FONT & AUDIO
City planners consider finer points of 'Rockwood Rising' project
Gresham City Hall's ambitious plans to reshape the heart of Rockwood are nearly finalized.
All told, public leaders and private developers will plunk down at least $40 million to create the three-building development located between Burnside Road and the "Mohawk" MAX light-rail station at Stark Street and Southeast 188th Avenue.
As The Outlook previously reported, site designs call for commercial office space, residential apartments and an indoor/outdoor marketplace orbiting a central plaza.
The project, branded as "Rockwood Rising," sits on 5.15 acres that formerly housed west Gresham's Fred Meyer. The city's Redevelopment Commission purchased the land for $8.1 million in 2006.
At least 42 trees, as well as Plaza Del Sol, will be removed before construction begins. Read on for a complete breakdown of the blueprints.
Nearly 60,000 square feet of office space is planned above ground-floor commercial in this four-story property. First story "micro retailers" will look out toward the plaza, while a more established anchor store is proposed to face Southeast 187th Avenue.
Worksource Oregon, an occupational training center and clearinghouse for help-wanted ads, has already committed to the wood-frame building. Planners are also considering a public gathering space with a double-height ceiling on the third floor.
Future tenants will likely have the ability to project images and video on the "rolling window wall" overlooking the semi-circle plaza, a capability that could be used to broadcast events happening inside.
Blueprints show a chic, cobalt-blue metallic facade with accents of charcoal-colored metal. Some renderings even hypothesize a "Rockwood Taproom" serving up brews to computer-generated patrons.
This five-story, mixed-use development would site street-level retail beneath 108 dwelling units with a healthy mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units planned.
Approximately 8,700-square-feet of retail space is cast as a community bank in renderings, while at least three other commercial areas have carve-outs estimated between 2,600 and 3,000 square feet.
A second-story "amenity deck" would feature BBQ and firepit space, plus communal tables, seating and grassy landscaped areas. Recessed balconies and jutting projections give the exterior a "cubby-hole" feel. Drawings show aquamarine walls accented with gunmetal grey sheeting.
Current blueprints would draw tenants to a central lobby and mail center facing the plaza. That caused some design commissioners to wonder if the building had a "missing entrance" on the side of the building facing Burnside Street and the Rockwood MAX station.
"Candidly, if I (couldn't find the entrance), I would just text: 'I'm on the side by the parking lot near the market hall,'" responded YBA Architects founder Matt Brown during a city meeting on Wednesday, April 19.
"I think that activating the plaza is really critical for this scheme," he continued.
This open-air, two-level structure would provide space for five or six local butchers, bakers and grocers, plus as many as 20 small-scale eateries.
A boardwalk perimeter will allow hungry patrons to stroll past outdoor purchase windows, while others will congregate at cash registers and mezzanine seating inside the building.
A basement level will be filled with roughly 10,000 square feet of leasable commercial kitchen space, plus 1,200 square feet dedicated to cold storage. A restaurant anchor is also planned.
Gresham officials have previously stated their intention to fill all commercial berths without the help of major chains.
Parks, plazas, parking
Envisioned as a bustling square filled with street musicians, pedestrians and shoppers, planners say the skylit plaza will serve as the true focal point of the development.
Three children's play areas are included in designs alongside a "splash pad" water feature. Fixed seating will rest on concrete pavers. The design of a central painted emblem in the plaza has yet to be determined.
So-called "micro parks" with additional landscaping and fixed seating are planned for the north and southwest corners of the site, though the architects would prefer to lure passersby into the central plaza instead.
"If too many seating opportunities are provided — because of the fact that they won't have immediately adjacent active uses — that could attract undesirable uses and users," noted Brown, the YBA architect.
Three parking areas are proposed, each with frontage on Southeast 185th Avenue on the far east side of the development.
A central lot offers 37 stalls, while a 109-slot lot to the north and a 29-spot lot to the south have both been identified as possible pads for future development.
If a second phase of construction does come to pass, builders will be faced with a tough and slightly ironic dilemma: no parking.
Underground parking is one possibility, but digging down into the aptly-named Rockwood soil doesn't seem feasible to staffers at city hall.
"(Unless) you want boulders next to your car, I would imagine it would have to be an aboveground structure," joked Associate Planner Josh Williams. "They may not get as much development as they were hoping for, unless parking magically disappears as a need because we're all driving automated cars."