By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

Chuck Arnold’s experience in downtown Bend counted for a great deal in landing him a job in Redmond, but the similarities end at the city lines.

For one, he trades the title executive director for another: economic development urban renewal project program coordinator.

“It’s the longest municipal title in the state of Oregon,” said his new boss, Heather Richards, Redmond community development director. “We’re super excited to have him.”

Arnold worked nine years in Bend for the Downtown Bend Business Association, which administers money collected from a special assessment of about 85 downtown property owners. From organizing special events like the Bend Oktoberfest to putting up flower baskets to beautify city street corners, Arnold had a hand in virtually all public aspects of downtown Bend.

“The key thing I’m really excited about going forward for downtown Bend is that we have a new economic improvement district that just got reauthorized last month,” with 100 percent support from property owners, he said. “That pays for 60 percent of what we do to keep downtown vibrant.”

Even during the Great Recession, Arnold said, Bend managed a vacancy rate downtown under 10 percent.

In Redmond, he’ll work directly for the city. Redmond administers an urban renewal zone created in 1995 and funded by a share of property taxes. Part of the motivation for property owners to support the plan is that increased investment and success spurs higher property values, said Redmond City Manager Keith Witcosky.

The city updated its plan, which lists $93 million in improvement projects, in 2011, Richards said.

“(Arnold’s) job is really to implement our urban renewal effort,” she said.

Redmond suffers from a high vacancy rate for downtown property and little or no investment for years to improve those properties or build new ones. The urban renewal zone encompasses about 700 acres in downtown from Veterans Way to NW Maple Avenue.

“The private market doesn’t support new construction, pro forma,” Richards said. “Lease rates are not generating enough income to build a building.”

The urban renewal fund also serves to leverage private investment in downtown by providing bridge funding for some projects in the form of low-interest loans or forgivable grants. The city is undertaking its own catalyst projects, such as relocating City Hall to open up the existing site for private development. Another is to stimulate private development around a medical district anchored by St. Charles Redmond.

“Chuck has great knowledge of urban renewal,” Richards said. “He has contacts, regional and statewide, but the piece that really sets him apart is he has the passion for it. This is the type of job where you need the passion to make it happen.”

Arnold starts with Redmond in September; his new job will pay $75,216 annually, Witcosky said. He said the job pays more than Arnold earned in Bend, but the lure of the job accounted for as much as money in the overall equation. New people, new challenges, new opportunities, “it totally refreshes your batteries,” Witcosky said.

Jim Peterson, vice president of the Downtown Bend Business Association and the owner of Mockingbird Original Fine Art Gallery, said Arnold will be tough to replace. He recalled days in which Arnold went from behind his desk one minute to the next minute shoveling snow on a downtown sidewalk while simultaneously fielding visitors’ questions.

“I was amazed how committed he is to being available in the community for business owners and building owners,” Peterson said. “He knows who he needs to know, and found ways to make things happen.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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