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Ava Roasteria perks up a former brownfield site in downtown Beaverton

Ava Roasteria is pumping new life into Beaverton's downtown.

The new coffee shop at 4655 S.W. Hall Blvd. is north of the Beaverton City Library on what used to be the site of an abandoned gasoline station.

For years the contaminated site was a source of frustration for neighboring property owners.

Now it's a popular community gathering place and showcase for 'brownfield' redevelopment.

'We've given this site a soul,' said Amy Saberiyan of NEEK Engineering, as she sat inside the thriving business her firm created. 'It's not just a dry business.

'It has feelings attached to it. We've revitalized the site from an eyesore and turned it into a business that creates a sense of community.'

NEEK Engineering specializes in revitalizing challenging sites where identified or suspected environmental contamination has created barriers to redevelopment. These vacant or underused commercial and industrial properties are considered 'brownfields,' not living up to their economic potential.

NEEK Engineering originally purchased the Hall Boulevard property in 2004 to construct an office building.

'Because of the location, support of the neighbors and talks with the city of Beaverton about what they were planning to do with this area, our plans changed,' Saberiyan said. 'It was clear that everybody wanted a place for the community to hang out and spend time.

'Market analysis showed that a coffee shop would be a perfect fit for the property.'

With that feedback in hand, the hard work to transform the site began.

'This was an orphan site,' Saberiyan said. 'The previous owners walked out of the site because they were not able to finance the cleanup.'

Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality several years ago identified the property as a site that needed immediate attention.

'We were concerned with groundwater contamination and worked to mitigate the Hall side,' said Dana Bayuk, project manager for DEQ's Cleanup Program. 'Fuels and gasoline had leaked into public utilities that run adjacent to the property.

'At the time, the state paid for the evaluation of contamination and installed monitors.'

'Thank you' notes

To develop the property, NEEK Engineering signed a prospective purchaser's agreement with the DEQ and worked with the previous property owners to purchase their interests in the site.

The firm then secured a cleanup loan with the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department.

'We provided funds for the assessment and cleanup that were critical for them to proceed forward with a construction loan,' said Karen Homolac, brownfield program and policy coordinator for the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department.

'Our program works hand-in-hand with the property owner and DEQ to move these projects forward. Area banks are reluctant to get involved with contamination assessment and cleanup. By our program financing that piece, banks are less reluctant to come in later with construction loans.'

As part of the agreement with the DEQ, NEEK Engineering removed four underground tanks and all of the contaminated soil.

'We removed all of the contamination using a very aggressive, fast approach,' Saberiyan said. 'The footprint of the building was the only thing we didn't excavate.

'We spent $10,000 just removing solid waste from inside the building. The storage was filled with yard debris and anything you would expect to find in a junkyard.'

The response from neighbors was immediate.

'I started getting 'thank you' letters in the mailbox from the time we started the cleanup,' Saberiyan said. 'With every step of the project neighbors stopped by to ask what was happening. Everyone has really been very supportive.'

Silk purse

With only the metal and concrete blocks of the original building remaining, NEEK secured a construction loan to revitalize the site and began a long process to obtain permits from the city's planning, building and site development departments.

'The cleanup was the easiest part of the project,' Saberiyan said. 'We went through a very difficult permitting process because we were changing the use of the property from a gas station to a coffee shop that falls under eating establishment codes.

'We struggled with those codes because they didn't apply to our site. It was an impossible development. We went through at least 20 revisions in our design to accommodate city code and find a way to make it work and be able to find a solution to every problem we faced.'

After working closely with city staff, construction began on the ambitious project.

'It took a visionary entrepreneur that wanted to do something like nothing else in the community,' said Rob Pochert, Beaverton's economic development program manager. 'Amy was dedicated to making this project happen and utilized every resource available to clean up a problem site.

'She made a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This was a contaminated site that she turned into basically a neighborhood gathering spot. She deserves a lot of credit.'

A community project

Ava Roasteria opened its doors to customers on July 24.

'It's been an exciting addition to the downtown core,' Pochert said. 'It serves as an example of the kinds of projects urbanized areas can utilize. I hope we see more of this kind of revitalization.'

Saberiyan and her project partners agree.

'All of the people involved are proud of this project,' she said. 'I certainly am.

'This is the first brownfield redevelopment project in the city. I'm hoping this is not the last. I'm definitely going after more of these properties to develop.'

Before she tackles any new projects, Saberiyan plans to continue expanding services for customers at Ava Roasteria and work with the city's Downtown Storefront Improvement Program to complete a large waterfall and sign feature.

'Once it's all finished, it will be a beautiful addition,' Saberiyan said. 'This really is a community project.'