MEND board votes to shut down development on Meadowlark neighborhood

April 20The Upper Valley MEND board of directors has been looking forward toward the future of MEND and exploring options for the Meadowlark property since deciding to shut down the project a month ago. While no changes or decisions have been made yet, we want to keep you informed on our progress as we move forward.

The property: MEND owns the property between Titus Road and Chumstick Highway, and one of our top priorities at this point is exploring options for the property. Part of our mission is to help provide affordable housing in the Upper Valley, and the MEND board of directors is considering options for the Meadowlark property that will stay within this mission. As we move forward, we will share information regarding decisions about the property with you as soon as possible. If you have ideas, suggestions or questions about the property, feel free to call Chuck Reppas at (509) 548-0408.

The organization: MEND has been careful to keep finances for Meadowlark separate from those of the other MEND programs, and the other programs will continue moving forward and growing as they have done for many years. More people than ever are using the food bank and thrift store, and shopping at Jubilee. Cornerstone Community continues to be a great home for six adults with developmental disabilities, and all 20 SHARE CLT homes in Aldea Village and Alpine Heights are full of local families and individuals. The Upper Valley Free Clinic continues to be a completely volunteer-run clinic, available to anyone who needs it each week.

As we assess our priorities following the decision to shut down Meadowlark, we want to assure you that the MEND Board and staff will make all future decisions about the direction of the organization in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Above all, our focus is to continue to meet each need with dignity. As decisions are made we will share information.

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March 18 - The Upper Valley MEND board of directors voted on March 15, 2016 to stop development on the Meadowlark neighborhood effective immediately. It is with heavy hearts that the board of directors takes this action, given the ever-growing critical need for affordable homes in Leavenworth.

The project was $1.5 million over budget and the MEND board of directors explored every realistic option to bring costs into alignment. These overruns primarily stemmed from rising construction costs and the burden of carrying costs during two years of delays. Since the project’s initial 2013 Planned Development approval, new requirements from various agencies caused Meadowlark to re-engineer the project. This paused development while interest-carrying costs, engineering fees, property taxes and staff costs continued to mount.

In February of 2016, Meadowlark went out for both site development and house construction bids. While site development bids came in significantly lower than projected, house construction bids came in significantly higher per house, due to rising construction costs. This shortfall made it impossible for MEND to continue to pursue the project.

Planning for Meadowlark began in 2008, after the successful completion of the 10 homes in Aldea Village. Meadowlark was slated to be a 53-home neighborhood between Titus Road and Chumstick Highway. Thirty of these homes were planned to be affordable homes under the Community Land Trust format of homeownership. The other 23 homes would have been sold as market-rate homes, helping to fund the affordable homes. Additionally, the neighborhood would have created a street connecting Chumstick Highway and Titus Road, and looped together two city water systems.

Although Meadowlark cannot continue, the need for affordable homes in Leavenworth continues to rise. According to the 2010 US Census, between 27 and 35 percent of the houses in the Leavenworth area are now vacation rentals or second homes, which drives up the cost of the already-limited number of houses in the Upper Valley. Upper Valley MEND will continue to steward the 20 affordable homes in Aldea Village and Alpine Heights neighborhoods, and work toward helping the community expand affordable housing options in the Upper Wenatchee Valley.

MEND has taken extensive care to ensure the other five MEND programs will continue to run effectively, regardless of Meadowlark. The Community Cupboard, Cornerstone Community, the Upper Valley Free Clinic, SHARE Community Land Trust and Jubilee Global Gifts will all continue to provide food, clothing, healthcare and housing in the Upper Valley as the MEND board of directors works to determine the best exit strategy for Meadowlark. Currently, there are no plans for the future of the Meadowlark property. The MEND board of directors will work with stakeholders, the City of Leavenworth and community members to determine the best course of action.

Upper Valley MEND has had wide ranging community support over the course of planning Meadowlark. The MEND board of directors is forever grateful to the donors, lenders, community members, Leavenworth elected officials and staff members who have worked for affordable homeownership in Leavenworth.

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March 9 - At the March 8 Leavenworth City Council meeting, the city council voted to go out for bid on Meadowlark water and sewer site development. The water and sewer infrastructure will be funded up to $750,000 by a government-sponsored Community Development Block Grant. According to engineers estimates, this $750,000 will not cover the complete cost of the water and sewer infrastructure. MEND asked the city to go out to bid on this work so MEND could understand the accurate cost of the water and sewer work, and in turn have an accurate cost picture of the entire first phase of the project.

To go out to bid on the water and sewer work, the city council needed to first vote to suspend financial policy 5.d and suspend the Meadowlark Development Agreement, both of which state that a project needs to have all funding in place before the city can go out for bid on any related work. The council passed these motions 5-2 and 6-2, respectively.

Going out for bid allows MEND to have an accurate understanding of all of the costs during the first phase of Meadowlark development. If MEND is able to raise sufficient funds for the project to move forward, the Leavenworth City Council will have another vote to authorize the water and sewer work, based on bids that come in this month.

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March 7 – After receiving accurate bids for site development and house construction at the end of February, Meadowlark neighborhood is still roughly $1.3 million over budget.

The majority of these costs stem from house construction bids that are higher than budget. Site development bids came in lower than expected, and site development is now on budget.

MEND will continue working to find solutions to the high cost of house construction until March 31, when a final decision will be made by the MEND board on the viability of the project. Creative solutions are welcome, and volunteers with interest or experience in construction are encouraged to get in touch.

Background: In late 2015, updated cost estimates for site development and house construction revealed roughly $2 million in cost overruns in the Meadowlark budget. Since then, Meadowlark has gone out for bid on both site development and house construction work. The Meadowlark committee is working to find creative solutions to bring down the cost and bring more desperately-needed affordable housing to Leavenworth.

Click here to learn more about Meadowlark Neighborhood.

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