The Pendleton Development Commission partnered with other city departments, the Pendleton Downtown Association, and owners of downtown Pendleton historic buildings to produce a design charrette. Over two years beginning in 2016, the PDC had identified 14 downtown historic buildings with empty upper stories over first floor commercial spaces. To encourage more residents and workers downtown, the PDC encouraged building owners to redevelop the upper stories. One initial step was to engage the architectural design firm LRS Architects (Portland) through an RFP process, then have the firm design the interiors for six of the fourteen buildings. The designs were developed after consultation with the building owners and presented at a public meeting, where building owners and others provided input. Subsequently, the designs were revised with owner input and re-presented. As of November, 2018, three of the building owners are proceeding with upper story restorations for residential spaces.
Like many rural communities, Pendleton has low housing costs for both owners and renters. High construction costs and low rents leave a gap for building owners who struggle to recoup costs through projected rents. The Pendleton Development Commission, through the Pendleton Downtown Riverfront Urban Renewal program, provides financial incentives to fill that gap. The Pendleton Development Commission provides urban renewal funds and also assists owners in accessing state grants or federal historic preservation tax credits.
More residents downtown mean more shoppers and diners downtown, leading to fully occupied buildings both downstairs and upstairs. Commercial space occupancies in downtown Pendleton were in the mid 70% as the urban renewal program kicked off in 2005, but have remained in the low to mid 90% beginning in 2015. When occupied upstairs, the building’s assessed value will more than double, leading to increased property tax revenue that the city can use to further improve public and private facilities. The fourteen buildings have an assessed value of $3,890,850, which would increase by $4,004,844 to $7,895,694 if all of the empty upper stories were restored to use.