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Businesses transit mall bill may grow

Property owners must decide whether to kick in more for project

Property owners along the downtown transit mall will begin talking this week about increasing their contribution to the $206 million-plus renovation project scheduled to begin next year. The talks are part of an effort by TriMet to increase the project by $9.1 million.

Unless a substantial number of the owners object, the City Council could vote in November to increase the property owners' contribution from $19 million to $21 million. The money will be collected though a Local Improvement District the council already has created to help fund the project that will add a new light-rail line through downtown.

The council also is considering increasing the city's contribution to the project by around $3 million, with the money coming from the Portland Development Commission, the city's urban renewal agency. TriMet, the regional mass transit agency, already has agreed to spend approximately $3 million more on the project.

The discussions among the property owners will be led by Scott Andrews, president of Melvin Mark Properties and chairman of the Mall Management Group, a project advisory committee of downtown business leaders. According to Andrews, the group believes the additional spending will make the mall more rider- and pedestrian-friendly.

'We've had a few preliminary discussions and so far no one has objected, but the real discussions are starting now,' Mark said.

Under city policies governing local improvement districts, the council can approve the increase unless at least 60 percent of the property owners in it formally object.

The mall renovation is part of a $557.4 million project that also will run a new light-rail line along Interstate 205 to Clackamas Town Center. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to pay 60 percent of the total costs, approximately $334.4 million. The additional funds must be secured by November.

The city already has committed more than $55 million to the project, including the $19 million LID contribution, $17 million in parking meter fees, $10 million from the PDC and $1.3 million in Transportation System Development Charges.

The additional $9.1 million would fund the following items: brick intersections in the central mall, $1.2 million; additional sidewalk replacement, $1 million; wireless Transit Tracker system, $900,000; brick intersections to Southwest Market Street, $900,000; brick sidewalks to Southwest Market Street, $800,000; closed-circuit TV monitoring system, $700,000; full patching and repaving of Fifth and Sixth avenues, $700,000; new trash cans, benches and other fixtures, $600,000; additional lighting and refurbishments, $600,000; additional tree grates and landscape maintenance, $600,000; enhanced drop-off zone at St. Mary's Academy, $300,000; enhanced bicycle facilities, $300,000; additional pruning, $300,000; and Pioneer Courthouse Square road improvements, $200,000.