Urban renewal funds could aid instrastructure, pedestrian bridge, officials say
Sherwood city planners say improved high-speed internet service, a walking bridge over Highway 99W and a festival plaza in downtown could soon be a reality, under a new plan currently in the works at City Hall.
The city is in the process of creating an urban renewal plan — a way of distributing tax dollars that allows the city to fund projects it otherwise couldn't.
Urban renewal plans change how existing taxes on a property are paid. Property values in a designated area are frozen, and tax revenue collected above the property value is pooled into a special fund, which can be used on projects in the area. City leaders says urban renewal plans aren't a new tax, but a different way to distribute taxes property owners currently pay.
The plan may seem complicated, but city leaders say it opens the city up to projects it has planned for years. Currently, funding for such projects come from two sources; the city's general fund and charges to developers to offset the costs of increased traffic on city service.
In all, the city hopes to fund 18 infrastructure and economic development projects at numerous locations throughout the city, according to Sherwood city officials. Those plans include a festival plaza that would transform a gravel parking lot across from City Hall for festivals and events. The site once housed the Robin Hood Theatre.
Other projects include adding roads and other infrastructure to the Tonquin Employment Area, located on the east side of 124th Avenue. Bruce Coleman, Sherwood's economic development director, said Trammell Crow is in the process of building five buildings on the southwest corner of Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road and 124th Avenue in Sherwood, but basic services such as utilities and roads are needed to attract future developers. There is tremendous interest to build in that area, he said, but the city needs help with infrastructure there.
"From an economic development view, this is critical," Coleman said of the planned urban renewal projects. "Urban renewal is one of the only real tools out there that you can use to facilitate infrastructure development, which of course is the basis for creating new corporate parks (and) business parks. This is really a very important mechanism for us."
A new pedestrian bridge linking Sherwood's new high school with the Sherwood Family YMCA is also in the works, Hakduk said.
Mayor Keith Mays recently wrote to Oregon legislators asking for $4 million in state funding for the 630-foot-long, 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge, which is estimated to cost $11.5 million.
"We're still counting on some money from the Legislature but that's not going to get us all the way there," Hajduk noted, adding that urban renewal funds will help make up the difference.
Also on the books is improving broadband internet service in the city.
"It's particularly important as we see people continue to work remotely and maybe in hybrid work," said Coleman. "I think that's going to be really important to our residents and this is a way to help our residents. The businesses are already pretty well accessing broadband."
Another plan calls for extending the Cedar Creek Trail to cross under Highway 99W. This project, part of the original Cedar Creek Trail plan, would allow for bicycle and pedestrian passage. It would also provide a direct connection to the Ice Age Tonquin Trail east and west of the highway. The location would be within the existing stream culvert crossing corridor of Highway 99W.
"What's really unique about urban renewal is this is a plan, but it's also a financing mechanism to implement the plan," said Coleman noted. "There's just not enough revenue of any kind to really build very often the infrastructure that's needed in order to create jobs in a community."
The list of 18 projects aren't prioritized, but there are those the Sherwood City Council would like to see accomplished in the next year or two, according to Julia Hajduk, the city's community development director.
"Certainly, early on, there will be a few projects that we try to do fairly quickly. One is the broadband, the festival plaza and the pedestrian bridge," she said. "But after that it's going to be based on kind of where the needs are the most, leveraging the best thing and it's really going to be based on councils and URA boards going forward over the next 30 years."
The Sherwood City Council approved moving forward with the urban renewal plan during its May 18 meeting.
(This story has been updated to reflect approval of the urban renewal plan by the Sherwood City Council and to correct the location of the Trammel Crow buildings, all of which would be built in Sherwood.)
A virtual open house listing details of all the urban renewal area projects is now available on the city's website, sherwoodoregon.gov. Click on the "URA Virtual Open House" tab.
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