Editorial: Don’t give up on Juniper Ridge

The cruelest thing to happen to Juniper Ridge since the recession would be for Bend to abandon it by selling it as quickly as possible and letting what happens happen. That would bring on uncoordinated sprawl.

The city’s dreams for Juniper Ridge got smashed. Instead of a thriving hub of high-tech jobs, Juniper Ridge is now home only to Suterra, the biopesticide company, and the Les Schwab headquarters.

What’s worse for the city is that there is no money to develop more. Millions in infrastructure work are required. City staff described on Tuesday the city’s own management of the Juniper Ridge development as “headless.” The city also got stung by its attempt to work with a master developer and ended up paying $2.5 million to regain full ownership.

But it would be a mistake to draw the conclusion that it’s all a failure. The recession ground almost everything to a halt. The city does learn from mistakes.

Juniper Ridge could be the jobs future of Bend. It could be transformational. It could be a place where the city can encourage more high-paying jobs that Bend and Central Oregon need.

Bend has only a limited amount of industrial land available without Juniper Ridge. And as Roger Lee, the executive director of the nonprofit Economic Development for Central Oregon, correctly pointed out at a meeting about Juniper Ridge on Tuesday, the area may have less a chance to bring in high-tech businesses if the land is simply sold off and Bend has no control over the space.

It seemed clear Tuesday that a majority of the council doesn’t want the city to be in the development business. They want “a managed exit strategy.” And that sounds sensible.

But as Mayor Jim Clinton put it, the city has a responsibility to find a way to use the resource in a way that most benefits Bend’s long-term future. The city’s strategy should use selection of a developer or developers, zoning and/or development agreements to bring high-paying jobs to Bend. Maybe Bend won’t get a world-class research hub; it certainly won’t get anywhere near that if it doesn’t try.