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Taller office and apartment buildings might be allowed in area where light rail may run

UPDATE : AN Open House for the West Portland Town Center will be held this weekend. When: Saturday, April 27, 2019, 10:30a.m. – 2 p.m. (doors open at 10:15 a.m. for registration)

Where: Markham Elementary School, 10531 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219

Will we someday see seven-story apartment buildings where the Barbur Transit Center now stands?

Will the traffic confusion that reigns at the Crossroads be resolved?

Could a major employer develop office space nearby?

What about sidewalks on Barbur Boulevard?

When it comes to the latest effort by the city of Portland to do something truly significant in Southwest Portland, something that will affect tens of thousands of citizens daily, those aren't the only questions.

More to the point: What? Where?

The West Portland Town Center Plan. That's what.

Along and adjacent to Barbur Boulevard near the Barbur Transit Center. That's roughly where.

Following an open house in late April at Markham School to unveil it, details of the plan will now be worked on for the next year and a half by city staff who develop planning projects along with citizen volunteers. It's too soon to predict what it might cost and when such a plan would go into effect.

This isn't the first time Portland has tried to develop a plan for that area around the Crossroads at the intersection of I-5, Barbur Boulevard and Capitol Highway. It's been studied since 1997 and plans have been developed, but nothing's been done.

This time though, there's optimism.

"The West Portland Town Center Plan will be an opportunity to study and develop a plan to address the current dynamics and specific issues of this area," according to Joan Frederiksen, with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

This plan is the offspring of the 2035 Portland Comprehensive Plan, which designates the area near the Crossroads as a Town Center. That means planners will be looking at a center, "anchored by employment centers or institutions, including commercial and community services, offering a wide range of housing options and providing parks or public squares."

The Comprehensive Plan also calls for development of office or apartment buildings of five to seven stories in the West Portland Town Center area. The plan concludes, "The time is now right to consider how to complete this roadway's transformation from a highway to a destination civic corridor for people to live, work, play and learn."

This latest planning push coincides with the proposal for a light rail line which would travel from Downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village in Tigard via Barbur Boulevard through what may someday be the West Portland Town Center.

Still to be determined, says Frederiksen, is exactly where development might occur.

"Once we get a little further into the work and community engagement we will have a better sense of what the final study area will be," she wrote in an email. "Any final plan area boundaries will be determined toward the end of the planning process."

The two neighborhoods likely to end up in the "study area" are West Portland Park, which is south of the Crossroads, and Crestwood, which is northwest of the Crossroads.

This isn't the first time potential development of the Barbur Transit Center has been considered. Six years ago, the future and potential of Barbur Boulevard were studied extensively in the same sort of process. The Barbur Concept Plan found that, "The publicly-owned transit center site presents a major 4.8 acre redevelopment opportunity."

To answer the questions posed at the beginning of this article, six previous studies of the area were examined by the Southwest Community Connection. These are not official answers from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

Will we someday see seven-story apartment buildings where the Barbur Transit Center now stands?

Buildings of that scope and size could be allowed in the West Portland Town Center. In fact, under current zoning regulations, a seven-story apartment house could be built at the site of the Barbur Transit Center because it's bigger than two acres. But such a project would face a number of conditions.

Will the traffic confusion that reigns at the Crossroads be resolved?

One of the goals of the West Portland Town Center Plan is "Addressing Challenges." The Crossroads has been a major planning challenge for decades. ODOT, which has jurisdiction over Barbur Boulevard because it's a state highway, is part of the process. Because I-5 is a federal highway, Washington D.C. will be involved.

n Could a major employer develop a presence nearby?

"Access to good jobs" is one of the goals of the Plan.

n What about sidewalks on Barbur Boulevard?

One of the planners who worked on the Barbur Concept Plan six years ago said at the completion of that process, "High density without infrastructure to support it is just scary."

It's hard to imagine much support for a plan that doesn't include sidewalks, bike lanes and pedestrian safety measures.

www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/78949

Bill Gallagher

Editor

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