Link noted between Foothills, streetcar and OHSU


Streetcar and Foothills supporters are touting the proposed OHSU Schnitzer Campus planned for the South Waterfront as a key part of the vision for Lake Oswego. A 2008 Portland Streetcar document projects that the South Waterfront area will see up to 10,000 jobs - mostly professional - by 2015.

'The impact is going to be huge if they choose (to live in) Lake Oswego,' Judie Hammerstad, former Lake Oswego mayor, said at the chamber forum breakfast March 3. '(It) has a profound effect on us and we need to be ready for that now.'

Those professionals will want to put their children in good schools and will be attracted by the quality of life that Lake Oswego offers, she posited. Foothills is the perfect location for them, as the end of the proposed streetcar line and the only undeveloped district in the city of Lake Oswego.

Hammerstad, a big supporter of a streetcar extension from Portland to Lake Oswego, and Portland Streetcar, Inc., executive director Rick Gustafson debated streetcar opponents Len Bergstein, a Portland lobbyist, and Jim Bolland, a resident of First Addition, at a Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce forum.

Bergstein pointed out that the development is highly subsidized and that it could be slow going from construction to completion. The master plan for the campus anticipates that construction will be over a 20- to 30-year period.

The 300,000-square foot Oregon Health and Sciences University/Oregon University System Collaborative Life Sciences Building is slated for groundbreaking late this year or early 2012 with a projected opening in 2014.

Last fall Williams/Dame and Erlandson - Dyke Dame and Homer Williams are also working on Foothills planning - were awarded the contract to fill the building with private bioscience space. But recently, the developers withdrew from the project due to an inability to agree on terms that worked for both parties. As a result the building will decrease from eight stories to seven.

A sign that Bergstein isn't reading as a good one.

'The private equity partner agreed to put in $14 million but the terms were not acceptable to OHSU,' Dame told the Lake Oswego City Council at a recent meeting on Foothills, responding to comments that the partners could not raise enough money.

'There's a big difference between that and couldn't raise equity.'

There will still be retail space on the bottom floor, however, and the plan is still to include some private bioscience space on another part of the campus.

In total, the Schnitzer Campus is planned on a 19-acre plot of land with a total of 2.2 million square feet of building space. The campus would be situated between the Marquam and Ross Island bridges along Moody Avenue, where the Portland Streetcar already runs. The streetcar line currently ends at the base of the Portland Tram, which links OHSU's Center for Health and Healing with the Marquam Hill Campus.

It will aim to be 70 percent institutional space and 30 percent private. 'Our intention is to move all four of our schools to the Schnitzer campus over time,' said Brian Newman, OHSU director of campus planning and development. The schools are in medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy; the science engineering program will also likely be moved.

The campus will also have space for some Portland State University science programs.

At a February update to city council, developer Matt Brown, who is paid by Williams/Dame and White to work on the city's framework plan for Foothills, said that OHSU's plan fits within the projected population growth that the city of Lake Oswego might expect.

'The wheels are beginning to turn in South Waterfront and the jobs that will be established there,' he said. 'So when you talk about 11,000 on the hill and another 10,000 jobs in South Waterfront -that's a significant resource that's moving closer and closer to Lake Oswego.'

Lake Oswego's own visioning documents support an effort to find the space for new residents.

The Comprehensive Plan, which is currently being updated, projects around 7,000 new residents by 2035 and 3,400 to 4,700 new housing units.

Brown told the council that the city needs housing for working singles, small young families and baby boomers who want to downsize but stay in the community.

'Lake Oswego should explore policies that support higher density infill and redevelopment near downtown that will help attract and retain seniors and young families,' he said.

Gustafson provided some historical context about the streetcar's ability to boost the economy. Since the first line opened in 2001 in the Pearl District, the area has seen $4 billion in investment around it, he told the business community at the chamber forum.

The ridership projections initially were also very modest. It was projected to carry up to 4,200 passengers a day, according to an Metro analysis. Now it averages 12,000 a day.

Likewise, the streetcar's projected ridership does not include development in Foothills but is based on the areas current zoning.

Because of this, however, Gustafson said that Foothills, which would create more development, could create more congestion.

'Do we want to grow up or out?' asked Hammerstad. 'Lake Oswego is in danger of stagnating … We need to revitalize this town, and we have the tools to do it. This is our one development tool. Let's climb on board. Let's do it.'

The streetcar proponents say that the line extention could spur between $1 and $1.5 billion of investment, and provide 24,000 jobs around the stations.

A few audience members at the forum questioned the opponents, asking what their vision was for the city.

Bolland said that he prefers projects that fit with the 'village character' of the town. 'I tend to not like things that are big scale. We have a habit … to think really big instead of doing smaller projects.'

He feels that the property owners could at any time ask for a zone change on their own if they were interested in redeveloping.

Using the streetcar to create development in Foothills is a very bad idea, according to Bergstein. 'We're spending $450 million to make welfare queens out of developers in Foothills.'