Wauna Credit Union opens in Forest Grove, other vacancies remain
For years, people driving into Forest Grove stopped at the busy intersection of Highway 8 and Highway 47 and saw a vacant lot.
The vacancy ended in December, as Wauna Credit Union, which also has locations in Clatsop and Columbia counties as well as Pacific County, Washington, opened its Forest Grove branch at 3532 Pacific Ave.
But about seven acres of the property, which Forest Grove city officials consider ideal land for residential and commercial development, is still vacant, according to Washington County records.
Forest Grove senior planner Dan Riordan says the future of the centrally located property is uncertain. The property has remained vacant for nearly 20 years, in part because a planned Albertson's grocery store never materialized, Riordan said.
A couple of recent changes to city code, which helped advance other developments in the area, might encourage future residential or commercial projects to occur at the long-vacant property along Pacific Avenue, Riordan said, adding, "It's only a matter of time."
"It's a prime development site," Riordan said. "We do have inquires from time to time. I would suspect that something could happen relatively soon, given the housing demand in the area. Quite a bit of the city's commercial land inventory is being developed. There is interest for more commercial development, and the sites that are available are limited."
Several homes were built there in the 1890s, Riordan said. About a century later, the homes were demolished, and in 2001, Albertson's purchased the property expecting to build a grocery store.
Albertson's didn't respond to the News-Times' inquiry asking whether the company currently has plans to develop the property or sell additional parcels surrounding the new credit union.
Wauna also did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Like much of Washington County, Forest Grove is facing demand for both low-income and market-rate homes, according to the city's recent housing needs analysis.
In 2016, the city increased the residential zoning density along Pacific Avenue from 20 units per acre to 30 units per acre. Shortly thereafter, the Forestplace Apartment Homes were constructed.
Additionally, the City Council recently proposed allowing affordable housing developers to defer paying system development charges — fees to cover the cost of connecting developments to the city's water, sewer and street networks — until a later date in an effort to reduce the cost burden of development. Councilors could adopt the ordinance at their next meeting Monday evening, Jan. 13.
Riordan said these changes should make the property appealing to developers.
For now, the new Wauna Credit Union will be the sole occupant of the lot at one of the busiest intersections of a growing town.
The credit union is hosting a grand opening on Jan. 30.
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