Award of Excellence: Blue Springs Crossing Apartments
Northeast Oregon Housing Authority (NEOHA) won a 2017 Award of Excellence in Project Design for building a distinctive apartment complex on a uniquely shaped lot of land. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. The Project Design category focuses primarily on the physical or landscape design of a building or project.
The Northeast Oregon Housing Authority’s Blue Springs Crossing Apartments project started off with a land donation in the shape of a small triangle that was previously a watering pond for livestock beside a high-end single-family home development.
NEOHA’s challenge was to build as many units as they could in the unique parcel of land while ensuring that the project blended in with the adjoining neighborhood and commercial buildings in order to allay the city council’s concerns about the project. They implemented a courtyard design that kept the entryways and parking facing inward, which addressed the city’s concern regarding unsightly cars and porches.
The buildings themselves are two-story units with balconies and porches in view of the nearby mountains and fields, which were designed to fit into the community. Once NEOHA finished the exterior of the complex, the naysayers within the community changed their tone: they stopped saying "that project" and started saying "our project," and the city officials began to call Blue Springs Crossings "their jewel".
Blue Springs Crossing features modern, functional homes with easily accessible units with large floor plans. All the apartments have in-unit laundry machines, and the lower floor cabinets have removable components that allow easy conversion for wheelchair accessibility. The development also features an on-site playground with a half-court for basketball. Forty percent of the playground design by NEOHA was donated by the manufacturer.
The complex was also built with an eye towards sustainability and resilience. NEOHA used materials with a minimum 30-year sustainability, including cement board siding, composite 40-year roof, and manufactured wood decking. EnergyStar appliances, low-flow water fixtures, Low-E windows, LED lighting for the ground and parking lot also help to reduce operating costs. Blue Spring Crossing’s overall cost was close to $7,680,000; it was supported by four percent and nine percent tax credits, GAHP funds, and a permanent loan.
The complex is located a few hundred yards from retail stores, restaurants, light industry and retail jobs with public transportation to medical offices, a hospital, and the downtown district. NEOHA also worked with the local transit company to add a bus stop on the corner to increase the availability of transportation.
NEOHA took an old watering pond for livestock and transformed it into a development that was embraced by a reluctant community. Their efforts created affordable and environmentally-friendly apartments for families in an area with few affordable housing options.