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Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis voices concerns about completing long-brewing development

COURTESY RENDERING: CITY OF GRESHAM - The Downtown Rockwood market hall, middle, has been redesigned to lower construction costs. A Rockwood development project that has been brewing for more than two decades is getting a redesign to keep construction costs in line with budget constraints.

The second phase of Downtown Rockwood — originally called Rockwood Rising — was for a market hall with an international grocery marketplace, public commissary kitchen, and small business and pop-up stand opportunities.

The Gresham Redevelopment Commission heard the proposed design changes for the building that had bloated past its cost estimates during a meeting Tuesday afternoon, May 19. The new market hall looks different, and adds 3,000 square feet of restaurant/grocery/retail space; 10,000 square feet of office space; and four additional micro-restaurants.

But officials said it maintains the original intent of uplifting the diverse community of food entrepreneurs who call Rockwood home.

"The new design offers more variety of spaces," said Emily Bower, interim executive director of the Gresham Redevelopment Commission.

COURTESY RENDERING: CITY OF GRESHAM - The new market hall has more space for businesses.The idea behind Downtown Rockwood is to bring new construction and needed services into the heart of the neighborhood. The Catalyst Site, located between Southeast Stark Street, Southeast 185th Avenue and East Burnside Street, will be a central square with a public plaza and play structures for kids, an innovation hub with services for locals, retail stores, apartments, and the market hall.

The 5.5-acre plot of land was initially purchased by the Gresham Development Commission in 2005 with funds from the city's urban renewal district. The city spent three years, from 2014-2016, soliciting ideas and feedback from residents in the neighborhood.

The project finally broke ground last summer, marking a shift from planning to actually seeing Downtown Rockwood come to fruition. Since then the former Rockwood Community Office Building was renovated and construction of the innovation hub should be complete by July.

Bower said the market hall should be completed by Summer 2021 — a timeline Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis voiced concerns about.

"I feel like we are constantly changing the program and have had the property tied up for years with little steps being made," Bemis said during the virtual meeting. "I want to get this project done and do these things we have been talking about for the last 20-plus years. I am really concerned about hitting timelines and delivering for our community."

Bower said complications the last two years led to the redesign. Developers said the Portland area has experienced historic increases in the costs of construction. That, coupled with new federal tariffs on construction material, led to the need for a redesign. The new building has been simplified to maximize the leasable area within the building to improve finances.

"I am confident we will finish this project in the 2021-22 timeline," Bower said.


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