Proposed development code changes would make key streets in a central Bend area targeted for higher density more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.
As part of its most recent proposal to annex about 2,380 acres outside city limits, Bend had to show a state commission how it would grow up, as well as out.
The Bend Central District, a 206-acre area that extends south from Revere Avenue to railroad tracks between the parkway and 4th Street, is one area the city identified for higher density.
As it redevelops, the Central District will feature taller buildings, up to eight stories on some streets.
People could live and work in the district because it encourages mixed-use buildings, with business on the ground floor and apartments above.
“The idea behind putting the Bend Central District zoning on there is to encourage types of development that don’t exist already,” Bend planning manager Colin Stephens said.
Encouraging more density in the area also requires making space for pedestrians and bicyclists to get around. An original plan for the district called for bike lanes on most streets in the district, but the code changes scheduled for a public hearing during a Feb. 7 Bend City Council meeting will instead call for cyclists and cars to share the road, at least on 2nd and 4th streets.
Shared-lane markings, or sharrows, are planned in the center of each of the two lanes.
Sharrows, typically a white bicycle topped by two arrows painted onto the road, remind drivers to pay attention to cyclists and show cyclists that they should be driving in the center of the lane, where they’re more visible to cars and less likely to be hit when drivers open the doors of parked cars.
Having cyclists share the road with cars instead of adding bike lanes allows piecemeal redevelopment of the area, city transportation engineer Robin Lewis said. The two streets are between 36 feet and 40 feet from curb to curb, and requiring bike lanes would mean developers would have to move the curb adjacent to their lot and add more underground drainage.
It would disrupt parallel parking on both sides of the street, Lewis said.
“The curb would kind of walk in and out along the curbway, and it would present oddly,” she said. “You’d have cars parked along the curb, but the curb wouldn’t be in the same place.”
Instead, the standards call for wider sidewalks, ranging from a minimum of 15 feet wide to 17 feet wide. Sidewalks in downtown Bend are 9.5 to 10.5 feet wide, and space can get tight with outdoor displays, trees and streetlights, Lewis said.
“The street furniture takes up a little bit of room,” Lewis said. “In the current downtown, there’s just not enough space.”
Wider sidewalks in the central district will provide enough space for that street furniture, along with pedestrians and timid cyclists who feel more comfortable off the street, she said.
Making the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists is a major concern for residents and business owners, said Mike Ross, owner of Natural Edge Furniture and founder of Bend’s Makers District, which runs along 1st and 2nd streets between Olney and Greenwood avenues.
“There’s a lot of dead-end sidewalks, there are few streetlights and there are no bike lanes except for on Olney, which has a great bike lane,” Ross said.
The Makers District is home to many production-based local businesses, where Bend residents make everything from kombucha to outdoor gear to salvaged-wood furniture. It was previously zoned for light industrial purposes, meaning a lot of businesses have workshops in the back and showrooms in the front.
“We’re looking for great solutions to accommodate the growth that we’re seeing and not lose the flavor of the neighborhood,” Ross said.
He said he’s hopeful about improvements to the underpass at Greenwood and Franklin and a parkway overpass for pedestrians, bicyclists and buses on Hawthorne Avenue.
Downtown business owners want the Hawthorne Avenue entrance to the freeway to become a full on-ramp and off-ramp, but state transportation officials say that it’s more likely to close and the city of Bend is interested in extending the road over the parkway but discouraging cars.
Central Oregon LandWatch, a nonprofit organization that works to conserve land in Bend, is leading an initiative to create a community vision for how to transition the mostly-industrial Central District into an urban area. Moey Newbold, LandWatch’s director of urban planning, said the organization wants to find ways to preserve the existing community while making it denser and more walkable.
“We’ve seen it happen in other cities where artists come in, and then developers come in because the artists made it cool, and the artists can’t afford to live there anymore,” Newbold said.
Other changes to the Central District portion of the city’s development code are just small clarifications, Bend senior code planner Pauline Hardie said. The City Council will hold a hearing on these changes, as well as others that would reduce the required amount of open space at apartment complexes near parks and allow property owners to pay a fee instead of building a sidewalk to nowhere, during its regular 7 p.m. meeting on Feb. 7 and changes would take effect toward the end of March if approved.
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