Main Street demolition plan draws protests from Milwaukians
Reliable Credit has created an outcry in Milwaukie over the companys plan to demolish longtime Main Street businesses to expand its 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 companys 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 hadnt 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 theres 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 regions world-class mass transit. After all, theyre 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 wouldnt 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 dont drive, Maes said.
Mayor Jeremy Ferguson has been assuring the public that the companys 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 wont 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 hes 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 shed certainly prefer a parking garage to surface parking, but shes opposed to Reliable Credits plan.
Especially with light rail coming in, when were going to need more services, and theres no reason to tear down a successful coffee shop and restaurant, Tomei said.
On Dec. 1, Milwaukies Design and Landmarks Commission reviewed the application that included a revised design proposal with ornamental light fixtures and a low seat wall along the sites 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 Commissions 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 citys building official and is not subject to any further review by the city.