Cubit Construction workers Eddie Greene, left, and Adam Jackson remove glass from the gutted interior of apartments on Stevens Street. Three buildings there will be remodeled with a second-story addition. - Photo by Denise Baratta

Multi-family housing on the rise

Multi-family housing construction may not be fueling local construction, but it has certainly added some octane during the past year.

Even as single-family residence construction flattened out, multiple-family permits — for apartments, assisted living and condos — surged by more than 15 percent during the first five months of this year. While 89 structures may not sound like a lot, it accounts for millions of dollars in construction.

Construction on Veranda Park Retirement Village, the massive $25 million retirement center near Lone Pine Park, is nearly complete after two years. The 141-unit complex covers more than 6 acres. It includes 28 1,500-square-foot cottages and is owned by Larry and Ann Horton along with Mike and Mary Mahar.

Chuck and Milo Smith are in the midst of building 762 units on 29.2 acres behind Grange Co-op off of South Pacific Highway, figured to be worth more than $60 million to $80 million.

Among the dozens of other projects under way or near completion are 13 four-plexes developed by Arthur Osbourn's Rogue Development and Investment where Corona Avenue and Hilton Road meet. Each 4,360-square-foot four-plex is being sold separately and all but three of the listed $595,000 structures have been sold.

"Builders are going more into high-density housing because of zoning," says Kim Jones, who tracks subdivision activity for LandAmerica Lawyers Title. "Those are the kinds of lots and space available."

She says multiple-family structures appeal both to retirees who have been in single-family structures and no longer want to maintain yards and younger buyers, just out of college, who aren't ready to spend time around their house.

"A lot of what used to be apartments are now condos for sale," Jones says. "They have homeowners associations and commons and don't have to maintain their property."

While more than 75 percent of the multi-family dwellings that were permitted in early 2006 were duplexes, nearly 62 percent of the permits through May this year were for structures with five or more units.

"Some of those have probably been in the pipeline for a while and just now coming through permitting process," says builder Laz Ayala, who completed 60-unit Parkside Village in west Medford last year and is already converting some of the apartment units to condos. "Housing is still pretty spendy and people need more affordable housing. "It's less expensive to build multi-family housing than a single-family residence. One of the reasons is the cost of the land itself. This way you can maximize use of the land."

Not only are new complexes going up, but older ones are seeing new additions.

Ron DeLuca, owner of Park Terrace Apartments on Stevens Street across from Safeway, is adding a dozen 832-square-foot units, boosting the complex's total to 76.

To make room for the additional units and parking, a 40-year-old pool was removed.

"This is a really good location, one of the best around," DeLuca says. "Land and buildings are so expensive and it seems everything is going condo now; I just don't think they pencil. It used to be you could expect 10 percent return on your money in rentals, now you're lucky if it's 4, 5 or 6 percent."

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