First of two parts

Last year, the city of Lake Oswego and several industrial property owners in Foothills hired Williams/Dame and White to plan the new Foothills District.

Several weeks ago, I attended the open house where the preliminary designs were unveiled. More than 120 people attended this workshop and had the opportunity to comment on the plans. Issues addressed included the 100-year floodplain, transportation, size and density of the buildings, parking, public spaces and connecting the new district to downtown Lake Oswego. The team also shared work related to the proposed streetcar that would improve its integration with downtown Lake Oswego and reduce costs.

These ideas included relocating the streetcar terminus to a city-owned property at State and Foothills directly across from Millennium Plaza Park and providing park and ride spaces adjacent to the B Avenue stop, avoiding significant impacts on the Albertsons shopping center or Oswego Pointe Apartments.

What would the benefits of Foothills be to Lake Oswego? The first phase alone, which would focus on redeveloping underused industrial properties, would provide housing for seniors and younger families, adding additional $300 to $400 million in property value to the tax base. Over the course of the next 25 years, the city and its team estimate that $700 million to $1 billion in development value (in today's dollars) can be generated in this district. Extending the urban renewal district or forming a new one would allow the city to tap the increased property taxes generated by the development to pay for the public improvements, including Lake Oswego's portion of a revised streetcar plan.

New housing opportunities would allow seniors to sell their large homes and downsize in the community, freeing up these homes for families with school-aged children, thereby increasing school enrollment and state funding for Lake Oswego schools. Convenient access for seniors to the medical resources at OHSU via streetcar and Highway 43 is an attraction, and the development team continues to receive strong interest from Lake Oswego seniors interested in relocating to Foothills.

What will it cost Lake Oswego to develop Foothills? Redevelopment of Foothills comes with a price tag, just like any other development project, public or private. New streets and utilities, floodplain management, public amenities and potentially the streetcar project are all part of the planning effort for Foothills. As part of an independent economic analysis being undertaken by the city, ECONorthwest is evaluating the proposed development and resulting tax base increases to be sure that the growth will pay for itself. A variety of financing tools that do not take funding from the city's general fund or the school district will be used for Foothills, including tax increment financing and system development charges. Also, the private sector will need to do some heavy lifting by contributing to infrastructure costs through private investment and Local Improvement Districts. These mechanisms will ensure that the property owners who benefit from the improvements help to pay for them.

Rob LeChevallier, is a Lake Oswego resident and a member of Keep Lake Oswego Great.

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