Downtown Beaverton has new direction
A lot has happened since Kevin Teater took over 18 months ago as executive director of the Beaverton Downtown Association.
Though Teater does not take credit for all of it, he says a lot more is about to happen downtown — but it will come from the people most directly affected.
"We want the direction of downtown to come from the people who spend the most time here — the property owners, business owners and residents," he said in an interview. "They've got great direction and great ideas. They see the challenges — and I think they have the answers. We do not want to be the driver, but a supporter and facilitator."
Teater has been executive director of the group since August 2018. It got startup money from the city, but it is not an arm of government.
From his vantage point at Lionheart Coffee on Southwest Watson Avenue — just two blocks from where he lives at the Westline Apartments — Teater can see two different downtown projects taking shape.
The Beaverton Downtown Association had a direct hand last year in securing a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Main Street program, funded by the Oregon Lottery to promote downtown revitalization and historic preservation, for renovation of the Nak Won building at the southeast corner of Watson Avenue and First Street.
The grant will enable the building owners to put on a new roof, facade, sidewalk, lighting, windows and signs on a building that houses two Korean restaurants — Nak Won and Du Kuh Bee — plus a barber shop and salon, and a few other businesses owned by minorities. Even a new coat of paint is planned. The work is scheduled for spring.
"We want to be supportive of businesses that have been here for a long time, and that reflect (ethnic) communities that have been prevalent in Beaverton," Teater said. "We did not want to have them left behind, with all the exciting changes happening, because they could not afford building repairs."
Bank building transformed
The other major project on Watson Avenue at Farmington Road is the renovation of the historic Bank of Beaverton building, a few years short of the century mark, for a high-end restaurant and bar planned by ChefStable and the Lightning Bar Collective.
The Planning Commission approved the project Jan. 22. It will be done by Travis Henry, whose Henry Point Development is responsible for the other businesses on that east side of Watson Avenue — Big's Chicken, which won an Oregon Main Street award for best adaptive use in 2019; The Whole Bowl, and Lionheart Coffee. (Across Watson Avenue is Ex Novo Brewing, which opened its first location outside Portland in 2019 and won an Oregon Main Street award for best interior renovation.)
No grant money is involved.
The Bank of Beaverton transformation, which requires few exterior changes other than the conversion of parking spaces into an outdoor seating area and bicycle racks, is scheduled for completion later this year.
"It really activates that corner and says you are right in downtown Beaverton now," Teater said.
Referring to some of the projects already completed, he added, "These places look fantastic on the outside and on the inside, so they do not destroy the buildings."
Teater said both projects contribute to a sense of a great place, which Portland consultant Alisa Pyszka says is the next major trend in economic development. But Teater says downtown improvements should go beyond attracting people from outside Beaverton to include Beaverton workers and residents.
"This is their downtown, too," he said. "Downtown belongs to everybody."
Teater also instituted an Old Town Passport program to promote downtown businesses. Participants can collect stamped images that result in discounts or gift cards from businesses. The program won a 2019 Oregon Main Street award for best retail event.
New code and murals
Teater, 29, earned a bachelor's degree in urban and regional planning in 2012 and a master's in public administration 2017, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a project manager and planner at the Asheville Design Center in North Carolina from November 2015 until he took the Beaverton job in August 2018.
"I was looking here in particular because I was fascinated by Oregon's land use policies, biking and walking, and the ability to sell my car and ride the transit system. That was really appealing to me," he said. "So I was looking at urban areas where I could become involved in community development. I was fortunate enough to find this job. I saw this city was really exciting with so many changes going on."
The City Council is about to approve changes in its development code, years in the making, to promote downtown design with an emphasis on ground-floor retail and commercial spaces welcoming people. A public hearing was conducted Feb. 11, and an ordinance is scheduled for approval soon.
Teater says the city staff has been careful to invite public and business comments at every stage.
"We do not want people to feel they are in the dark about this design project and the changes that might be coming. I do think it will be transformational for downtown," he said.
"Everything is going to fit together. Downtown will be much more walkable. We will have better sidewalks and bike lanes — things that make a community more livable and accessible and exciting to be in."
Teater also said the association is working with Beaverton High School students who may get the chance to develop up to six wall murals with the help of a professional. Funding hinges on a Metro community place-making grant and other sources.
"We often hear feedback from people who say they love the (existing) murals and they want more of them," he said.
Beaverton High School is on the western edge of downtown. Teater said the aim of new murals is to tell the stories of under-represented communities within Beaverton.
"They are right next door, so downtown belongs to them too," he said. "There are many stories here, but just one community — and this is our Beaverton."
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