From construction on Main Street to light rail, the city has a hefty to-do list

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - The city is working on several projects for downtown, as well as River Terrace and the Tigard Triangle to bring new life to the city.The city of Tigard has big plans for 2014, and it involves construction, planning and getting you to vote.

The next 12 months will see a lot of change, particularly in the downtown area, with work already underway on what is expected to be a nearly year-long construction project to improve Southwest Main Street.

But upgrading Main Street is far from the only thing City Hall is working on this year, said Liz Newton, Tigard’s assistant city manager. There are several projects in various stages of development, such as the city’s water partnership with Lake Oswego, which is currently being constructed in West Linn.

“We’re building, building, building,” Newton said.

Get out the vote

By far the biggest issue in front of residents this year will be the fight over the Southwest Corridor Plan, the study which could bring MAX light rail or rapid bus service to Tigard in the next several years.

The city, along with Metro, the county, TriMet and others has been working on the plan for years, but residents put a measure on the upcoming March special election ballot, which if passed could have serious repercussions for the plan.

The city would formally oppose any high-capacity transit project and would be required to send a letter to various public officials each year notifying them of the policy. It would require a public vote before the city could amend its land-use plans or regulations to accommodate such projects.

The project has other elements to it as well, including constructing new bike paths, bringing in new development and preserving natural areas.

The city has already started to spread the word about what passage of the measure could mean for the city. The city’s newsletter, Cityscape, has said that it would effectively tie city officials’ hands and stop city planners from even looking into the idea.

Kenny Asher, the city’s community development director, said the city plans to do more to educate the public about the effects of the measure. Plans are already in the works to hold public meetings in February.

“We will be putting out as much information as we can for voters, to provide them with as much material as we can so they can make an informed decision in the ballot box in March,” Asher said.

Tigard leaders aren’t the only ones interested in the vote. A forum about the topic was held Wednesday night by the Washington County Democratic Party after The Times’ press deadline.

As Tigard waits to see the election results, the city will continue its planning, Asher said, including beginning a two-year-long environmental impact study to review how possible alignments will affect the area.

“That study answers all of the questions that anybody would have of what happens if we put it here, or there,” Asher said.

Opposite ends of town

Two parts of town the city hopes to bring new urban development to are polar opposites: The blossoming River Terrace and stagnating Tigard Triangle.

River Terrace, more than 200 acres of undeveloped land along Roy Rogers Road, was annexed in 2012, and the city is currently planning how the city’s newest neighborhood will be built.

“We are deep in the throes of financial options,” Newton said. “When you do something like this, you are looking to serve it with sewer and water and parks. When somebody develops the property, some of that is their resonsibilty. We are putting the puzzle together now of what is a broader investment that the city makes and what the developers will make.”

Residents likely won’t see homes built in the area this year, but behind the scenes, the city is preparing for new streets, sewer lines, water services, planning parks and other necessities, which will be included in the area.

The lion’s share of that work is expected to be completed by summer, Asher said.

On the other end of town lies another challenge: the Tigard Triangle.

Wedged between Highway 217, Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway, the Tigard Triangle is home to much of the city’s big-box reputation. Costco, WinCo Foods and a new Walmart, which will be built this year, are all within walking distance from one another.

But the area has stagnated for years, with little development in the area, and Asher said he wants to find out why.

“What is inhibiting more development from happening in the Triangle? Once we have a good handle on that, what are the things that the city can change?” Asher said. “Let’s change them.”

After downtown and River Terrace, the Triangle is the next section of town that could use attention, Asher said.

“The planning that is going on there is pretty intense,” he said. “When you consider that they are getting this really focused look from us, and the Southwest Corridor has stations proposed for the Triangle, there is a lot of planning for a very different kind of place — one with a lot more going on.”

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