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A growing number of developers, business owners are exploring TOD projects, with TriMet on the case.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: FILE PHOTO - Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program is designed to help create vibrant downtowns and centers through public-private partnerships, investments and incentives in developments near transit.

Since construction of Portland's first MAX line began in 1982, transit-oriented development (TOD) has evolved to include higher densities, a mix of uses, and robust opportunities for developers and business owners in communities along the light rail lines.

Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of business planning and asset management, pointed to development at Northeast Seventh and Holladay in Portland's Lloyd District as an example of the lure of a transit station. "Developers specifically said they were going in that location with a large mixed-use project, incorporating retail and housing, because of the Northeast Seventh Avenue MAX station," he said.

When TriMet builds a light rail line, it must purchase not only the land for it, but land around it that will be needed for or impacted by the construction. TriMet still owns parcels that date back to the construction of the first MAX line and some of those sites are still undeveloped. The agency is working with two commercial real estate brokers to market those sites, and expects about $20 million through the sales of seven properties currently under contract to conclude this year.

As a condition of the sale, the buyer must commit to developments that support transit use through design that orients entrances and exits toward a nearby MAX station and encourages as many different uses as possible, including mixed-use with retail or offices on the street level and housing in the levels above.

A few of the property transactions TriMet expects to close this year are the Butler Block at Southwest 18th and Salmon, which will house ground-floor retail space and 180 apartments, and Roberti at 2425 S.E. Eighth Avenue, which will become 80,000 square feet of industrial office space. Pershing, a four-story building at Southeast 17th and Pershing, will provide 71 apartments. TriMet also is developing property at Southwest Fourth and Lincoln in partnership with Portland State University.

With the upcoming Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project, TriMet and its partners have entered a memorandum of understanding to evaluate any excess properties for suitability as mixed-use TOD that could include up to 950 units of affordable housing. Project partners are also participating in the Southwest Equitable Development Strategy (SWEDS), an inclusive effort to maintain and increase the supply of housing for diverse families of all incomes, in coordination with other economic and workforce development strategies in the corridor, according to TriMet.

"Having affordable units in the mix is becoming the new normal for all new residential developments in the city of Portland," said Nick Stewart, TriMet's real estate manager. "Private developers are seeing the benefit of having that diverse mix of incomes in their developments as well as active ground-floor uses and a range of mobility options, including transit, available to their customers right out the front door."

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Business Tribune.

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