South Cooper Mountain construction continues despite COVID-19
If you're driving near Southwest 175th Avenue and Scholls Ferry Road, you can see the bare bones of new townhomes and houses — along with some apartments — being put together left and right in the South Cooper Mountain neighborhood.
The neighborhood is starting to look like a real community, as residents begin to populate what Beaverton has officially designated the East Neighborhood.
Back in February, city officials gave the Pamplin Media Group a full scope of the South Cooper Mountain concept plan, but some things have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, Beaverton has issued 104 single-family building permits for South Cooper Mountain, according to the city's community development director, Cheryl Twete. Twete said she anticipated the city would receive more applications as the area continued to take shape, but the virus had other plans.
"We had expected quite a bit more development activity this summer," she said. "We expected more site work to be underway. ... But it has dramatically slowed down."
Twete added, "What we're seeing out there right now is that the developers are focusing on building the lots that are ready to go, rather than bringing more lot inventory into the market at this time."
The city is also seeing a slowdown in the number of building permit applications that are coming in for approval.
So far, the city has 27 single-family home applications pending, and Twete says that there could be a whole lot more permits in for South Cooper Mountain at this point if it wasn't for the economic impacts of the virus.
"Clearly, the developers have chosen to slow down (because) we don't know where the economy is going," Twete remarked. "And even though interest rates are ridiculously low, people are uncertain about jobs, and that sort of thing. But a lot of developers are ready to go with their next phase of infrastructure work, or close to it — so it wouldn't be difficult to get back in the game, so to speak."
South Cooper Mountain began accepting applications for development in 2015.
In 2017, Mountainside High School opened at the corner of Southwest 175th Avenue and Scholls Ferry Road. It's at the heart of the South Cooper Mountain area.
Although currently the South Cooper Mountain area is dominated by single-family homes, the first apartment building in the new neighborhood has already broken ground.
On the west side of Mountainside High School, one of two affordable housing projects is up for approval with 160 units, according to Twete. Previously, 175 new affordable housing units were proposed within the development area, but the developer had to adjust in accordance with site planning and architecture, Twete noted.
"We're pretty confident that we'll be able to move forward," she said of the affordable housing units. "They were a project selected for the Metro affordable housing bond money. So, it's one of the four projects we're hoping to fund."
There's also another possible affordable housing project in the works with about 70 units, but the developer has yet to apply for a vacant land use approval with the city, Twete said.
With housing and land developments still underway in South Cooper Mountain, the surrounding roads will also see major roadwork being done.
In Beaverton, 175th Avenue has undergone widening, complete with bike lanes and sidewalks, for the anticipated influx of pedestrians and vehicles. Some of that work is ongoing, said Twete.
"This is historically been farming community," she explained. "This former narrow two-lane road is no longer capable of carrying all of the traffic that's generated by the new development."
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.
With all that still underway in the area of South Cooper Mountain that is already within city limits, Beaverton has plans to expand development into the so-called Urban Reserve Area, an even larger section of land to the north. Before that can happen, the city will need to formally annex that area or parts of it.
"Believe it or not, even in COVID-19 times, we're conducting a community planning process with a lot of online information and online community meetings, that sort of thing," said Twete. "We do anticipate that that will come into the city of Beaverton, but not until the planning process has been completed, which will be 2022."
As for when South Cooper Mountain will be fully developed, that's a tough question to answer, said Twete.
"Originally, we thought this would be a 20-year plan — so, 2035," she explained. "But a year ago, I would have sat back and told you that it would be five to seven years until South Cooper Mountain is largely built out given how strong the market was at that time. But now, clearly COVID is putting a huge pause on development investment in the area."
Despite the virus slowing down single-family homes in the area, residents can expect construction and new faces to continue popping up in the South Cooper Mountain neighborhood.
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