financed by tax credits. Clark County never gets its share because most of the credits are given to King County and other counties that have more influence in Olympia.

2016 Economic Forecast

Find more information from the speakers at the annual event, along with videos of the keynote speakers and each of the breakout sessions at www.columbian.com/economicforecast. (Videos will be available Friday morning)

We forecast a continued need for market rate, affordable, and low-income housing. Housing will continue to grow downtown, and the “Gem on the River” will start taking shape very soon. The market will continue to evolve at an exciting pace, barring any extraordinary events.