Les Schwab Tire Centers wants to move its longstanding store on Franklin Avenue near downtown Bend to NE Third Street.
The move would free up more than 3 acres of real estate at the gateway to downtown. It would also displace multiple small businesses on the block of Third Street between NE Clay and NE Burnside avenues.
Les Schwab needs permission from the Bend City Council to make the move because the property it wants to buy sits within the Bend Central District, which lies between the Bend Parkway and Third Street and stretches from Revere Avenue to south of Burnside Avenue. The development code for the district is supposed to encourage dense development and prohibits new retail businesses that are car-dependent, such as dealerships and repair shops.
The block Les Schwab wants to buy is home to Hardy’s Hot Wings and Hamburgers, Truck Toyz and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The potential Les Schwab site is 2.4 acres, according to documents the company filed with the Bend Community Development Department.
Les Schwab has occupied 105 NE Franklin Ave. since 1955, according to the filings, and the shop is among the company’s top 20 in terms of gross sales.
“Les Schwab is loyal to its customers and intends on continuing to serve the established market in this area for the foreseeable future,” the company stated in its filings.
There are two other Les Schwab Tire Centers in Bend. One belongs to the corporation, and one belongs to a member dealer. The company, which began in Prineville and has its headquarters in Bend, has 429 stores in eight states.
Les Schwab has not relocated many of its stores, Chief Marketing Officer Dale Thompson said.
“I think back in 2018, the conversation first arose, there might be a potential for us to consolidate into a smaller footprint. Make it more efficient.”
Les Schwab representatives began talking to city staff members and City Council members last year about the relocation. Greg Blackmore of Blackmore Planning and Development Services sent an email to councilor Bill Moseley explaining that Les Schwab was considering updating the Franklin Avenue store, or a new site, but preferred to move.
The proposal the company submitted last month is to amend the Bend Central District development code so that an automotive use will be allowed at the new Les Schwab location.
Central Oregon Landwatch is familiar with Les Schwab’s proposal for Third Street, said Moey Newbold, urban planning director for the organization. Landwatch created the Bend Central District Initiative to encourage mixed-use development, and in meetings about the Les Schwab proposal suggested ways that it could include current Third Street business tenants, she said. Bend Central District Initiative also pitched Les Schwab on improving pedestrian access across Third Street, so its customers could walk from the shop to downtown, Newbold said. “Nothing in the plans reflect those ideas,” she said.
In its filing, Les Schwab argues that the city should make an exception because its business on Franklin Avenue is in the Bend Central District. If the company is allowed to relocate to the edge of the district, its 3.4-acre property at the gateway to downtown would be available for redevelopment that aligns with the city’s vision.
Les Schwab would probably sell the property on Franklin Avenue, Thompson said. The company has no expectation of how soon the city might approve its applications, he said.
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