City plans to move forward with plaza but has questions
The city of Tigard is hoping to move forward with plans to build an expansive plaza in downtown Tigard but first wants to makes sure a secure funding source for maintenance of the facility is in place and that the space is widely used.
On Tuesday night, the Tigard City Council, acting as the Town Center Development Agency Board, directed city staff and designers to continue planning for what's being called Universal Plaza, a large plaza that likely will be built on a 1.18 acre piece of property on Burnham Street already owned by the board. While the site is currently occupied by Ferguson Plumbing, the city hopes to relocate the business before its lease expires in 2024.
On Monday, the board received an update from city staff and Resolve Architects about plans for the plaza, a public space that could be used for such events as concerts, movies and farmer markets. The plaza, still in the preliminary planning stages, would be built adjacent to the Fanno Creek Trail.
"Remember, this is still a concept plan," said Sean Farrelly, the city's redevelopment project manager, "There's still a long way to go."
Lauren Scott, Tigard's community engagement coordinator, told the board that a survey of more than 600 people showed interest in creating a space that includes food carts, ample parking and a splash pond among other features.
Michelle Reese, an urban strategist, said downtown Tigard had changed significantly since the council first looked at building a plaza in 2011. She said food-type businesses nearby would enhance the project.
While Councilor Mark Woodard asked about the potential that food carts draw business away from so-called brick and mortar restaurants, Reese explained that her experience with similar projects was just the opposite, noting that "the more restaurants, the better." Woodard pointed out that the area doesn't quite have the needed density for such a venture.
Although Mayor John Cook said he loved the design of the plaza, whose tentative plans call for a space that could hold 900 people for special events along with room for a farmers market containing up to 80 booths, he had concerns about how to activate the site.
He also expressed concerns about trying to get the public to understand how the project would be funded, especially after voters rejected an operating levy last May. The funding source would be through the City Center Urban Renewal District tax increment along with $1.3 million from a previously approved parks bond.
Other concerns included how to justify maintenance expenses in lieu of recent budget cuts that tighten maintenance in general at the city's parks and recreation spaces.
"If we solve this issue, we can move forward," Cook said.
Councilor Jason Snider suggested that the city look at engineering the plaza so it would need less maintenance and Councilor John Goodhouse suggested finding a creative way to finance the project other than looking solely at using the city's general fund.
Kenny Asher, the city's community development director, said his department would come up with a business plan to see how the plaza could generate revenue and get back to the board.