FEBRUARY FOCUS: TRANSPORTATIONThe future of transit-oriented development
Since construction of Portland's first MAX line began in 1982, transit-oriented development (TOD) has evolved to include higher densities, a mix of uses, and robust opportunities for developers and business owners in communities along the light rail lines.
Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of business planning and asset management, pointed to development at Northeast Seventh and Holladay in Portland's Lloyd District as an example of the lure of a transit station. "Developers specifically said they were going in that location with a large mixed-use project, incorporating retail and housing, because of the Northeast Seventh Avenue MAX station," he said.
When TriMet builds a light rail line, it must purchase not only the land for it, but land around it that will be needed for or impacted by the construction. TriMet still owns parcels that date back to the construction of the first MAX line and some of those sites are still undeveloped. The agency is working with two commercial real estate brokers to market those sites, and expects about $20 million through the sales of seven properties currently under contract to conclude this year.
As a condition of the sale, the buyer must commit to developments that support transit use through design that orients entrances and exits toward a nearby MAX station and encourages as many different uses as possible, including mixed-use with retail or offices on the street level and housing in the levels above.
A few of the property transactions TriMet expects to close this year are the Butler Block at Southwest 18th and Salmon, which will house ground-floor retail space and 180 apartments, and Roberti at 2425 S.E. Eighth Avenue, which will become 80,000 square feet of industrial office space. Pershing, a four-story building at Southeast 17th and Pershing, will provide 71 apartments. TriMet also is developing property at Southwest Fourth and Lincoln in partnership with Portland State University.
With the upcoming Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project, TriMet and its partners have entered a memorandum of understanding to evaluate any excess properties for suitability as mixed-use TOD that could include up to 950 units of affordable housing. Project partners are also participating in the Southwest Equitable Development Strategy (SWEDS), an inclusive effort to maintain and increase the supply of housing for diverse families of all incomes, in coordination with other economic and workforce development strategies in the corridor, according to TriMet.
"Having affordable units in the mix is becoming the new normal for all new residential developments in the city of Portland," said Nick Stewart, TriMet's real estate manager. "Private developers are seeing the benefit of having that diverse mix of incomes in their developments as well as active ground-floor uses and a range of mobility options, including transit, available to their customers right out the front door."
Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program is intended to help spark vibrant downtowns and centers through public-private partnerships, investments and incentives in development projects near transit. Its TOD Program funded a record number of projects in 2017 and last year's projects nearly matched that.
Some of the recent projects include The Slogan, a four-story mixed-use building with 2,000 square feet of retail space and 25 apartments. Axletree broke ground on a new mixed-use building that will bring more than 8,000 square feet of retail space and 100 new apartments to Milwaukie's downtown.
TOD Program projects under construction include The Rise at Westgate, a mixed-use development in Beaverton that consists of two buildings with ground-floor commercial space, 230 residential units and community space, bike storage, and dog and bike wash stations, among other amenities. CCC Eastside Campus, also called the Blackburn Building, will be a two-story health care facility that features a pharmacy, 52 units of respite and palliative care, and 90 units of transitional housing. It will serve about 3,0000 people each year with recovery and mental health services.
Since Metro's TOD Program began in 1988, mixed-use projects include 194,780 square feet of retail space and 327,433 square feet of office and other commercial space. Investments totaling $16 million have leveraged more than $697 million in private development activity across 45 completed TOD projects, Metro stated in its 2018 TOD Annual Report.
As TOD continues to evolve, TriMet hopes it will reflect the integration with light rail stations that is occurring in large cities around the world.
"Our region is at a tipping point in terms of growth and the amount of redevelopment happening. We are second in the nation in the number of construction cranes working in our metro area," Stewart said. "Under the direction of TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey, we are pursuing integrated TOD developments that don't just neighbor a station but integrate with it by going around and over existing transit stations. The focus is to increase density in MAX station areas and get the maximum return on the public's investment in high-capacity mass transit."
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