South Cooper Mountain is on the rise in Beaverton
Don't look now, but South Cooper Mountain — the neighborhood of townhomes and houses across Southwest 175th Avenue from Mountainside High School — is starting to look like a real community.
Residents are beginning to populate what Beaverton has officially designated the East Neighborhood, as construction continues around a small but growing cluster of homes.
South Cooper Mountain began accepting applications for development in 2015. In 2017, Mountainside High opened at the corner of Southwest 175th Avenue and Scholls Ferry Road. It's at the heart of the South Cooper Mountain area now under development.
To date, Beaverton has issued 107 building permits for South Cooper Mountain. Cheryl Twete, Beaverton's community development director, said the city expects to receive more applications as the area continue to take shape. Some subdivisions like housing developers Arbor Home's South Cooper Heights are already being inhabited by families despite the surrounding construction.
"If you went out, you'd see patio furniture and cars in the driveway," said Twete.
"You'll also see other areas where there has been excavation, where they've been building water lines and putting infrastructure in place," added Anna Slatinsky, who leads the Beaverton planning division.
It's true. And there's much more to come.
"We estimate that there will be over 3,000 homes once the area is fully developed," Twete said. "Right now, there are entitlements in place for 2,800."
Parallels in Tigard
In many regards, the development at South Cooper Mountain mirrors what's happening on the other side of Highway 210, or Scholls Ferry Road. The boundary between Beaverton and Tigard runs along the highway, and on its south side, Tigard continues to build up the largest planned development in its history.
Tigard got a head start on Beaverton. The city annexed hundreds of acres on the west side of Bull Mountain — the next "mountain" south of Cooper Mountain, although both more closely resemble gently sloping hills — in 2011. Ground broke on River Terrace in 2015, when Beaverton was still soliciting development plans for the land across Scholls Ferry Road.
In both communities, the development area has been divided up into blocs, with construction phased instead of going forward across the entire area at once. Now nearly five years into its construction, River Terrace still has some blocs yet to break ground, while construction in South Cooper Mountain has just fairly recently expanded out from 175th Avenue.
Yet despite River Terrace's size and more advanced stage, South Cooper Mountain is expected to be somewhat larger once it's fully built out. Tigard officials estimate River Terrace will top out around 2,500 homes, several hundred fewer than are already planned for South Cooper Mountain.
Polygon Northwest, the primary developer in River Terrace, was approved to build a subdivision in South Cooper Mountain called The Ridge, which is set to begin welcoming residents this summer. The developer was acquired last month by rival Taylor Morrison Home Corp., which is in the process of rebranding — although work is continuing as planned.
Although currently the South Cooper Mountain area is dominated by single-family homes, the first apartment building in the new neighborhood is scheduled to break ground within the next few month.
Also, just last week, 175 new affordable housing units were proposed within the development area on the west side of the Mountainside High School campus, according to Twete.
"Affordable housing is a huge need in our community, and we are really excited to see the possibility of getting some fixed-income housing here in South Cooper Mountain," Twete said.
More planning to be done
With homes going up and residents moving in, the South Cooper Mountain project team has shifted to planning for the roughly 1,000 acres of unincorporated land north of the current development.
The South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area, which makes up just 544 acres of the 2,300 acres encompassing South Cooper Mountain, was officially brought into Beaverton in 2011 after the expansion of the city's urban boundary.
Following the annexation, the city created a Concept Plan that was published in 2014. That plan includes not just the recently acquired territory, but the entirety of South Cooper Mountain. Holding just a sliver of the 2,300 acres, the city mapped out this plan with the intention of eventually acquiring the rest of the area.
"The SCM Concept Plan was a high-level feasibility study and visioning exercise that covers a large area," Slatinsky explained. The plan divides the 2,300 acres into three primary areas: the South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area, the Urban Reserve Area and North Cooper Mountain, the latter of which is already developed but is situated outside city limits.
Due to the large scope of the project, the city then created a smaller, more detailed Community Plan specific for the South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area, the region within the city's boundaries.
The Community Plan covers everything from contextualizing the South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area's landscape to the community's planned land use, resource protection and infrastructure. It took three years to create.
Past, present and future
With housing and land developments still underway in South Cooper Mountain, the surrounding roads will also see major roadwork being done.
Washington County is currently in the process of widening Southwest Roy Rogers Road in Tigard, which continues into Beaverton as 175th Avenue. On the Beaverton side, 175th Avenue has undergone widening as well, complete with bike lanes and sidewalks, for the anticipated influx of pedestrians and cars. Some of that work is ongoing.
Around 2:30 p.m., when the final bell sounds at the high school, there is a flurry of activity in South Cooper Mountain. Dozens of students cross 175th Avenue at the light. Many have parked their cars along South Cooper Mountain's partially complete network of streets — for now, just a place for them to leave their cars during the school day.
Construction is furthest along in South Cooper Mountain's East Neighborhood, and that's where the community's small but growing population now lives. But houses are starting to rise on the other side of Mountainside High School as well, where five more neighborhoods in the South Cooper Mountain area are planned.
In the area, crews have been working for months to install pipelines and other infrastructure for the Willamette Water Supply Program, which will provide a drinking water source from the Willamette River. Officials in Hillsboro, Beaverton and the Tualatin Valley Water District — the main partners on the project — say it's needed to supply the area with enough water for all the new residents of those communities.
Read The Times' Nov. 25, 2019, story about work on the Willamette Water Supply Program, the largest infrastructure project of its kind in state history.
With all that still underway in the South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area, the project is making plans to expand into the Urban Reserve Area, an even larger section of land to the north.
"Right now, we have expanded our interest to ... the area that is just to the north of South Cooper Mountain," said Twete. "That includes about 1,200 acres, since that area was added to the new urban growth boundary."
Although the Urban Reserve Area is not yet annexed into Beaverton city limits, the South Cooper Mountain project team is already developing a community plan to guide its eventual development, similar to the community plan they developed for the South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area.
Currently, the team is only in the early phases of drafting a plan, and it doesn't expect the plan to be complete for another three years.
In the meantime, there's plenty of construction work on South Cooper Mountain still to do.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of Beaverton's planning division manager. Her name is Anna Slatinsky. The story has been corrected.
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