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Bruning eyes Milwaukie for Rivers-style project

Baseball stadium could be 'synergistic' part of transit-oriented development
by: Milwaukie Centercal The Oregon Department of Transportation building in the North Industrial Area that Milwaukie is eyeing for a baseball stadium could be the centerpiece of a development akin to The Rivers project that was planned for Oregon City (inset), under a preliminary plan being discussed by CenterCal President Fred Bruning.

When developer Fred Bruning pulled The Rivers project out of Oregon City in June, he almost immediately started looking for other shopping-mall sites in Clackamas County, the only one in the tri-county area where his CenterCal company hasn't located a major development.


• Click here to listen to a voice mail from Milwaukie City Manager Bill Monahan on the development issue.


It didn't take long for him to settle on a second location - in Milwaukie's North Industrial Area, where he sees an opportunity for a fourth transit-oriented development with light rail construction planned through the city.

'I think there's a lot of potential in the city of Milwaukie,' Bruning said. 'I like the forward thinking of the baseball park, and I like the light rail coming in. Light rail can be controversial, but after working on two similar other developments in the metro area (Cascade and Gresham stations), I've seen how it's generally a good thing.'

CenterCal also has a development called Farmington Station nearing completion next to the new commuter rail line being built in the Salt Lake City metro area.

The Rivers project, as planned for Oregon City, included 550,000 square feet of commercial space that Bruning said has already identified 20 tenants out of 100 needed. He said that smaller tenants could be finalized closer to a project's completion.

Meanwhile, CenterCal will be looking for consensus among Milwaukie's elected officials, Bruning said.

'For projects the size of ours, you really need a common vision on the council,' the developer said. 'The city gets to pick what it wants, and that's why there are elections.'

Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson said he wasn't ready to discuss specifics about the development because he had just learned of potential CenterCal plans after the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16. Ferguson said that he would try to get Bruning's potential vision for the North Industrial Area on the agenda as soon as the second council meeting in September.

In returning a call for comment about Bruning's announcement Aug. 17, Milwaukie City Manager Bill Monahan said in a voicemail he didn't 'have any information to share' about anything that had been previously discussed in closed-door meetings.

"If we wanted to discuss them in open session, if we thought it was the right time to do that, we would have done so,' Monahan said. (Listen to the audio of the entire voicemail.)

In a subsequent phone conversation Aug. 22, Monahan reiterated that council nor staff would comment on the information Bruning had provided.

Although the discussions are 'very preliminary' in Milwaukie, Bruning said that Cabela's, the outdoor-sports superstore, is still interested in locating as an anchor tenant somewhere in the metro area. CenterCal is also working on redeveloping another shopping mall in Washington County besides its existing Bridgeport Village.

Bruning added that, although CenterCal is 'not in the baseball business,' he envisions Milwaukie's goal of a baseball stadium as an element that could be an integral part of the project. Bruning says he's also prepared to help with transportation infrastructure, including a trolley to downtown that would supplement light rail and helping to develop the Lake Road light rail station building.

Bruning added that, although CenterCal is 'not in the baseball business,' he envisions Milwaukie's goal of a baseball stadium as an element that could be an integral part of the project. Bruning says he's also prepared to help with transportation infrastructure, including a trolley to downtown that would supplement light rail and helping to develop the Lake Road light rail station building.

In 2008, CenterCal agreed to pay no more than $19.5 million for right-of-way, permitting and other costs associated with the Jughandle Project to ready Oregon City's transportation infrastructure for The Rivers.

'On preliminary planning of the transportation and infrastructure for The Rivers project, CenterCal was very collaborative and cooperative,' said Nancy Krausaar, Oregon City's public works director, who estimates that CenterCal ended up investing $1 million in the preliminary planning stages of engineering the Highway 213 projects currently under construction.

'This time, if we invest in a road improvement, we'd like to do a project,' Bruning said. 'We wouldn't want to slow down the timing of the ballpark. If we thought we were going to go in and do harm, we wouldn't do the project. Anything that helps people get around and connects two areas I would be very supportive of. Our idea is to create a synergistic environment that gets capital investments moving and encourages spin-off investments.'

The area is currently zoned for manufacturing, so Bruning expects that the council would have to be supportive of changing some zoning to commercial, but that wouldn't require the whole area to change. Bruning is hoping to secure 30 to 60 acres of land that wouldn't have to be contiguous.

The North Industrial Area is about 265 acres with 60 businesses, Milwaukie Planning Director Katie Mangle said. In a 2009 memo to Metro on 'local aspirations,' Milwaukie labels the area as one of five 'key redevelopment sites' that include South Downtown. The Oregon Department of Transportation site that Milwaukie is eyeing for a baseball stadium is seven acres.

'In my ideal world, you'd have a very healthy industrial zone, you'd have a commercial area and it would all be tied to downtown through various forms of transportation,' Bruning said. 'There are some access issues that are holding down the industrial area there currently. In these kind of mixed-use projects, we do have a lot of high-salary managers, so our view is that if we can increase salaries in the area, that's great for schools.'

Ferguson said he liked what he was hearing in secondhand preliminary discussions.

'There's a lot of potential there (in the North Industrial Area), and there are a lot of things we'll be talking more about soon,' Ferguson said. 'I am all for, and very supportive of, economic development in Milwaukie, and I'm looking forward to hearing more. We are really on the verge of being a major player in the metro region, and I think there a lot of positive events in the hopper for the city's future.'

However, urban renewal is one thing Bruning is not interested in putting on the city's agenda.

'From a 10,000-foot level, it all seems very solvable,' he said. 'Urban renewal can be a good tool if used properly, but we've built 3 million square feet of retail without any public assistance.'