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Get excited for Beaverton urban renewal

I'm excited for Beaverton. We have an opportunity to take a huge step toward major improvements in our downtown and major upgrades to our primary industrial area. The Central Beaverton Urban Renewal Plan, Measure 34-192 on the Nov. 8 ballot, offers us the opportunity to start gathering the resources we need to make changes to our streets, improve our city's appearance and motivate private investment in new and improved buildings in our central core. Say, 'Yes!'

I'm excited that we can keep up with our neighbors. Hillsboro, Tigard, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Sherwood and more have urban renewal districts that are doing or have done great things for those cities. Lake Oswego's urban renewal program has completely turned around its aging downtown, and that is now a lively model for all of us. Tualatin and Sherwood have made great improvements, and Hillsboro and Tigard have got off to a great start. In Portland, the thriving Pearl District has benefited massively from investments encouraged by urban renewal funds.

I'm excited that we can use urban renewal - with your 'yes' vote - because of all the ways to encourage redevelopment, this one has the least impact on your pocket. It simply changes the way we use the property taxes collected from Central Beaverton. Urban renewal is a borrowing program, not a tax. Over time, in increments based on property tax collections from the specified area, the city will issue urban renewal bonds, which are a form of revenue bond. The bond market will decide if our revenue is credible, not us.

I'm excited that we have a strong vision for Central Beaverton, courtesy of our award-winning community vision project. The city asked questions and listened to the ideas and opinions of thousands of residents and businesses. Many of them said that they want to see a vibrant downtown in Beaverton, a place we can all be proud of - a place for people, for business, for jobs, for living.

I'm excited that our civic plan team continued working with the community to develop a blueprint for revitalization of downtown and our industrial area. Many key projects focused on our central core were identified, such as:

  • Improving Canyon Road as a place for people on foot and in vehicles.

  • Extending Millikan and other streets to relieve congestion on Canyon and Farmington roads.

  • Adding safe and enjoyable pedestrian features on all major streets.

  • Enhancing Beaverton Creek to create great public spaces along the water.

  • Livening up Broadway as the historic heart of downtown.

  • Improving our under-used industrial lands, creating more jobs in Beaverton.

    I'm excited that the Urban Renewal Plan lists projects chosen to attract private investment and new business, bringing more jobs and higher-quality development. This is not a new idea. Beaverton used urban renewal in the 1970s to make a number of important improvements to transportation routes in the downtown area, such as connecting Farmington Road and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. That plan's bonds were paid off early, and the district was retired in the 1980s.

    I'm excited that this is a conservative, low-risk plan. Urban renewal has been used in more than 50 places across Oregon, and no urban renewal district here has ever defaulted on its obligations. Our partner service districts say ours is a model plan - conservative and practical. Our Community Advisory Committee, made up of citizens, partners and businesses, provided crucial guidance in developing the plan. We held open houses and invited your comments, and adjusted the plan based on your ideas. No more than $150 million in debt can be issued during the 30-year life of the plan, and we must check in at 20 years to make sure we can shut down the mechanism in 30 years or less.

    I'm excited that the school, park and fire district boards, plus the county board, each unanimously approved a resolution in support of our plan. The school board foresees very low impact on their operating revenues. The fire district board views this plan as in investment in a community that shouldn't be allowed to decline, and anticipates substantial benefits for public safety from the planned street enhancements.

    I'm excited that you, our citizens, spoke to us. We listened. We all want to achieve our common vision and make Beaverton the best place it can be. We want to do so at the minimum possible cost. This plan is a necessary tool to help us accomplish that mission. With conservative, responsible financing and focused, innovative strategies for downtown, without adding a new tax, this urban renewal plan will help us achieve our common vision.

    Get excited about Beaverton urban renewal and vote 'yes.'

    Marc San Soucie is a Beaverton city councilor and co-director of www.BuildingABetterBeaverton.com .