Local lawmakers help to wrangle millions for Rockwood development
A landmark development in central Rockwood netted a cash influx worth at least $2 million this legislative session, thanks to a line-item appropriation from Salem lawmakers.
Rockwood Rising, the city of Gresham's term for a three-building outcrop in an economically challenged district, is planned for a five-acre vacant lot that once housed west Gresham's Fred Meyer.
The site is located about a block from the iconic "Mohawk" MAX light-rail station at Stark Street and Southeast 188th Avenue.
The gleaming public-private project is expected to cost at least $40 million, but Gresham's cost will be reduced by the $2 million allocation that will be funded using lottery bonds.
The legislation, Senate Bill 5530, cleared the state House and Senate with token opposition in July, and now awaits the signature of Gov. Kate Brown. But the work actually began last summer, when Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, entered into talks with Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin.
Devlin is co-chair of the powerful Joint Ways and Means Committee, which sets the state budget and approves appropriations. With help from Eric Chambers, a lobbyist employed by Gresham City Hall, Devlin toured Rockwood via a ride-along in a police cruiser.
"He really got a flavor of the needs that we have in Rockwood, as well as how this could boost the economy, so to speak, and job creation," Monnes Anderson explained in a phone interview.
The $2-million gift will be flowed into Building A, a four-story structure with 60,000 square feet of office space that's been dubbed the Workforce Training Center.
Proposed tenants in Building A include Mt. Hood Community College's Small Business Development Center, employment agency Worksource Oregon, nonprofit job trainer Worksystems Inc., plus makerspaces backed by MetroEast Community Media and KCR Manufacturing.
Structural blueprints show a chic, cobalt blue metallic facade, with accents of charcoal-colored metal, housing ground-floor "micro-retailers" and an established anchor store facing Southeast 187th Avenue.
"The facility will provide skills-training, education, and workforce services under one roof, in an area where the services are needed the most," Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, said in a statement. "This was a strong, collective effort from Gresham's entire legislative delegation."
"Getting the funding for that — it's going to be a catalyst for huge change for Rockwood," Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham, chimed in. "I was honored to be a part of working toward getting some funding for that."
Monnes Anderson said Gresham would likely direct the cash toward Rockwood Rising's public aspects, like road improvements and landscaping. She credited the city with providing a strong vision that should help catalyze the area.
"In order to revitalize Rockwood, we need to have services there," she noted. "(The city) said, 'Get me the money,' and that's what I did."
The development plan also includes a five-story apartment building with street-level retail, an open air market hall and a central public plaza.