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Reliable Credit has created an outcry in Milwaukie over the company’s plan to demolish longtime Main Street businesses to expand its parking lot.


Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Main Street bustles with commercial activity in an area that Reliable Credit is proposing to raze for a parking lot.The proposal has people scratching their heads since both Reliable Credit employees and downtown shoppers rarely have trouble finding parking. Many downtown business owners would like to see Milwaukie turn more into a vibrant shopping district such as Hawthorne Boulevard where parking issues take a backseat to higher density urban development and the commercial success that comes with it.

Wendy Wagner was among the many local residents who were “sickened” to learn of the company’s plan that passed a review of the Planning Commission last month. After living in Southeast Portland for 12 years, she said she would have never moved two years ago if she hadn’t seen downtown

Milwaukie as charming and pedestrian-friendly.

“If I wanted to look at another ugly parking lot, I would have moved to Beaverton or Gresham — or even filthy, stinky 82nd Avenue,” Wagner wrote in an open letter to city officials. “I hope there’s a way to keep our town from turning into just another faceless, repellent suburb. Perhaps Reliable Credit should take a page from so many local businesses: encourage their employees to take the region’s world-class mass transit. After all, they’re going to be sitting on top of the brand new MAX line.”

Reliable Credit purchased the buildings at 1915 S.E. Harrison St. and 10605 S.E. Main St. in 1997 and now intends to demolish the commercial building containing the Wind Horse Coffee Shop and the Canby Asparagus Farm Casa de Tamales Restaurant for almost 10 years in order to build an additional 13 parking spaces. Three other business have more recently found homes on the block.

Charles Maes of Casa de Tamales invested $30,000 into the family business just for air conditioning, and there are many other business investments along the block that wouldn’t be recovered if the building is demolished.

“We are concerned about the fact that these building could be coming down, and the city should be working with them on the parking issue so they have some space elsewhere or to create incentives so they don’t drive,” Maes said.

Mayor Jeremy Ferguson has been assuring the public that the company’s president is working with the city on exactly those issues. (Ferguson is no longer mayor as of 4:55 p.m. Tuesday.) With the Moving Milwaukie Forward land-use codes set to go into effect in the next year, downtown property owners won’t be able to make such proposals.

“Lee Holzman is interested in utilizing the current codes to protect his property rights to develop a parking lot, but he’s not about to bring in a wreaking ball,” Ferguson said. “Milwaukie is engaging in meaningful conversation to address his parking concerns should the need arise.”

Both the Historic Milwaukie and Island Station neighborhood associations wrote letters urging the Planning Commission and City Council to reject the plan. Island Station resident and former State Rep. Carolyn Tomei said that she’d certainly prefer a parking garage to surface parking, but she’s opposed to Reliable Credit’s plan.

“Especially with light rail coming in, when we’re going to need more services, and there’s no reason to tear down a successful coffee shop and restaurant,” Tomei said.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Charles Maes of Casa de Tamales is among many Milwaukians who are upset over a plan to turn Main Street businesses into a surface parking lot.On Dec. 1, Milwaukie’s Design and Landmarks Commission reviewed the application that included a revised design proposal with ornamental light fixtures and a low seat wall along the site’s Main Street frontage.

“Although other downtown parking areas do not have this ornamental lighting, those lots were developed prior to the adoption of the Downtown Design Guidelines,” said Milwaukie Associate Planner Vera Kolias. “Ornamental lighting that is consistent with the Downtown Design Guidelines, on the street side of the parking lot rather than the west side, would be more attractive and would provide lighting for both employees using the parking lot and pedestrians on the adjacent sidewalk.”

Reliable Credit then received the Planning Commission’s Downtown Design Review approval for an employee parking lot that would result in a total of 34 spaces and associated landscaping, lighting, and stormwater facilities. A minimum of 44 parking spaces are required for that size of office use, but up to 74 spaces are allowed.

Demolition could result from an administrative permit that would be issued by the city’s building official and is not subject to any further review by the city.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Meanwhile, many of Reliable Credit's parking spaces sit empty Friday morning.

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