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Downtown Gresham neighbors, businesses concerned about potential parking crush from development

COURTESY RENDERING: GIBBINS KAPLAN DEVELOPMENT - The Arts Plaza Apartments would bring 97 units into downtown Gresham. A 97-unit apartment complex planned for downtown Gresham has raised parking concerns from nearby community members and businesses.

The Arts Plaza Apartments, planned for Northeast Second Street and Northeast Kelly Avenue, developed by Gibbins Kaplan Development & Capstone Partners, will be a four-story, multi-family mixed-use building with retail at the ground level. There will be a pair of public plazas along Northeast Second Street, as well as pedestrian paths between the complex and Powell Boulevard through a partnership with the neighboring Mt. Hood Theatre.

The project fronts the Arts Plaza to the south side, and represents a significant development on what is currently a vacant property. The project includes studio, one-bed, two-bed and three-bed units.

The development plans were approved with conditions during a Gresham Design Commission hearing on Nov. 3, but an appeal has been filed by Bryce Baillie and William Leslie, both of whom have business interests in downtown Gresham.

The appeal was filed because of the Gresham Design Commission's approval of a reduction of parking from "one parking space per unit" to only 54; the failures of the Parking Demand Analysis, commissioned by the developer, in truly capturing the parking situation around the Arts Plaza; and the improper precedents set by the development.

"No one I've talked to has an issue with the apartments, we aren't anti-growth," Leslie said. "But we believe the parking study they conducted is seriously flawed."

The current designs for the Arts Plaza Apartments only call for 54 onsite parking spaces at the rear of the complex, which will be "first-come, first-served" for residents. The other tenants would have to park along the streets near the property.

Several factors led to the Design Commission approving a reduction down to 54 spots.

The apartments are planned for an area with public transit availability — a MAX Blue Line stop is about a fourth a mile away, and there are bus routes that run nearby — and the neighborhood is walking/biking friendly with plenty of commercial businesses.

The parking survey found there were 341 on-street parking spaces, as well as two city lots adding an additional 93 spaces. While parking demands varied throughout the day, according to the study the maximum spaces occupied was 115 (34%). The study concluded the apartments would have peak parking demands of about 77 vehicles during the overnight hours, which would fall well within the public spaces available.

That finding was a sticking point for several neighbors.

The maximum parking demand was calculated between midnight and 4 a.m. on a weekday without any planned events, but the Arts Plaza is a central location in Gresham that often draws big crowds. Weekly events like the Gresham Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday in the summer and fall, blocks street parking near the proposed development, which would force residents to park elsewhere in downtown. The next-door Mt. Hood Theatre also has significant parking demands, especially during a matinee showing of a kid's movie in the summer.

The appeal hearing will be held sometime later this month —an official date has yet to be set by the city of Gresham. The hope of Baillie and Leslie, who filed the appeal, is to overturn or remand the Design Commission ruling on parking requirements.

"We want them to put in 99 parking units," Leslie said. "I am concerned about the precedence they are setting."

The Arts Plaza Apartments are expected to be completed by the summer of 2023.

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