Locals chafe as councilors discuss downtown parking concerns with proposed tall building

COURTESY - A concept drawing shows what a six-story building and public plaza could look like at the site of the old Saxony Pacific building, which is owned by the city and slated for demolition.Tigard city planners hope that a six-story building envisioned to rise above Fanno Creek on Southwest Main Street will be an attractive addition to the suburban city's downtown core — but for other businesses in downtown Tigard, its parking space demands could be a nuisance.

Plans for the so-named Saxony project were unveiled this spring. The planned building would be the tallest in downtown Tigard, replacing an older building that was purchased by the city last year. That building, located at 12533 S.W. Main St., has been the home of Automotive Drivetrain and Double J Cache Nail Boutique, which are relocating.

It has not yet been determined what function the building would have. Sean Farrelly, Tigard's redevelopment project manager, said planners expect it will likely be an office building with some form of retail on the first floor, perhaps including cafes or restaurants, but he acknowledged it is possible that part or all of the upper floors could be built as apartments.

“If it was housing … people would expect at least one (parking) space per unit on-site,” Farrelly told councilors during their meeting Tuesday night as the board of directors for Tigard's downtown urban renewal agency. “Office obviously requires parking too. We're looking at providing some of those spaces off-site … rented from other businesses.”

Downtown Tigard has ample street parking during most times of the day, Farrelly said, but a large new building, particularly if it includes apartment housing, would generate a significant new demand.

The concept plans the city have developed suggest that 13 parking spaces could be available on-site. That would not be enough to accommodate the tenants of a six-story building, even if it is primarily office space, Farrelly said in response to a question from Councilor Marc Woodard.

Woodard expressed concern about the potential parking impact from a building of that size on other downtown businesses, such as Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub, a popular restaurant and microbrewery across Main Street from the Saxony site.

“I think one of the biggest concerns I heard is that their customers won't have any place to park,” Woodard said, adding, “I just want to make sure everybody's talking, because it has potential to knock a smaller business out of business. … I'm OK with it in concept. I'm still worried about the parking.”

City Council President Jason Snider encouraged city staff to keep the broader community in downtown notified about the project.

“To me, this is an issue that affects the entire downtown,” Snider said.

He added, “I think this is a huge change to downtown, probably a good one, but one that's certainly going to have impacts.”

City staff are hoping to entice a private developer to build the building. Kenny Asher, Tigard's community development director, suggested that as the project progresses and a developer enters the picture, the building will eventually find its “right size” based on the availability of parking.

“It could happen that we sell this property and the project that makes the most sense for the developer financially is one that is three stories and can live with 13 parking spaces,” Asher said.

Even still, he acknowledged, city staff want to keep the avenue open for construction of a six-story building at the site. That includes amending the city's development code to increase a limit on building height in the area, which will be up for consideration later this year.

“We're trying to entitle the largest, coolest building that we can,” Asher said. “It's got to be large so that somebody knows that if they can figure out a way to tenant this building without using a lot of parking, they would be allowed to do that. And if somebody can figure out how to do that, they should, because they'd make a fortune on it. But, too, we want it to be cool-looking because we need to attract attention to this site and change people's perceptions about what Main Street can be.”

Referring to the city's concept, he concluded, “This could be very far from the reality of what gets built, and I guess I'm compelled to share that because I don't want to give the wrong impression about what the impacts might be or what the final product might be.”

Part of the property the city bought last year is planned for redevelopment as a public plaza. The building footprint itself will be sold to a developer, Farrelly said, as the city does not want to be its landlord.

There is also an environmental cleanup process that the site must undergo due to old soil contamination on the property. The Tigard City Center Development Agency, the urban renewal district overseen by the city, received $400,000 in federal grants in May to help cover the costs of that cleanup.

Cleanup work is expected to begin next spring, with construction starting in fall at the earliest.

By Vance Tong
Associate Publisher/Portland Tribune, Pamplin Media Group
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