East County: Building Main Street
There is a sweeping vision for one of the major roadways cutting through East Multnomah County to transform it into a vibrant, bustling heart of three communities.
As it runs past Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale, Halsey Street will be lined with boutiques, apartments and restaurants. There will be improved pedestrian pathways, trails and lanes for bicycles, colorful awnings and signs, artwork and murals, plazas, playgrounds, community buildings and more.
The goal is to transform Halsey into something special, and it is being done through cooperation and zoning changes.
"The three cities are working to create a similar sort of neighborhood-feel on Halsey," said Wood Village Mayor Scott Harden. "Folks want to see shopping, places to eat, events and entertainment."
The project is called Main Streets on Halsey, and it was born in 2017 when the cities of Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale partnered to create a shared vision for the roadway as it runs from Fairview Parkway to the Sandy River.
"Initially the project was viewed as a place where we might be able to increase tourism to East County," Harden said. "But we also need to create an environment that is inviting and safe for the people who already live here."
The transformative plan focused on a unified main street with safety improvements, places to gather, businesses and housing. The cities hosted polls, meetings and surveys to gather community input to guide the project. Outreach by Cascadia Projects — one off the consultants to Main Streets on Halsey — gathered 500 responses, many of which were in Spanish and Slavic languages.
And it has been the cooperation between the three city staffs and councils that have made Main Streets on Halsey possible. Meetings have been held to plan for incentivizing development in the corridor, and a marketing plan is being created. Talks have also included local businesses. At the beginning of the year, all three city councils approved design standard recommendations.
"The cities aren't trying to create identical looks, but complimentary looks," said Fairview City Manager Nolan Young.
Right now, the cities are putting in place new codes and zoning along Halsey to clear a path for future development, which should be done before the summer. That will lead to incentivizing developers and entrepreneurs to come to East County.
"We can do all the planning we want, but we still rely on investors and developers," said Troutdale Manager Ray Young. "People want to visit and work in places that are fun to walk and spend time in. We are working with Wood Village and Fairview because we all want to increase the vibrancy of our communities."
One of the most prominent sights planned for the Halsey corridor will be a massive fork.
The 40-foot sculpture will be the centerpiece of the Fairview Food Cart Plaza — which has yet to get an official name. The plaza will be built at the southeast corner of Halsey Street and Northeast 223rd Avenue and will have as many as 16 food carts, an enclosed eating hall with a bar, bathrooms, play area, parking lot and more.
The food cart pod, operated by local restaurateur Justin Hwang, is eyeing an opening on Labor Day. It also showcases the future of the corridor under the Main Streets on Halsey project, with the food carts being one of the first developments to be completed on Halsey.
At that same corner, Fairview is designing a roundabout to slow traffic down while still moving vehicles through the intersection.
Fairview Council is also examining the streetscape, which encompasses design elements along the roadway including sidewalks, trees, benches and more. Those can be used in tandem with changes like the roundabout.
"Our desire is that Halsey not be a thoroughfare that moves traffic too quickly," City Manager Nolan Young said, adding that the intent is to promote people slowing down to see all that is offered.
Selling City Hall
In Wood Village, the Main Streets on Halsey project is all about the corners.
Much of the city planning is to construct something special at the intersections along Halsey. They are looking at gateway features, artwork, and murals showcasing the history of the community, turning the intersections into plazas where people can gather and have fun.
"We want people to slow down and turn onto Halsey to see what we have to offer," Mayor Harden said. "We need to dress up the corners to increase interest in tourists visiting the region."
All of Wood Village's portion of the corridor is an opportunity zone, which offers tax advantages for developing within the city. Council has also been working to secure more land for development, jumpstarting that process by selling City Hall.
"The land was one of the most valuable spaces in our city, and was right along Halsey," Harden said.
The city sold the plot, and it is now being developed into "The Byway," a mixed-use area with 173 apartments from studio to three-bedroom and retail storefronts. The first building has already been fully rented, and the second will be open by the end of April. The shopping section will be open by late summer or early fall.
"With our zoning we are putting in place the character of buildings, then we will discuss what will go inside," Harden said. "I would love to see small-scale manufacturing, artists, brew pubs, cafes and galleries."
The city used the $7 million from selling City Hall to build a new one just down the road in Donald L. Robertson Park. The new City Hall, which is planned to be completed this summer, is being built with large timber and prominent awnings — a special façade in Wood Village that can serve as a template for future development.
"We are crazy excited about our new City Hall — it was one of the best decisions we made," Harden said.
Another 61-unit apartment building is going up at 240th and Halsey, and a 4,000-square-foot commercial building is being built across from City Hall.
With all of the development, Wood Village is as dedicated to improving safety along Halsey as Fairview. Though there won't be any major roadway changes like a roundabout, the city is installing four flashing crosswalks at key points on Halsey.
"We wanted to make our city safer," Harden said.
For Troutdale leadership it has all been about putting on a balancing act.
Though the city is devoted to Main Streets on Halsey, things are working a bit differently in Troutdale. Main Streets on Halsey is being incorporated alongside special zoning districts for the Urban Renewal project north of the Historic Columbia River Highway and a project to update downtown Troutdale.
"We are working really hard on a vision for developing the whole downtown area, which includes sections of Halsey," City Manager Ray Young said.
In many ways, the core of downtown Troutdale represents the future of the rest of Halsey, with many pedestrian-friendly features and dozens of storefronts. But City Council is continuing to spread that vibe throughout the city.
They voted for a second year of system development charge reductions to encourage new and existing restaurants to build and expand into Troutdale. The city has also been developing a new marketing campaign, including a visitor center and better signage. New businesses are flooding into the city, development is occurring, and city leadership are creating a walking/biking path along the Sandy River.
"We have a 'Main Street' feel in our downtown area," Young said. "Council is working through the next 20 years to continue to shape what Troutdale will look like."
The city is also working with McMenamins Edgefield, which owns large plots on both sides of Halsey. The hotel and restaurant had development plans that were temporarily waylaid last year during the pandemic.
"We have a very open and communicative relationship with McMenamins," Young said. "They are an important part of the Troutdale culture and business community."
City staff have made a point of coming alongside all the businesses in Troutdale. Much like Main Streets on Halsey as a whole, Troutdale wants everything to be collaborative.
And for all three cities working on this project, the end goal remains to create a special place for tourists and community members.
"Citizens I talk to don't care about nuts and bolts, they want a fun place to come to eat and shop and visit," Young said.
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