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Hawthorne finds happier meal

After dashing McDonald's dreams for a site, neighbors crow over coming retail-housing spread

They like it, they really like it!

Residents and business owners alike are giving enthusiastic approval to a new retail-and-residential complex now rising on the former Arby's restaurant site on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard where McDonald's once proposed to open a drive-through restaurant.

'It's almost exactly what the community wanted in terms of scale and the services being promoted,' said Randall Heeb, a board member of the Richmond Neighborhood Association and co-chairman of the Healthy Hawthorne Project, which opposed the fast-food chain's attempt to move onto the site two years ago.

The project's developer is KemperCo LLC of Portland.

'It has ground-floor retail and living space above it. It's what everybody thought was great for the site,' Heeb said.

Neighborhood acceptance of the $7 million development in the 3400 block of Southeast Hawthorne is in sharp contrast to the vociferous grass-roots campaign sparked by the McDonald's proposal in the summer and fall of 2001.

McDonald's dropped plans to move into the space in October that year.

The property was sold last February for $1.2 million by Beaverton-based Biggi Investment Co. to a partnership that included Crawford Housing Partners LLC of Portland and Tom Tucker, a private investor, said Jim Gillespie, a commercial real estate broker for Re/Max Equity Group Inc.

Gillespie helped initiate the project and is leasing space in the development.

The 38,000-square-foot complex, dubbed The Hawthorne by its developers, has many of the elements that local residents and business owners wanted at the site, including leasing to local retailers, Heeb said.

'It's a real contrast with what McDonald's, an international corporation, would have done,' he said.

The development Ñ designed by Don Vallaster of Vallaster & Corl Architects Ñ features a modern, clean melding of glass, steel and brick.

It includes 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 16 townhouses, each with a garage in back of the property, Gillespie said.

Two retailers, Dosha spa and Imelda's Designer Shoes, have leased space in the development, which has room for three more shops, he said.

Dosha, which has a salon on Northwest Glisan Street, will occupy a two-story, 8,000-square-foot space at the corner of Southeast 35th Avenue and Hawthorne, Gillespie said.

Imelda's, now located in a 900-square-foot shop just north of Hawthorne on Southeast 37th Avenue, will open a 2,100-square-foot shop in the complex.

Owner Pam Coven said she is excited to more than double her floor space and move into a 'beautiful building.' She may hold on to her current shop's location and is exploring other business ideas for the space, she said.

Gillespie said the retail space in the building leases for $24.50 to $26 per square foot, 'in line with other retailers on the street.'

He said he is looking for 'the smaller type of retailer and something fun for the street,' such as a 'cool restaurant,' a children's clothes shop or a jeweler.

The two-story townhouses, ranging in size from 1,100 square feet to 1,500 square feet, probably will sell for $236,000 to $260,000, Gillespie said.

Grass roofs, housing added Heeb and others who worked with the developers said both sides made compromises to bring the project to fruition.

For instance, some people complained about the design, which 'is somewhat modern for the rest of the look of the boulevard,' said Sarah Fielding Moore, chairwoman of the Richmond Neighborhood Association.

'But the association firmly supports the project and its excellent use of commercial street frontage,' she said.

Besides, she said, 'we're a business district that honors diversity.'

The developers abandoned an earlier concept for a one-story, commercial-only building 'after we urged them to fully utilize the property by including housing above it,' Moore said.

Another example of bending to the neighborhood's sensibilities: The owners agreed to install grass on the roofs of the garages to reduce ecologically damaging runoff.

'They have gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of communicating with both the Richmond Neighborhood Association and the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association,' said business association President Paul Niedergang.

'They listened to what people had to say and made considerable modifications to the plans in response,' he said.

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