A handful of Bend residents waved picket signs near the Colorado and Simpson roundabout during rush hour for a few days this week, and more than 100 packed a meeting room at the nearby ice rink Thursday.
The reason? A proposed four-story apartment building on a nearly 3-acre property on Colorado Avenue between Shevlin Hixon Drive and the Bend Parks & Recreation District’s Pavilion.
The developer, Seattle-based Evergreen Housing Development Group, hasn’t filed a formal application with the city of Bend, but neighbors began organizing as soon as they learned that Evergreen would hold a required pre-application meeting with nearby residents. Linda May, a longtime resident, has been knocking on doors in her neighborhood, holding meetings at her home and leading small groups who waved signs about the meeting Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Wednesday and Thursday morning.
May said she wasn’t against developing the land in some way — a small hotel, shops, restaurants or offices could fit there, she said. But people in Bend have spent millions making the area “the gateway to Bend,” and a large apartment building would detract from that vision, May said.
“It will stand out like a sore thumb,” she said. “To me, it’s like putting a wolf in the herd of sheep that are already out enjoying the neighborhood.”
Evergreen plans to build 181 total units, 105 of which would be studio apartments.
Another 63 would be one-bedroom apartments; 11 would have two bedrooms, and two would have three bedrooms.
While the proposed apartment building would be blocks from the Oregon State University-Cascades campus, they’re not meant for students, said Andrew Brand, Evergreen’s executive director of development.
“They’re going to be at the highest end of rents in the city,” Brand said. “The studios will probably start somewhere around $1,200.”
There is a demand for studios at that price point in that part of the city, Brand said, because the location is within walking distance of downtown, the Old Mill District and the Deschutes River. If any neighborhood in Bend is walkable, bikeable or busable, this is it, he said.
Most neighbors’ concerns focused on parking and traffic.
Bend as a whole isn’t walkable and doesn’t have reliable mass transit, May said, meaning most, if not all, tenants at the proposed apartments would need cars.
Evergreen would provide 199 off-street parking spaces, split between surface parking and a basement garage. It’s counting on 25 on-street spaces along Bradbury Way and Shevlin Hixon Drive. That’s more parking than the city’s minimum standards require, but nearby residents said their streets are crowded with parked cars because of the proximity to the river.
“They expect the public parking and the neighborhood to absorb the parking,” said Jenny Sheldon, who’s lived nearby for nearly 30 years.
Sheldon, the founder of Pole Pedal Paddle, said she enjoys her neighborhood because everybody there knows everybody else. If a new apartment goes in without plans to alleviate parking and traffic, it will divide the current residents and new people who move in to the apartments, she said.
“What you’re creating is a them and us, and it’s going to cost the neighborhood,” she told Brand at Thursday’s meeting. “You’re destroying neighborhoods is what you’re doing, and it’s really unneighborly and arrogant and wrong.”
The apartments would have one entrance and exit, onto Bradbury Way. From there, residents could turn onto Simpson Avenue, or drive through the surrounding neighborhood to reach other streets.
Evergreen would consider an exit on Colorado Avenue, Brand said, but it may be difficult because the roundabout is so close, Brand said.
He said he was surprised by a “lack of understanding” of Bend’s larger planning process.
Traffic issues are citywide, he said, and one apartment building wouldn’t have the effect nearby residents thought it would.
“Preliminary implications say that our traffic impacts will not be taking any intersections to a worse state than they are right now,” Brand said.
The developer has to complete traffic studies as part of its application, and those studies won’t have to consider the proposed 200 apartments at the former Ray’s Food Place site about a quarter-mile away on Century Drive.
Evergreen expects to submit its application within the next few months and would like to start construction in spring 2019, Brand said.
Nearby residents are preparing to take their concerns to the city, as well. May and Sheldon left Thursday’s meeting talking about how they needed to knock on more doors in the neighborhood and prepare for a long city hearing.
“If we need to keep them until 2 or 3 in the morning, we’ll do that,” May said.
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