At the beginning of a focus group session for potential improvements to Wilsonville Town Center put on by City staff, most of the five residents in attendance acknowledged that the town center is currently not as inviting as they would like it to be.
But after a two-hour chat with Project Manager Miranda Bateschell, they seemed excited — only wishing the project was projected for completion in the next couple years rather than the next 20.
Based on interactions with the public at community events throughout last summer, an open house and an online survey, the City of Wilsonville presented a "community design concept" outlining the conceptual and visual framework of a Town Center plan at the focus group last week. The focus group, as well as an upcoming open house Feb. 8, is part of a second round of feedback collections.
Wilsonville City Council will eventually decide whether to pass a resolution to update the City's Town Center Master Plan for the first time since 1978 and then would strategize the implementation of individual projects within the plan.
The goals for the plan include providing safe and accessible connectivity, harmonious design, mixed use, community gathering, economic prosperity and environmental stewardship.
The designs outline the addition of a multimodal street network, bike and pedestrian trails, more green spaces as well as more mixed use development to allow for more small, boutique businesses in the town center area.
The City is also considering revamping Southwest Main Street south of Wilsonville Road into a destination spot for pedestrian access as well as a hub for shopping. Under the draft concept, the Main Street area is projected to include mixed use buildings that are three or four stories. Also, more dense development activity along I-5 with less intense development closer to residential neighborhoods could be added.
Attendees particularly liked the idea of an "emerald chain trail" — which would connect existing or future parks via small plazas, green streets and trails.
"The emerald chain, to me, would be really important. Some of the thoughts I had were green spaces and sustainability and not just bulldozing everything down," said one attendee who has lived in Wilsonville for 18 years.
Bateschell says additional connections would cause fewer cars to bunch up in intersections such as the intersection of Wilsonville Road and Town Center Loop West.
"Part of the transportation here is to support more connections, which helps to disperse some of the traffic," Bateschell said. "Whether you're biking, walking or driving, you have more connection points to get where you're going and they're safer."
Attendees also raised concern about parking congestion and access. Bateschell said the City hasn't yet fleshed out a parking plan but offered some insight.
"There's been a lot of discussion around parking. Part of the conversations is just being smart about where we provide it, how it's designed," Bateschell said.
"It's probably going to be a mix of some surface lots, maybe a parking garage in a strategic location, being smarter about shared parking between different businesses with some of these new local streets providing on-street parking so there still is parking right in front of a business but it's designed as part of a right of way, part of the street."
A couple attendees also expressed a desire for an indoor farmers market that would take place all year round, instead of only during the summer like the farmers market in Villebois, while others suggested facilitating the development of other outdoor dining options including food carts.
"We're trying to make sure when we put together the plan and code amendments so that we're providing a space to put some of those things in that people like to see so if someone (a developer) came in with a proposal it would be something we could accept, have space for and have rules around so it's done well," Bateschell said.
One attendee suggested including a grant program that would incentivize businesses to upgrade storefronts to foster a more welcoming atmosphere and Bateschell said the City is working with the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce to gather feedback from businesses.
Though she prefaced that the timeline is uncertain, Bateschell expected some projects related to the plan to be completed in the next 5 to 10 years while the majority of development will come in the subsequent 10 years.
For the most part, Bateschell assumed funding for these projects will come from system development charges and the City's general fund as well as to-be-determined funding mechanisms.
Finally, attendees raised concerns about the additional traffic that could come as a result of the area's improvements and wondered how the City would factor growth into the plan.
"We've been growing for a long time and have been trying to put together smart plans so growth comes in a sustainable way and comes with the least amount of growing pains as possible," Bateschell said.