Public projects include B Avenue extension and affordable housing aid

The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday approved a $43.2 million urban renewal plan aiming to transform the 58-acre, largely industrial Foothills area into a thriving neighborhood.

Made up of the mayor and city councilors, the LORA board voted to forward the plan to the planning commission, which will pass along its suggestions to the city council for adoption.

The Foothills urban renewal plan includes 21 infrastructure and development projects intended to attract private investment and spur redevelopment, ultimately bringing a mix of retail, housing and commercial spaces to the area between the Willamette River and downtown.

It is the third urban renewal district approved in Lake Oswego; others include the East End district, created downtown in 1979, and the recently adopted Lake Grove district.

The projects range from an extension of B Avenue across State Street, with a large staircase leading toward a new public plaza by Foothills Park, to relocated sewer and stormwater mains and landscaping enhancements.

The plan also provides for $8.8 million in assistance to developers working to build affordable housing.

The projects would be constructed over a 22-year period.

At the Tuesday meeting, Lake Oswego Development Project Manager Sidaro Sin said the plan is considered a “higher level” document — one that doesn’t attempt to dig into too many site development details.

“What (it) does is set the stage, the financial stage, for developing the improvements to create the private investment in the area,” he said.

Most of the public project funding would come from tax increment financing, or TIF, which is based on the difference in assessed value of an area before it’s redeveloped and the value gained from public improvements. Tax increment would pay for an estimated $43.2 million in improvements in Foothills.

In addition, the city would use some money from transportation and parks system development charges and some utility revenue to pay for some projects.

The city needs a $6.9 million loan from a public or private source to get the work started. The loan would be repaid by tax increment revenue, according to officials.

Rebuilding Foothills Road would be the first initiative to take place, likely starting in 2014.

Affordable housing is slated to begin developing in 2017 with completion targeted for 2025. On the private investment side, the first new apartments could come on the tax rolls in 2017, with new senior housing and condos being built soon after.

B Avenue would be extended from downtown across State Street to a point two blocks east of Foothills Road; fill would be used to raise the street and adjacent properties above the floodplain.

One of the most visible projects in the plan is a new public staircase called the Willamette Steps, which would provide pedestrian access between Foothills and downtown. They would sit in an 80-foot right of way starting on the east side of State Street, crossing railroad tracks and continuing down to a new Foothills Road-B Avenue intersection.

Another new intersection would be built on State Street between D and E avenues, with a new median and southbound left turn lane helping to guide traffic into a new northern entrance to the district. In contrast, today the only vehicular access point to Foothills is at the intersection of Foothills Road and State Street.

Other highlights include a rebuilt Foothills Road, the eventual relocation of a Portland General Electric substation, improvements along State Street and relocated sanitary sewer and stormwater components now traversing private property to public rights of way.

The LORA board approved the plan 4-3 with no deliberation.

Jack Hoffman, Donna Jordan, Sally Moncrieff and Bill Tierney supported it. Jeff Gudman, Mike Kehoe and Mary Olson were opposed.

“I think it’s a good plan; it’s a good idea,” Hoffman said.

“We’ve discussed this many times,” Tierney noted.

The city and local property owners have been looking for ways to revive the Foothills area for the past decade. In 2008, a group of property owners hired developers Williams, Dame & White to help.

The city council eventually approved a framework plan for land-use and development that relied on extending the Portland Streetcar line to Lake Oswego, but the council later mothballed the framework’s transit component. Both the old and revised versions of the framework plan call for the creation of an urban renewal district for financing.

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