Has Wilsonville's plan to improve Town Center progressed?
In mid-2019, Wilsonville City Council passed the Town Center Plan — a strategy for facilitating redevelopment in the commercial district — with a clear imperative to city staff.
Rather than letting the plan waste away in a file cabinet, the council wanted continual progress.
Fast forward 15 months and the city hasn't made major breakthroughs toward facilitating an attractive hub for housing, commerce and multimodal transportation, but it is hammering out procedural aspects of the plan and will further other objectives in the coming months.
If realized, the city's plan to redevelop Town Center, which is slated to progress over a 20-plus year timeframe, will include fewer parking lots, more pedestrian and bicycle paths, green spaces and boutique restaurants and shops connected to housing and other amenities.
The city's primary focus right now is updating its Transportation Systems Plan so that it can start allocating money from system development charges toward infrastructure projects in Town Center. Some construction projects that will be added to the plan include building Main Street, which will be the centerpiece of the redevelopment, and completing improvements along Wilsonville Road, Park Place and Courtside Drive, among other projects. The city doesn't have a specific timeline for when these construction projects will begin, however, and scheduling will be done following the update, which is slated for completion this fall or winter.
"A lot of them are dependent on what else is going on around them," said Senior Planner Kimberly Rybold. "Some Main Street construction, that's going to take coordination with the property owner there."
Miranda Bateschell, the city's planning director, also said some of these projects will have to be done consecutively rather than in unison.
"Main Street has to go in in order to do intersection improvements along Wilsonville Road. The one triggers the other," she said.
The city will also begin a plan for financing redevelopment following the transportation plan. Considerations like the amount of private investment needed and development fee structures will be determined during this phase, Bateschell said.
Already, city planners said Wilsonville staff has been in discussion with the private sector about the possibilities of a public-private partnership that could spur development there. However, there haven't been any land use applications for redevelopment in Town Center yet. One challenge, the planners noted, is that most of the existing space is occupied.
"When you have an ambitious long-term plan where you're dealing with existing development and systems in place, change is incremental and does take time," Rybold said. "The fact that we're having conversations and interest, only a year out, that's a promising and positive indication there is buy-in on the future vision."
The city will also soon begin crafting a plan to determine standards for streetscape qualities like sidewalks and roads in Town Center. This plan will take about 6-9 months, Bateschell said.
"One of the goals of the Town Center Plan was harmonious design," Bateschell said. "We want a unifying design and palette that brings it all together."
Additionally, the city is in the midst of the public input process for a project to add a bicycle and pedestrian bridge which would land in Town Center. The city is planning to implement a gateway plaza at the Town Center landing and views the bridge as paramount to the overall vision of the plan. The Wilsonville Planning Commission will consider proposals for bridge types and the gateway plaza this month.
Forging a more attractive Town Center could lead to rising property and rent costs for existing businesses and one of the goals of the plan was to provide support for current businesses that could be impacted by the plan. This continues to be the case during a pandemic that has hurt myriad local businesses in town, Bateschell said.
"I think it was always a priority of the plan to not just focus on new development and new businesses but to stay true to existing businesses that the community relies on and have come to know and are important to the fabric of town center," Bateschell said. "I think this (the pandemic) underscores it, how something can come out of the blue and we need to rally around small businesses. That was fundamental in what we heard from the community (during the public input process for the Town Center Plan)."
Despite the pandemic, the city has also not yet faced a slowdown in development applications, which means the planning department hasn't incurred major budget cuts and can continue working on projects unimpeded for the time being.
"We still have a lot of current planning projects, applications coming into the door and still have council direction to work on these longer planning projects," Bateschell said. "From that perspective, it (the pandemic) hasn't slowed us down."
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