Big plans unveiled for MultCo's undeveloped Vance property
Plans to transform the largest undeveloped county-owned property in East Multnomah County are taking shape.
County officials recently released a master plan, dubbed the "Vance Vision," which will serve as a high-level guide for developing the nearly 90-acre site into affordable housing, an employment center, a regional park and recreation area.
Located along Southeast 182nd Avenue and 190th Avenue in the Rockwood and Centennial neighborhoods of Gresham, the site is in a racially and ethnically diverse area that has been underserved for decades, officials say.
The property contains a former landfill and an inactive rock quarry that supported county road projects, both of which will require further environmental assessments, monitoring and remediation before development can proceed. Soil contamination at the site doesn't currently pose any safety risks to the surrounding community, officials have said previously.
The property also includes Vance Park and a county Department of Transportation building and materials storage area.
Having grown up across the street from Vance Park, Commissioner Lori Stegmann always wanted to ensure the park would remain a green space for the community, she said during a briefing Tuesday, March 15, to the Multnomah County Board Commissioners about the master plan.
"What I didn't know at that time was the potential that the surrounding properties and accompanying gravel pit would have to become a transformative community asset beyond my wildest dreams," said Stegmann, a former Gresham city councilor whose county district covers East County. "Today, I could not be more happy to share with you that potential."
The master plan lays out a 30-year timeframe for developing the property, with some initial steps occurring within the next several years, said Brett Taute, county project manager for the site.Â The county worked with the consulting firm Cascadia Partners to develop the Vance Vision.
It separates the property into three subareas with distinct development proposals.
Subarea A includes 36-acres on both sides of 190th Avenue, containing the county transportation department's John B. Yeon building and materials storage lot.
The development plans call for the area to become an "employment corridor," creating space for industrial and other employment uses. Street infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians would be installed along 190th Avenue. The county plans to maintain certain areas used for transportation department services.
Additionally, the subarea could serve as a space for the county's animal services division, the plans show. Officials have identified a need for a new location for the division.
Subarea B would include the most community assets, but also it will likely be the most costly and complex to develop.
The area includes the former landfill and rock quarry, as well as portions of Vance Park, including the park's futsal courts and community garden.
Officials plan to turn the 44-acre area into a major regional park and recreation area, complete with vegetated habitats, sports facilities, playgrounds, community gathering areas and trails linking 182nd Avenue with 190th Avenue to the west and Southeast Yamhill Street to the north. Also, the former landfill could be converted into a more passive park with open spaces, the plans show.
The area's topography, including the 25- to 45-foot-high steep slope into the quarry's open pit and the mound created by the former landfill, present challenges but also opportunities for park features, Taute said. Stabilizing and evening the slope, which has long been a safety concern for the county, is a top priority. A fence along the edge of the quarry currently has multiple breaks in it, allowing people to access the dangerous slope.
The project team will seek oversight of the landfill from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, officials said. The county also monitors releases of methane gas created by the compression and decomposition of landfill materials.
Subarea C, which includes the more open areas of Vance Park, would be turned into affordable housing sites with community gathering spaces, the plans show. There's also potential for mixed-use housing developments, Taute said, adding that pedestrian improvements along 182nd Avenue would be installed.
The plans reflect feedback received during a multi-year community engagement process, said Jamie Waltz, director of the county's Department of Community Services.
"With this process, we envisioned how we can develop this piece of property both to support the county needs as well as the community's needs," Waltz said.
Project partners prioritized marginalized groups in their outreach, said Cate Schneider, strategic initiatives manager for the county.
The county formed a Community Leader Group, with 12 members representing the area's marginalized groups and communities of color, to conduct outreach and hold community listening sessions. Two surveys, one for the broader community and another for youth, included more than 800 responses about goals for development. Project partners interviewed community organizations, and the county also held a virtual open house.
Willie Chambers moved to the Rockwood community from North Portland 10 years ago. He now manages the Sunrise Center in downtown Rockwood for the Rockwood Community Development Corporation, which the county worked with on the development plans.
Chambers said he didn't move to the area due to gentrification like many others have, "we came out here because of the potential. Now we're seeing a fulfillment of that."
Downtown Rockwood, located a short walk from the Vance property, has experienced rapid change due to partnerships between the Gresham government, community groups and businesses. Rockwood Market Hall, a 39,000-square-foot market space, is expected to fully open this spring. Also nearby is Rockwood 10, a new 224-unit affordable housing complex managed by Hacienda Community Development Corporation.
"The Vance Vision is really just a continuation of what I've been doing and what we've been doing," Chambers said.
The Vance Vision master plan doesn't include specific cost estimates for the development plans. The property's former uses can "create major capital costs," the plan states. Officials have outlined in the plan several potential funding sources from local, state and federal agencies for short- and long-term next steps.
Commissioners voiced broad support for the master plan Tuesday, March 15. They were not asked to vote to formally adopt it.
Last May, local architect Barry Smith submitted a proposal to the Vance project team to build a Major League Baseball stadium at the site, among other amenities, including affordable housing. Smith has refined that proposal and is now seeking to develop it on several privately owned properties near the Vance property, he told the Portland Tribune. He added that he hopes the county will account for that potential development in its plans for the Vance property.
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