Sunday, October 01, 2023

Timeline pushed back on PF housing project

Staff Writer | September 18, 2023 1:09 AM

POST FALLS — A St. Vincent de Paul of North Idaho housing project that was expected to begin in Post Falls next spring has been pushed back to spring 2025.

"With Aug. 4 being our tax credit application deadline, we chose to call a time-out because we still have a sizable gap to cover, in the $325,000-plus range on a $14 million project," St. Vincent de Paul Executive Director Larry Riley told The Press, adding that although it is a small number by comparison, it is a large amount to the nonprofit.

The John Bruning Commons south of Seltice Way, north of West Seventh Avenue and between Compton and Catherine streets will comprise a 32-unit, mixed-use, multi-family community including a thrift store. The 1.16-acre Post Falls parcel has belonged to St. Vincent de Paul for decades and continues to provide housing for about 12 tenants.

The Housing Company, a Boise-based nonprofit, is partnering with St. Vinny's on the project.

Riley said although a strong tax application could have been submitted, the funding gap would need to be nearly closed by the second quarter of 2024.

"It's a big number that I wasn't comfortable committing to," Riley said. "My board of directors agreed."

He said the housing side of the equation was pretty much covered, but the retail side has experienced obstacles. Not quite enough financing had been secured for the thrift store component.

"We need to use that land to help us build a thrift store, one way or another," Riley said. "Thrift operations create the fuel our agency needs to keep the engine running."

The demand for the type of social services St. Vincent de Paul provides in Kootenai County far exceeds the nonprofit's ability to fund programs, he said, adding that this project could not survive on housing alone.

"That's where the Housing Company stepped in," Riley said. "Adding workforce housing was the no-brainer, warm-and-fuzzy side of this project, but we don't get off the ground without thrift. Low-income housing would have generated zero revenue for St. Vinny's. That land needs to perform for us in sustainable ways."

Construction costs and interest rate uncertainties are driving the setbacks, Riley said, but those leading the project remain optimistic.

He said through support from businesses, the community and the city of Post Falls, the "Smartcode 5" zoning designation was acquired. This type of zoning encourages a mixture of uses at higher densities to encourage walkability and vitality in a city center, specifically mixtures of commercial and residential.

"That was no small feat," Riley said.

Despite the setbacks, no work has gone to waste, he said.

"If adding a year to this makes our financials stronger, maybe brings down construction costs, then let's not fight our way to hit that Aug. 4 deadline," Riley said. "The long-horizon deal is important. We're excited about it, a whole lot of people put a lot of work into it and we aren't going anywhere."

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