By Tyler Leeds • The Bulletin

Opportunity areas

The city of Bend has identified eight opportunity areas ready for redevelopment, one of which is the Central Area. Another opportunity area is being planned through the Central Westside Plan, which drew on community input for a number of months. The remaining six opportunity areas have not yet been studied as closely as the Central Area and Central Westside, though the city anticipates encouraging mixed-use projects in all eight opportunity areas.

The fulfillment of a long-standing plan to encourage growth in the city’s geographic center may be one of the first visible changes brought on by Bend’s urban growth boundary expansion, a prospect eliciting both excitement and trepidation in the burgeoning Makers District.

The plan, which was finished in 2014, was funded by a state grant meant to encourage cities to reimagine centrally located neighborhoods as zones for a mixture of dense commercial and residential uses. Along with new development, the city is committed to making the area friendlier to bikers and walkers, as well as embracing the area’s role as a transit hub due to the presence of Hawthorne Station. The plan, covering what has been dubbed Bend’s “Central Area,” includes the area south from Revere Avenue to the Third Street underpass, from the Bend Parkway east to Fourth Street.

When the plan was presented to the City Council in 2014, no action was taken, as its future was entwined with the ongoing expansion of the city’s urban growth boundary, a line that limits where the city is allowed to expand. The city’s working proposal includes the Central Area as one of eight “opportunity areas,” districts prime for redevelopment. These opportunity areas will be sites of increased density, something required by state law before cities are allowed to grow their footprints. The state’s intent is to limit sprawl and protect rural lands.

Wendy Robinson, a senior planner for the city who led the plan’s development, said the area “has the potential to be an extension of downtown.”

The plan would allow for building heights of up to six stories, with the tallest buildings required to offer a parking garage or similar structure. Unlike today, the area will be encouraged to host apartments and condominiums, with the city anticipating 330 units by 2028. The city’s urban growth boundary expansion is intended to accommodate growth through 2028.

In the long term, Robinson said she anticipates the area holding more than 330 units. In addition to residences, the area is intended to support 480 new jobs tied to both offices and stores. Robinson suggested the area “would be a great place to locate a music venue.”

Third Street won’t likely change anytime soon, Robinson said, as a number of companies do well along that stretch and are unlikely to consider redevelopment schemes. Along First and Second streets, where the Makers District is, Robinson said allowing more flexibility in what type of buildings are permitted, as the plan calls for, could entice change.

“Property is relatively affordable in that area,” she said.

Robinson noted the city has worked to keep the businesses located in the Makers District, which include Humm Kombucha and Bend Velo, informed of the proposed changes.

“They weren’t a part of the project, but I was happy to see they basically wanted to see the same kinds of things we do,” Robinson said.

Mike Ross, the owner of Natural Edge Furniture, located in the Makers District, said he’d welcome better sidewalks, street lighting and safe crosswalks. He also noted growth will likely expand his client base as more people discover the area, which today is made up of buildings originally designed for small industrial operations.

“I really like to look at the positive side of it,” he added, “but the bad side is these kinds of changes mean some of us may be priced out of the neighborhood.”

Ross said “it’s not a matter of being happy or sad” about the plan, “as it’s just how the world changes.”

“In a fast-growing, popular city like Bend, this is what happens,” he said. “We’re happy the city has been listening to us, and we know what the plan looks like going forward.”

While the city has a plan for the Central Area, the details are more hazy for the rest of the city’s opportunity areas. One exception is a plan for the west side, which calls for a mixed-use district near Deschutes Brewery.

Brian Rankin, a city planner overseeing Bend’s urban growth boundary expansion, said the Central Area’s location sets it apart from other opportunity areas.

“It’s right in the geographic center of town, and it could be an extension of downtown,” he said.

In addition to its location, Rankin noted the presence of Hawthorne Station will support those who may want to embrace a car-free lifestyle. The presence of large lots will also be attractive to builders.

“If you compare this to other opportunity areas, this one has the most momentum going forward,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

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