Federal grant puts downtown Beaverton plans on fast track
Along with the $150 million urban renewal plan voters passed in November, a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development marks a significant shot in the arm for the city's downtown redevelopment plans.
Announced late last year, the Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant will help fuel a proposed mix of affordable housing, efficient transportation, sustainable infrastructure and public amenities collectively known as the Beaverton Creekside District. The district is situated at the confluence of three city streams - Beaverton, Hall and Wessenger creeks - and is a core component of the Civic Plan the City Council adopted in April 2011.
Mayor Dennis Doyle called the federal funding key to the city's future growth and attractiveness to new businesses and residents.
'This was an extremely competitive grant, and money is tight in Washington, D.C.,' he said. 'Partnerships like these are critical to creating the vibrant downtown that our citizens want. In effect, this grant allows the city to begin our Civic Plan work and once again validates the appreciated effort put into our award-winning visioning effort.'
HUD chose Beaverton as one of 27 cities in the country to receive a challenge grant. The $1 million boosts the project's available funding - calculated from both cash and in-kind contributions - at a little more than $2.5 million, said Community Development Director Don Mazziotti.
The more than 24-acre district encompasses the core regional transit system and is accessible to the city-owned Central Plant at The Round at Beaverton Central. The Round and adjacent Westgate property on the south bank of Beaverton Creek are the district's two major redevelopment sites.
In addition to the Creekside project, the Civic Plan - which city leaders said focuses on 'reducing barriers to achieving an affordable, economically vital and sustainable downtown' - includes the following elements:
Partnering with the city on the three-year project are Friends of Beaverton Creek, the Central Beaverton Neighborhood Association Committee, Portland State University, Clean Water Services and Oregon's Regional Solutions Center.
To facilitate project implementation, the city is in the process of hiring a senior planner to augment the existing staff.
'We haven't gotten to that point in detailing the projects,' Mazziotti said. 'We don't know how the contributions will be allocated.'
The project area, which includes the city's sustainability-driven EcoDistrict concept, was chosen because of its proximity to utility services as well as natural amenities.
'The city's Central Plant is a very high-efficiency steam plant,' Mazziotti said of the under-capacity operation that generates heating, cooling and hot water for The Round multi-use development. 'The distribution system for that plant can service other development in that area.
'And the creek running through it, which is the central creek of the whole city, is significant from an ecological standpoint,' he added, referring to Beaverton Creek.
The project includes significant improvements to the drainage systems surrounding the creek and its tributaries. The goals include improving water quality as well as stabilizing adjacent land to better support development infrastructure.
'All this adds up to making a place that can move development along more quickly, achieve more affordable housing and (serve as a) catalyst for development in that area.'
The work will take every bit of the three years specified by the HUD grant.
'This is a very large project,' he said, describing it as the nuts and bolts of the Civic Plan and visioning outlines. 'This is a project plan that goes into much greater, elaborate detail, such that it can be constructed.
'The only step in between is the engineering.'
He called the HUD grant a 'huge, huge' boost to the project.
'Assembling $2.5 million (in contributions) would've taken years,' he said. 'Now, because of this grant, it opens other possibilities for funding streams, and we're going after those now.'