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Croman Mill team lays out project vision

Planned development calls for 500 housing units, shops, trails and more
Photo courtesy of Townmakers LLC | Conceptual drawing of the Croman Mill District by Laurence Qamar

ASHLAND — At the site of a municipal airport, then timber mill from 1934-1996, the Croman Mill project in south Ashland is advertised by Townmakers LLC as “an urban extension of Ashland into a walkable mixed use, live-work-play development that responds to the city’s current needs and challenges,” according to the website.

Sixty people attended an open house hosted by project leaders Jan. 12, armed with questions about parking, alternative energy and efficiency, cost per housing unit and the timeline, as planners described their vision for cottage courts, a maker ecosystem, community green space, emergency services and fire resilience, light industrial uses, and connection between the city’s north and south ends.

Project goals include cleaning up a brownfield site; establishing a mixed-use space for neighbors to access parks, trails, a neighborhood center and businesses offering family-wage jobs; providing mixed-income and affordable housing; supporting a diverse economy; developing “innovative urban formats” and resource-efficient building systems; and focusing on health and wellness.

Lead planner Michael Mehaffy said Wednesday that Croman Mill is the ideal site for the project, with access to a university, Interstate 5, planned hike-and-bike trail to the Railroad District, and existing infrastructure. A purchase and sale agreement for the property has not closed yet, he said.

“That’s our goal, is to really build on the DNA of Ashland, to build something that has the character and the beauty and the livability of Ashland in that location,” Mehaffy said.

According to the city’s land use code, the Croman Mill zoning district is a “blueprint” for encouraging family-wage jobs, commerce, neighborhood-oriented businesses, mixed-use projects and community services in ways that enhance property values by offering transportation options, preserving open spaces and embedding minimized natural resource impact into site and building design.

As the project progresses, Mehaffy said, developers will be required to execute an analysis of expected traffic impacts at the intersection of Mistletoe Road and Tolman Creek Road. A plan is in place to annex a section of road currently in the county, he said.

“We’ve seen how sprawl as a model is not sustainable, it’s generating a lot of these externality impacts, but a more compact, mixed form of development is inherently more sustainable,” Mehaffy said, adding that planning includes consideration of green energy systems, geothermal and a “passive house” format.

With a hopeful start date in 2023, a project of this scale is slated for roughly a 10-year build-out, he said. First, the project must see adjustments passed to the city’s 2010 comprehensive plan to align with market changes. For now, town builder Mike Weinstock is the primary project financier, Mehaffy said.

“The infrastructure has to be a pay-as-you-go — it has to pay its own way, not the taxpayers,” Mehaffy said. “If there is any kind of public involvement, it has to be an investment that returns more than what is invested on the public side. … If you’re building a hike-and-bike trail, you’re reducing the amount of streets that you have to build as a jurisdiction, for example.”

The proposal includes about 500 housing units, equally divided between single-family and multifamily. Mehaffy said developers intend to construct a range of unit sizes, formats and prices with the goal of achieving income and lifestyle diversity throughout the development.

“We’re a long way from finalizing all of this, of course, but I would like to see that somebody could rent an apartment for $800 a month, or buy a home even — for 60% of the area median income, they could qualify to do that,” he said, speaking to a need to address the affordable housing crisis through partnerships with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. “We’ve got to be creative in how we meet that challenge.”

Further details about the project and a contact form can be found at townmakers.net/croman-mill.

Reach reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.