Madras Future Looking Bright


(The Heights at Yarrow in Madras, Grant Assistance Helped Spur the Creation of the 100 New Market-Rate Apartments With one-three Bedrooms, and a Fifth Building Scheduled for Future Development | Photo courtesy of Willow Canyon Group, Inc.)

Town Continues on Growth Curve, with over 1,000 Housing Units in the Pipeline

Madras’ star is on the rise as it sees an uptick in residential and commercial development and more in the pipeline, boosted by government funds flowing into infrastructure improvements. Census data shows the population of Jefferson County grew 16.9% between 2010 and 2022 — from 21,662 to 25,330 — as people feeling squeezed in urban areas sought a more rural, and affordable, lifestyle.

For comparison, the U.S. population grew 7.7% and Oregon’s population grew 10.5% during the same period. Research through Portland State University (PSU) has indicated Madras now has around 7,500 inhabitants, but local market watchers think that number is currently nearer 8,500. Madras is working diligently to help accommodate these new residents, with over 1,000 residential units of various types in the works in a bid to keep up with the influx.

The City previously identified a need for more housing and outlined specific goals to make that happen, through an aggressive action plan, primarily targeting middle and low-income sectors. Currently, Madras has 1,032 housing units in the planning, pre-construction, or construction phase.

Madras Community Development Director Nicholas Snead said the City was seeing construction levels similar to that of ’06, and ’07, but the difference was the variety of housing, with developers building different kinds of housing — largely due to changes in the City codes that made more multi-family development possible. A prime example of following this new path is Yarrow Development LLC, which is in construction on a five-building complex with a total of 120 apartments, along with townhouses and cottages, on the hilltop above the Yarrow subdivision.

Local real estate broker and long-term Madras resident Rick Allen, who helped shepherd the project to fruition, says it is the first new market-rate multi-family project in the town in 20 years. Some other apartment properties locally are subject to subsidy programs. Allen, who owns Willow Canyon Properties and is a former Madras mayor and City manager, said, “Retired people and single people will like these apartments. It will appeal to teachers, essential workers such as hospital employees, and people who work for the County or the City — really across the spectrum.”

For the last year, Allen facilitated negotiation between the Bean Foundation, the City of Madras and Yarrow Development, LLC. Contractors broke ground in early December, and it became one of the first projects to take advantage of the Housing and Urban Renewal District designed to encourage private developers to build housing in Madras. The project also benefits from the ability to connect to City sewer thanks to funds sanctioned in the recent, shortened, Oregon Legislative Assembly.

Appropriations for local infrastructure through House Bill SB 1530 specifically targeted residential housing development in Culver, Madras, Redmond, Warm Springs and Deschutes County, representing a significant investment in the region’s future. Some $25 million was distributed to 15 proposals in various smaller local communities — including $1M for Madras — on a “project specific” basis, where the only thing preventing platted and approved lots from moving forward with development was a lack of needed infrastructure. This was part of Oregon Governor Tina Kotek’s $376 million housing package aiming to ramp up housing production in local communities, seen as a “foundation for attracting and retaining a robust workforce.” A certain proportion of projects must also be set aside for affordable housing for those under Average Medium Income (AMI) thresholds.

One beneficiary of the legislative windfall is the town of Culver, some 10 miles out of Madras, which received a grant of $3.5M for connections to the sewer plant, which can now trigger a 188-lot project by Woodhill Homes. Culver is a small city with a population just under 2,000 nestled in a fertile valley. “Developers may wish to proceed with projects but infrastructure needs can make a concept cost-prohibitive,” Allen said. “Some of the state-allotted funds are aimed at towns that were timber-dependent but suffered after loss of that industry.

“Culver may now be of more interest, especially with a good geographic location between Madras and Redmond and its own K-12 school,” he continued. “The next state legislative session is slated to provide more funding for housing, which is good news. Madras has become more attractive as people look to get out of urban areas, and remote working in the post-COVID world has accelerated that prospect.”

In Madras, there are currently 18 subdivisions or developments in the planning, pre-construction and construction phases. They’re made up of 453 housing units in planning, 121 units in the construction review phase, and 458 units currently in construction. Providing more housing is important to sustaining community growth, said Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist. A housing shortage means new workers coming from outside the community cannot find a place to live, leaving employers at a loss to fill vacant positions. “The answer to more affordable housing is to build more housing,” Runberg said. “Apartment complexes, in-fill, condominiums, townhomes, and, yes, even more single-family homes need to be part of the solution. Building more apartments will help provide more affordable options for many residents who are being priced out of the local real estate market.”

