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Long-term effort will revitalize area, entice businesses and pedestrians but the project won't unfold overnight

COURTESY PHOTO - Envisioned for the Town Center area are taller, mulit-use buildings. After years of planning and community outreach, the City of Wilsonville's plan to remake Town Center is nearing the finish line.

The City of Wilsonville presented a draft of the Town Center Plan to Wilsonville City Council during a work session Feb. 4 and will showcase the plan to community members at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at City Hall, present it to the Planning Commission at 6 p.m., and may send it to the council for approval in April.

"I think it's a very impressive proposal the way it has come together," said Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp at the work session. "The scope of considerations that have gone into it is really remarkable."

The plan is a blueprint for the City's vision to turn Town Center into a desirable destination with accessible biking and pedestrian infrastructure, open spaces, gathering spots and a "Main Street" that includes three- to four-story mixed-use buildings potentially featuring coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and other amenities.

The City anticipates that parcels with vacant or underused land will begin to be redeveloped and some existing retail and commercial buildings will undergo overhauls within the next 10 years. Main Street will begin taking shape within 10 to 20 years and the fully fleshed out center to materialize beyond 20 years.

To spur economic development, the City listed forging public-private partnerships and studying the possibility of urban renewal and tax abatement programs as potential solutions.

"What we've heard, particularly from developers and folks who have been invested in the process, is having a vision is really important and having the community know what they want is hugely powerful to them," Bateschell told the Spokesman. "That's a huge first piece to people looking to do this.

"Some businesses or projects, they might not pencil out immediately. You'll see (some) wanting to see infrastructure built, one or two projects off the ground."

Creating the Main Street will require extending Park Place south from Courtside Drive to Wilsonville Road. The plan projects the extension to be completed within the next five years and to cost $6.3 million.

"It's going to take a while even though it's a critical component," Bateschell said.

"It will require a partnership with property owners (in Town Center) to get that project moving forward."

The plan outlines the addition of streets and a few greenspaces as well as a bike and pedestrian path system and safer pedestrian crossings throughout Town Center.

"We've increased connectivity. When the plan gets built out, there will actually be more ways to get into Town Center and navigating within Town Center will be easier and have more connections," Bateschell said.

The plan also requires that the maximum building size along Main Street and other mixed-use areas would be 30,000 feet. Certain areas designated for commercial use, though, would be allowed to exceed that figure.

"I think what we're seeing nationally is retail is changing significantly. We're not seeing large retailers as relevant (as they used to be), and they are going into smaller footprint buildings. And at the same token, there's been less growth in the retail sector as a whole and trends in shopping online," Bateschell said.

As for parking, the City plans to develop a Town Center Parking Management Plan. Ideas the plan posits include the potential development of structured parking, untethering parking requirements from developments and reducing parking requirements generally.

Wilsonville Councilor Charlotte Lehan advocated for a more fully realized parking plan during the work session and more emphasis on structured parking.

"I think it's such a critical piece. Any successful densification of areas with this urban style, they've got to deal with parking," she said during the work session. "It seems like it doesn't have a high enough visibility here."

The City also projects that while total commercial and retail square footage will grow modestly in Town Center, office space and residential units will proliferate. The plan estimates that there will be 1,680 residential units and 720,000 square feet of office space when the center is built out.

According to the plan, the City and community organizations may implement programming such as lunch-time food trucks in Town Center Park, art installations and competitions where businesses take over nearby parking spots to highlight their business (such as a restaurant adding outdoor seating) to keep the momentum of the project going after the plan has been finalized and before significant development is underway.

"I worry about the number of plans I've seen that they get all done and they get tied up in a bow but they don't go anywhere after that, and they lose visibility with the people and don't have the same level of urgent enthusiasm," Knapp said.

Bateschell said the City will need the help of the Wilsonville community to realize

the plan that she and other staff members fastidiously crafted.

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