Tigard City Hall is moving forward with plans to update its Washington Square Regional Center plan, having recently hired a consultant to look at market trends in the expansive center area.
On Feb. 11, the Tigard City Council approved a contract with ECONorthwest, not to exceed $300,000, to update the center plan, which incorporates an 827-acre site that includes portions of the cities of Tigard, Beaverton and unincorporated Washington County.
The regional center is more than just Washington Square Mall. The scope expands all the way to Southwest Hall Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road to include the RedTail Golf Center, which is inside Beaverton city limits. Not only do its boundaries include the 12-story Lincoln Tower but also TriMet's WES station, according to Susan Shanks, a senior planner with the Tigard city government. The center boundary also crosses Highway 217 to include businesses along Southwest Cascade and Nimbus avenues as well.
"This is definitely a time of transition where we thought a lot of these stores … would be around forever, like Sears," she said, referring to the department store at Washington Square that closed more than a year ago.
The project update could take anywhere from 18 months to two years to complete, Shanks said.
In November, Metro awarded a grant of $250,000 to fund the consultant, with Tigard pitching in $60,000. Of that, $10,000 will be used for outreach and community engagement.
Shanks said the analysis the consultant will make is an examination of local, national and international mall trends.
"We're basically trying to get a handle on what's actually going on here, because I think things are changing in the retail world, in the housing world," Shanks said. "There's been a lot of changes since the original plan for the Washington Square Regional Center was adopted, which was 20 years ago."
She said the city wants to determine the best business model to see how to best support the regional center to make it a successful. There are an estimated 14,278 people who work in the boundaries of the center, according to the city's website.
In addition to Sears, which shuttered in 2019, two other large businesses on Cascade Avenue — Orchard Hardware and Toys R Us — have closed over the last several years.
Still, Washington Square Mall recently added an 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery and Ezell's Famous Chicken to its lineup of mall restaurants. In addition, Jaguar/Land Rover just opened a dealership in a portion of the mall's parking lot near where a TGI Friday's restaurant once stood.
Shanks pointed out how services such as Amazon Prime have changed people's shopping habits over the years. Still she said that the regional center has extensive employment (940 businesses operate within the boundaries) and the city wants to make sure that remains true in the future as well.
"But we also want to bring in more housing," Shanks noted.
She said Washington Square Mall officials have expressed interest in adding residential units and that land-use development applications are moving through the city in two phases, one of which could result in apartments being built where the former Sears Auto Center building is located.
Meanwhile, Shanks said there are plans to tear down the former Sears store and possibly build a theater, hotel or smaller restaurants.
The Macerich Co., a real estate investment trust based in California, owns the 105-acre Washington Square Mall. They are the third-largest owner of shopping centers in the nation.
"They are making a huge investment because the mall is currently still very viable," Shanks said of the mall owners. "They are in a pretty strong position and making huge investments."
Shanks said plans are to host numerous outreach and community engagement events in the future to see what business people and residents would like to see included in the Washington Square Regional Center.
"We're going to get a lot of analysis and see what the path forward is," said Shanks.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.