Tigard moves forward with refining Washington Square plan
The Tigard city government is continuing with plans to update Washington Square, looking at all aspects of an 827-acre site that also includes portions of Beaverton and unincorporated Washington County.
During a Sept. 22 Tigard City Council study session, Susan Shanks, a Tigard senior planner, said despite delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is on track with its study to update plans for the area that were initially drawn up two decades ago.
"A lot of things have changed in 20 years with how we work, with how we shop ... and also with how we travel. Uber and Lyft were not in existence," Shanks told the council.
Despite that, the physical composition of the area — which is dominated by a mall and an adjacent shopping center — hasn't changed much, and the area hasn't quite reached the vision officials originally had for it, she said.
Shanks said city officials wants to know why that is — if it has something to do with a city program or policy that's preventing the area to move forward with that vision or whether it has more to do with the market forces no one has control over.
The Washington Square area currently is home to 14,456 total jobs.
Shanks said two factors that weren't present when the area was first developed were the current housing demands and climate challenges.
"And last but certainly not least, we really, really need to do a better job at including diverse voices and prioritizing equitable outcomes in our long-range planning project," something the original plan lacked, she said.
Shanks said one consultant in the project, Verde, has been instrumental in reaching out to immigrant communities and those who have been historically marginalized.
At the same time, the Washington Square Regional Center Update Project has undertaken an in-depth residential displacement analysis. What the analysis has discovered so far is that of those who live in the center area, about 22% identify as Black or African American, according to the last census figures, making up almost half of Tigard's Black population, she said.
Shanks said city planners are not approaching the Washington Square Regional Center update the same as the Tigard Triangle, the latter being a complete "do-over" of what was originally envisioned. Rather, it's more of a refinement of the original center plan, she suggested.
The goal of the updated plan is to look at providing more housing, employment and transportation opportunities for that area that would also align with Tigard's strategic plan to become a more walkable, healthy and inclusive city, she said.
"A lot of people work here," said Shanks. "About 1,000 businesses operate here."
Over time, Shanks said the manufacturing and skilled trade sector employment in that area has increased while the technical and professional sector has decreased. Retail businesses remained about the same.
As part of the Washington County Regional Center update project, the city has formed a large stakeholder group that's made up of members of city staff, community organizations, business owners and a consultant team along with representatives from TriMet, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Metro.
Meanwhile, owners of Washington Square have been given land-use approval to redevelop the Sears store, which closed in 2019. Previous plans have included talk about building such amenities as a theater, hotel or smaller restaurants on that site.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.