For years, the city of Bend has tried to encourage redevelopment in its Central District, which sits east of U.S. Highway 97 and stretches to Fourth Street, into a more urban space, with denser, taller buildings that include retail and residential uses.
Now, it appears the district could be getting a development that fits the bill — a five-story building off Franklin Avenue with one floor of retail space and four floors of apartments, according to documents filed with the city by the developer, Brooks Resources.
The proposed development would be the first of its kind if approved, said Allison Platt, a senior planner with the city. The plan is for the development to open its doors by 2024, she said.
“I think they’re making a pretty significant investment that’s in line with the Bend Central District,” Platt said.
The proposed development is at 181 NE Franklin Ave., currently the home of the business Blue Dog RV Bend. The development would include 139 market rate units, which would be a mix of studios, one and two bedroom apartments, as well as more than 7,000 square feet for retail uses on the first floor, said Kirk Schueler, CEO of Brooks Resources.
The development also will include about one parking space per unit, which exceeds the city’s minimum for the area but still considers the city’s general movement toward dedicating less space for cars and more housing, Schueler said.
Schueler said the company purchased the land a few years ago with the intent to build a mixed use building like this. Schueler said the company saw potential in the site because of its proximity to a variety of different businesses and services, and saw the potential for it to be a very walkable and bikeable area.
“We were very much buying into the vision the city had expressed for the area,” Schueler told The Bulletin.
But the area still felt very industrial, Schueler said. Now, between the market for multi-family housing being good and a desire to be “pioneers” in the hopes of catalyzing other development in the central district, the timing is right for the project, he said.
“We’re excited to be a part of the central district,” he said. “That’s basically our motivation right now.”
Another appeal to the area is the city’s plans to improve the corridor along Franklin Avenue to make it more pedestrian-friendly, such as wider sidewalks.
“Ideally, Franklin in that section would become a much more balanced street between pedestrians, bicycles and cars, so that’s a good thing for the residents that will live there,” Schueler said.
The proposed development is in the pre-application stage, according to city records. The developer will be required to hold a neighborhood meeting, which has yet to be submitted to the public record, before submitting an application.
Platt, with the city, said this project is a part of a larger phenomenon of developers being interested in the Bend Central District.
For years, redevelopment in the central district has stalled for a variety of reasons, including the fact that most of the land is owned in small parcels, which makes development hard, and the fact the area feels industrial and unwalkable.
Platt said she believes the new found interest is due in part to the spike in the demand for housing driven by the pandemic. With more people being able to work remotely, the demand for housing in Bend shot up abruptly, raising rents and thus the feasibility for a developer to take more risks on developing more projects.
“It’s still a lot of risk for folks,” she said. “But just the housing crisis is so high and we had our demand for housing increase overnight with COVID.”
Code changes passed last year could also play a part, Platt said. Some of the changes include lowering the minimum requirement for parking, and making housing an allowable use in more zones throughout the district.