Mayor: Tualatin's state of city looks promising
Tualatin largely dodged many of the devastating financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, is focused on creating access to affordable living space and hopes to form an urban renewal zone to attract more business to the city.
Those were some of the high points Mayor Frank Bubenik touched on Wednesday evening, May 12, during a virtual Tualatin State of the City address.
The evening was broadcast live on TVCTV Channel 28 and Facebook, moderated by former Portland television anchor Eric Schmidt.
After a prerecorded segment highlighting accomplishments of the city over the year — siting a Veteran's Memorial at Tualatin Commons, working on a climate action plan and the annexation of 65 acres in the Basalt Creek area — Schmidt took questions submitted by the public, posing them to Bubenik.
One involved the fate of the long-vacated Haggen Food & Pharmacy store off of Tualatin-Sherwood Road.
Bubenik said one possible solution would be to create an urban renewal zone so that infrastructure such as roads, sewer and water make the area more attractive for development.
"If we could revitalize that whole area and think something like an Orenco Station on steroids, where you have multi-use buildings, where you have commercial retail on the first floor and possibly housing on the floors above that," he said. "Make it walkable. You have easy connections to transit."
(Orenco Station is a pedestrian-friendly planned urban town center in Hillsboro.)
The city recently began discussion about forming an urban renewal zone in Tualatin's downtown core and is looking around Bridgeport Village shopping center as well.
"Most folks think downtown too often is Bridgeport and it's not," Bubenik emphasized. "It's supposed to be around the Commons. Let's create that with maybe an urban renewal zone and re-envision that whole area and make it terrific … a place that people want to come and hang out and live."
In response to a question about the Basalt Creek area plan, Bubenik said the city recently annexed land south of Horizon Christian School (along Boones Ferry Road) down to about Day Road for a variety of different housing projects.
"That will be residential land so it will be a variety of different housing types, primarily detached single family homes, but there will also be townhomes, and we're excited that Community Partners for Affordable Housing (or CEPA) has bought some acreage down there and they will be putting in affordable housing of approximately 110 units," he said about construction that could begin there next year.
Bubenik noted the project will be unique in that there will be multi-bedroom affordable units designed for families, noting it would help out the market that currently has single-family homes with price tags of between $400,000 and $500,000, making them unattainable for many people.
"So just figuring out how to get that constructed, and up and running would be terrific for Tualatin because we don't have anything like that … in our city. Beaverton and Tigard do, so it would be nice to have a facility that like that for our residents, and for people in the region," he said.
He said once the Basalt Creek area is built out, that will be the end of available residential land in the city.
Asked about how Tualatin has fared during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bubenik said the city has largely escaped any large financial consequences related to the pandemic, saying the city's budget director developed a budget that's about 5% less than it was last year.
"Hotel taxes are down. Business permitting is down," said Bubenik. While big development projects were put on hold, many smaller projects continued to develop throughout the pandemic, he added.
Bubenik said the city hopes to continue some special programs that resulted from the pandemic, such as a holiday lights car parade and several popular virtual programs.
"Most of those programs will probably continue," he said, adding that finding funding is always an issue. "But you know, we'll hunt that money down because we knew they were super popular."
Bubenik said that some of the canceled events from last year, such as "Viva Tualatin," might return this year, but won't happen until the state lifts restrictions on large gatherings.
"So until restrictions are lifted, what city staff are looking at is maybe having a series of smaller Viva Tualatins in different areas of the city," he said.
Asked if the city had taken a position on the recent rash of hate crimes against Asian Americans throughout the country, Bubenik said the City Council denounced such actions through a recent proclamation. Recently, he said he was shocked to hear an Asian American woman describe to him how she was verbally abused inside the Tualatin Fred Meyer store.
"Her family's been here for four generations and the guy just went off on her," the mayor recounted. "She let him finish, then said, 'Are you done?' He said 'yeah.' She was very polite just walked away but it devastated her and we can't have that happening in Tualatin. You know, we're a diverse community and we need to honor diversity."
Ten to 15 years from now, Bubenik said he would like to see a city with decreased traffic congestion.
"I'd love to attract more families to Tualatin, have a wide variety of housing types at different price points. I'd like to continue to be one of the best places to conduct business. I'd like to attract businesses to the city that provide family-wage jobs," he said. "And that we continue to be a diverse community that respects all different cultures, and that we all work together to make us one of the best cities in Washington County, if not the state of Oregon."
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