Forest Grove's Site B project continues to progress
Coming soon to downtown Forest Grove: a grocery store?
The Forest Grove City Urban Renewal Agency approved an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement, July 13, with WelshCORP LLC, clearing the way for pre-development of what plans to be a grocery store and a minimum of 12 overhead apartments at the corner of Pacific Avenue and B Street downtown.
"I think this is a really great project," Forest Grove Community Development Director Bryan Pohl said. "I'm not sure we really could've done a whole lot better for the city and overall downtown livability and viability."
The 20,000-square-foot store proposed at what the city government calls "Site B," the vacant lot adjacent to the Jesse Quinn apartments on Pacific Avenue, is to be owned and operated by WelshCORP, which owns and operates similar grocery outlets at the Oregon coast: Manzanita Fresh Foods and Fresh Foods in Cannon Beach.
The existing coastal stores are full-service grocery establishments, specializing in natural, organic, gluten-free, vegan and environmentally friendly products, as well as traditional favorites. While it's not New Seasons Market or Trader Joe's or another popular niche grocery brand, Pohl was quick to point out the similarities between the familiar outlets and what WelshCORP will bring to the table.
"I'll tell you, these guys are a grocer of that caliber," he said. "They stock a lot of local foods and they really walk the walk when it comes to local sustainable sort of produce, wines and everything like that. They live by the same ethic and the customer base is very similar."
In addition to the store, the plan — as of now — calls for a minimum of 12 affordable housing apartments, with as many as maybe 16 to 18, according to preliminary planning. Affordable housing in Oregon is commonly described as 30% of household income being spent on housing for a family that earns 60% of an area's median income.
Parking at the proposed facility is part of the initial plan, but to what extent has yet to be determined.
Pohl said that at this site, a grocery store is not required to have on-site parking, but he thinks they will want to provide parking for the sake of their business model, since many shoppers will want to be able to load groceries into their car without going into the street.
In November of last year, a consensus was reached that all proposals fulfill the following objectives:
• Enhance the downtown and adjacent neighborhood.
• Maximize taxable assessed value.
• Encourage new investment and development that brings people downtown.
• Provide tangible benefit to the urban renewal area and city, such as needed retail, services, housing and/or employment.
• Provide a transition between the downtown and residential and commercial districts.
It was also proposed that any design project should complement and enhance the historic "town center" environment. Forest Grove's downtown core was recently nominated by a state committee to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"We have design standards that kick in regardless," Pohl said. "So by definition, they'll be enhancing the fabric of the town."
Pohl added that while the process isn't finished yet, if all goes as planned, construction could begin next spring or early summer. He said he is excited about the prospects of the project, and he thinks the community should be as well.
"This is a good thing," Pohl said. "It can't be underestimated what a coup it is for a town our size to have a downtown grocery store. I would challenge you to find many towns our size that have a true downtown grocery store."
He concluded, "I think it really speaks to the livability here in Forest Grove."
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