The former site of PictSweet Mushrooms, which closed in 2001, pictured on Friday. A Lake Oswego developer proposes building 800 homes there. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)
A former mushroom farm in east Salem could sprout more than 800 homes, as well as apartments and shops, near Amazon's new fulfillment center.
Brownstone Development of Lake Oswego has submitted to the city a plan to divide the 117-acre field at 255 Cordon Road N.E., the former site of PictSweet Mushrooms, into one of the city's largest subdivisions in recent memory.
Randy Myers, Brownstone president, told Salem Reporter that the aim of the project caters to workforce housing, offering 2,000- to 4,500-square-foot lots that could become homes priced between $200,000 and $300,000.
“We’re talking with the city about what they would like to see and it’s going to be a very nice project,” he said. He added that there are plans for apartments and commercial development, as well.
The project is still early. Brownstone has only submitted a preapplication, which is essentially a conference between developers and local officials to see what a property needs before formal plans are submitted. United Foods, the Tennessee-based company that owned PictSweet Mushrooms, still owns the land.
“This property came to our attention probably a year ago,” Myers said. “Large developments take time to process through entitlements and that’s what we’re doing now. We are talking with the city about what they would like to see and it’s going to be a very nice project.”
Chris Hoy, city councilor whose ward encompasses the former mushroom farm, said he's excited to hear more about the project if it proceeds.
There aren't many open fields within the urban growth boundary that haven't been developed, he said, and there remains a growing need for housing.
"We have a housing shortage in Salem, so the possibility of getting 800 more unit focused on the workforce — that's awesome," he said.
It's unclear how the scale of the project compares with others in Salem's history. Aaron Panko, city planner on the project who has been with the city for 11 years, described the project as "large."
“I’m not sure it’s the largest one I’ve seen but it’s large for sure,” he said.
Still, industry experts say the real estate climate is ripe to build such large subdivisions.
Mike Erdmann, CEO of Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, said more people are moving to Salem and putting pressure on the housing market. New developments are arriving, such as a 500-home subdivision on Kale Street Northeast.
Plus, Erdmann added, the new east Salem subdivision would be less than two miles from the new Amazon warehouse, which plans to hire 1,000 people
“There’s a lot of employment going in out there and of course those folks need somewhere to live and this parcel being closer to that makes it even more attractive,” he said.
Building homes on the former mushroom farm has been floated in the past, according to city records, but Erdmann said development stopped because of the cost to connect the fields to utilities. Erdmann said engineers peg the cost at up to $1.5 million, an investment that hasn’t made sense until recently.
“Obviously it’s attractive because it’s flat. It’s very difficult to get flat lots here in Salem, but the real challenge is the really expensive infrastructure that needs to be run to that site,” he said. "In the past, Salem has not been able to absorb that many housing units in a reasonable amount of time.”
Have a tip? Reporter Troy Brynelson can be reached at 541-357-6190, [email protected] or @TroyWB.