Another phase of the master-planned community of Yarrow is opening in Madras and land traded with the City to be brought into the City limits will offer the opportunity for further growth. The biggest need Snead sees is for workforce housing, roughly seen as housing for workers that are earning between 60% and 120% of the area median income. “We see the need in our biggest employers. They cannot find the skilled laborers, the nurses, the teachers, the cashiers they need to fill their jobs,” said Snead. “Without affordable and available housing, attracting workers to the area is difficult. We see places consider automating jobs or moving and consolidating. We want to attract more industry here, but we can’t do that unless we have housing for the workers needed.”

“I was mayor when Yarrow was conceptualized,” says Allen. “Besides the spectacular mountain views, this location has the nearby amenities of the college and the aquatic center. The lifestyle features of the Yarrow development drew us to the site,” says Yarrow Development head Hans Thygeson who has been watching Madras for a long time and feels now “the timing is right.” I grew up in a small town, a really small town, a farming community, and I’ve always liked Madras. It’s Madras’ time. It’s starting to come alive.”

As the County Seat for Jefferson County, Madras boasts excellent access, serving as a crossroads of the two major State highways of Hwy. 26 and 97, in addition to rail freight operations and a private airport. Downtown revitalization through urban plan renewal efforts have seen vacancy rates for commercial space in the central core almost eliminated, and several new businesses have located or expanded within City limits. Economic highlights include the 243-acre Daimler truck testing facility, Erickson Air Museum, airport improvements and long-established timber company Bright Wood Corporation.

Another major boost is being provided by the 24,000-square-foot building expansion at the COCC campus. The Madras Campus expansion will bring four distinct program offerings to students in Jefferson County, with a slated opening of the new facility later this year. The programs include nursing, nursing assistant, medical assistant and early childhood education, the latter of which will be taught in English and Spanish. On land generously donated by the Bean Foundation, the expansion will more than double the college’s size and meet critical rising needs in the region. “This is going to give students the opportunity to further their careers in Madras and take out some of the barriers of traveling out of town,” said Madras High School early education teacher Julie Mitchell.

Shannon Edgar, chief nursing officer for Madras and Prineville, St. Charles Health System, added, “Recruiting and retention in rural areas is an ongoing challenge. This investment is going to help us ensure we have more resources in the community to continue to provide exceptional care well into the future.” The plan directly addresses a shortage of health care and early childhood education workers, while also opening a childcare center to alleviate a barrier for Jefferson County families. Managed by The Children’s Learning Center of Madras, it will create up to 100 new childcare spots and integrate directly into the COCC students’ learning experience. The center will also provide jobs for a number of graduates.

Beginning with the Bean Foundation’s gift of 26 acres of land, additional investments to date have come from the U.S. Congress, the Oregon Legislature, COCC’s Real Estate Fund and private donors. The Madras campus expansion’s overall design and construction costs are estimated at $18 million, with up to 60% expected to come from federal, state and other public resources. With this momentum, the COCC Foundation is seeking the remaining funds from private philanthropy and grants.

Allen said that St. Charles in conjunction with Oregon State University (OSU) was creating a rural residency program for doctors, which would have a positive impact on rural healthcare, and see six to eight physicians in place at any given time. He added that Thygeson was also developing two new industrial buildings, with the first, a 7,500 sf facility already 80 percent leased, with four out of five spaces occupied, and the second building under construction. “There has been a lack of new industrial lease product for a long time,” Allen said. “These are offered at 80-.90c/sq. ft., which is around 30c below Redmond market rates. They are modern buildings with loading docks and air conditioning representing fresh flex space options for small businesses in Madras. The second building at 12,000 sq. ft. can be delivered in a variety of configurations down to 1,500 sq. ft.”

On the retail side, plans are moving forward for a free-standing Starbucks store at the South Y in Madras where U.S. 97 divides into two one-way streets. The City also continues to make infrastructure improvements at the Madras Municipal Airport, including the current Apron Reconstruction Project, to ensure that the facility continues to be maintained at high standards.

The five communities of Jefferson County include Madras, Metolius, Culver, Warm Springs and Crooked River Ranch and together, they share a common desire for a vibrant future. Incentive programs for growing and relocating businesses in Madras include local loan programs, tax abatements, fast track permitting, fee reductions and workforce training. Favorable business costs include affordable industrial land, competitive power, wage and tax rates.


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