For years, the city of Bend’s industrial land in the northeast part of town — Juniper Ridge — has failed to attract buyers and developers. Now, the city wants to understand why.
Last week, the Bend City Council appointed seven people with a combined background in finance, real estate and industrial land development to the Juniper Ridge Management Advisory Board, which was created in December to identify barriers to development at the 1,500-acre area on the northeast edge of Bend.
“Essentially, there was a vision for Juniper Ridge, and arguably that vision has not come to fruition,” Bend City Councilor Justin Livingston said Friday. “So we’re asking: What are the barriers that are holding that back? Is it development code and zoning? Why aren’t we getting the land sales?”
The committee is city leadership’s newest attempt to make progress on a property that has been plagued by financial and logistical challenges. For years, Bend leaders have struggled to get developers interested in building on the industrial land that was bought by the city in 1990.
In the beginning, the land was envisioned as the home to a university, a business park, trails, parks and hundreds of homes.
But Oregon State University-Cascades decided to build in southwest Bend. And outside of the existing facilities for companies including Les Schwab Tire Centers, Suterra Corp. and Pacific Power, the site remains largely undeveloped and home to several homeless camps.
“The vision needs to be readdressed,” Livingston said.
For the next two years, this committee will be charged with reviewing existing regulations on the site and suggesting ways to remove impediments to development to the City Council.
They will also be allocated $50,000 — which will be paid out of the revenue from previous land sales — to conduct market feasibility studies that would assess whether the suggested changes would be effective.
“We’re trying to answer: Why haven’t we had more people wanting to go out there?” Livingston said. “Are we being too restrictive?”
Ultimately, the committee is expected to create an in-depth plan for continued development that would coincide with a major sewer line project that will eventually run through Juniper Ridge.
But the committee is still likely to run into major roadblocks, said Oran Teater, a former Bend mayor who was heavily involved in the initial planning for Juniper Ridge.
While some topographical and zoning issues are surmountable, until it’s improved, the intersection at Cooley Road and U.S. Highway 97 will remain a central impediment to development, Teater said.
“We knew that initially when we started this project in (the) mid-1990s. But since then traffic has been a bigger problem,” Teater said.
“I don’t think we dug deep enough with issues with infrastructure when we put this together,” Teater continued. “If I ever went back in time, I’d say … we should have looked at what it really would cost us to get those properties ready to go.”
The committee will have its first meeting later this month.
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