CenterCal pitches revised Mercantile plan to Lake Oswego neighbors
After nearly a year of development work, representatives from California-based CenterCal Properties hosted a second neighborhood meeting last week to answer questions about a proposed redevelopment of the Providence Mercantile Center.
The project planned for the intersection of Kruse Way and Boones Ferry Road has changed significantly since the first meeting a year ago, when the developers pitched a commercial center anchored by a large grocery store. Those plans were met with some criticism, both from neighbors who felt another grocery store would be unnecessary and from the City of Lake Oswego, which hopes to see high-density housing built on the site.
"That has caused us to change our approach," CenterCal Development Manager Alec Paddock told the crowd at the March 1 meeting.
The new version of the project features a four-story building with 225 apartments on one side of the site and a mix of restaurant and retail spaces on the other. The ground floor of the primary building would be devoted to retail spaces and a retail parking garage, with apartments and residential parking on the floors above.
Paddock was joined at the meeting by Steve Wells from the residential development company Trammell Crow, which is partnering with CenterCal on the project, and Kurt Schultz from the design firm SERA Architects.
Schultz told the crowd that the overall site will take inspiration from Italian Renaissance architecture, one of the styles permitted by the Lake Grove Village Center overlay. The designers view the site as a modern take on the kind of "piazza festival street" that one might see in Italy, he said, with large walkable spaces and landscaping features.
Aside from an entry-only ramp into the retail garage from Kruse Way, the only vehicular entrance and exit for the retail portion of the site will be along Mercantile Drive on the south side, aligning with Hallmark Drive. However, the Boones Ferry Road side of the site will be designed to allow numerous pedestrian access points and appear open and inviting from both sides of the buildings, Schultz said.
The site will also feature a glass "retail pavilion" on the Boones Ferry side, he added.
Although the apartment building will be four stories, it won't appear to be that tall when viewed from Kruse Way, Schultz said, because it will be built into the slope of the site, putting the base of the building 15 feet below the road. There will also be a required 20-foot setback along Kruse Way with landscaping.
The building will "step down" along the length of the site in order to match the downward slope. It will be further broken up by a series of indentations along the Kruse Way side, Shultz said, all of which is intended to make the structure look less monolithic.
"It breaks up the scale so it's not just the one building all at the same height," he said.
The ground-level retail garage will be hidden from view by the slope of the site, and the upper levels will all be inside the apartment building, which will wrap around the central garage. The design from a year ago had featured an open-air parking garage above a grocery store, and neighbors had expressed concerns about light pollution.
"You're never going to see this structured parking garage," Schultz said. "It's completely hidden by the housing."
Schultz declined to offer estimated rental prices for the apartments, but he characterized the units as "market-rate luxury apartments" and said they would likely cost roughly the same or slightly less per square foot than the apartments in the nearly completed Windward project in downtown Lake Oswego, which are leasing now for between $1,648 and $6,917.
"They'll be relatively larger compared to some of the micro-units you're seeing in downtown Portland," he added.
The Mercantile Center also includes a small section of undeveloped land on the far side of Mercantile Drive, but Shultz said the group has no plans to develop that area as part of the project, especially since a significant portion of it is protected wetland.
The City's plans for the area do call for a pedestrian bridge through the site to connect Mercantile Drive with Harvey Way, and Schultz said the City could require CenterCal to build that bridge as part of the project. But he said the company is not eager to do so.
"We don't want to do that crossing," he told neighbors at the meeting. "If you don't want it, help us talk them out of it."
During the subsequent Q&A, several neighbors said they didn't like the bridge idea either and were glad to learn that the company opposes it. Several of the meeting attendees also commended CenterCal for listening to community feedback and updating its designs.
But there were still some concerns, the most common of which involved traffic near the site and the perceived uniformity of the buildings. Several neighbors said the efforts to break up the main building were insufficient, and that it would still look monolithic when viewed from Kruse Way. They also asked about creating more variation between the buildings and blending them in more with their surroundings.
And there were concerns about the architectural style.
"I love Italian Renaissance architecture," said one attendee. "In Italy."
Schultz and Paddock said they were constrained by the Lake Grove overlay rules, but stressed that the plans are still very early in the design process and can be updated to respond to concerns about the appearance.
"We do want to have some warmth and color in the building," Schultz said. "It's not going to be a monotone."
Paddock said the company is currently in the midst of an extensive traffic study, which will include several intersections in the surrounding area. But because residential spaces tend to create less traffic than retail, he said, the current proposal should generate less traffic than the original retail center concept.
In fact, he said, preliminary estimates show that traffic from the proposed mixed-use development would not exceed the level of traffic that has been generated by its predecessor, even when the Providence Mercantile Center was fully occupied.
Schultz also pointed to the higher-than-required number of parking spaces in the company's plan as proof that the group is serious about minimizing traffic impacts. The extra spaces will allow for additional restaurants on the site, Paddock said, which will bring in more visitors than at a retail-heavy location.
Paddock also stressed that CenterCal plans to continue as the long-term owner and operator of the property after construction is finished, which means the company will serve as the landlord and have the ability to restrict retail delivery times in order to ease traffic impacts.
One audience member urged the group to make sure the design accounts for The Springs at Lake Oswego, a senior living facility currently under construction on the other side of Kruse Way. Paddock replied that the focus on pedestrian access could help make the CenterCal development a destination for The Springs residents.
"I think our project is going to offer an excellent complement to that project," he said.
A few audience members, including City Councilor John LaMotte, urged CenterCal to consider including affordable units in the project. Wells replied that the companies would be happy to discuss the possibility, but said the high cost of the project would likely make it impossible.
The group estimated a project timeline of roughly three years from the current point in the design process: 18 more months for planning and City approval, a groundbreaking in 2019 and then 18 months of construction, with a completion date in 2021.