City Council to examine goals to optimize use of land

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cheryl Twete, the city of Beaverton's community development director, stands atop the Beaverton Building with the former Westgate Theater property over her shoulder. With the city of Beaverton’s in-progress move of its administrative offices to The Round expected to inject new energy into the complex, city officials are fine-tuning their focus on a transformation of vacant property just west of the Beaverton Building.

The former Westgate Theater property, long considered a missing link in the structure of The Round complex, has been discussed as the leading site for the Beaverton Community Health Collaborative, a proposed collaborative clinic geared toward the city’s medically underserved population. While that remains the case, city planners are moving more in the direction of a mixed-use facility with one or more structures that could include the clinic, retail and residential space and even a hotel and performing arts center.

Cheryl Twete, the city of Beaverton’s community development director, said her office is “stepping back” and “looking more holistically” regarding the best uses for the 4.3-acre property, which the city owns in conjunction with Metro regional government. The goal is to move away from building the health facility as an anchor tenant surrounded by a sea of surface parking.

“What we’re trying to do is activate the whole site sooner,” she said. “We’re moving away from the strategies that were on the table earlier, which is to build the BCHC with a lot of surface parking, then later build it out with development. The problem is, a lot of the time, those later phases don’t happen.”

Future plans for the property are still in the speculative phase until the City Council takes up the issue this fall. Once a direction is established, staff would work with Metro officials and representatives of Skanlan Kemper Bard, The Round’s key developer, to iron out a feasibility plan that fits within the transit-oriented designation of the property.

The city’s Economic Development Department is already working on a separate feasibility study to determine the need for a hotel on the property.

“It’s not quite finished,” Mayor Denny Doyle said. “But a lot of people are interested. If (someone) has a solid project, we want them to come in and talk and see if it fits what council wants to do with (the property). The real shot in the arm is getting City Hall over there.”

Doyle envisions a hotel that could fit into part of the space and complement the other businesses in and about The Round.

“We’re not talking about a real tall hotel, but this is something our downtown really needs,” he said. “It’s not going to take up the whole space. Who knows what we can do working with SKB to attract quality mixed-use development.”

Similarly to the health center only taking up part of the property, Twete noted that a performing arts center, which would likely see only intermittent use, wouldn’t be ideal for dominating the property without residential and retail usages to back it up.

“It could share parking with commercial offices,” she said. “We don’t want a big building there sitting empty. It could also include meeting, conference or some educational space. Another question mark is how well does that kind of use meet the Metro transit development requirements.”

While city officials and the council prepare to reexamine Westgate and the scale of the proposed health center, the city’s Creekside District Master Plan — a comprehensive plan for the area near The Round from Canyon Road north — will also influence how the Westgate property is developed.

“Part of our challenge here, as we complete the Creekside master plan and move forward on its implementation, is how to kind of set the table for the private sector to move forward on what to do at Westgate,” Twete said. “How The Round is developed is an important part of that process.”

With the economy and the real estate market chugging along at a favorable pace, Twete noted this is an ideal time to seize opportunities that could enhance Central Beaverton, including expanded affordable housing options.

“With market conditions strong and favorable, we need to take advantage of these conditions and take advantage of development opportunities to really change the face of our central city,” she said.

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