Council to decide whether Gresham developer will take on riverfront project

TROUTDALE - The Urban Renewal Citizen Advisory Committee gave CenterCal Properties LLC the nod as developer of the former city sewage treatment plant property along the Sandy River.

The committee voted 8-3 at a Monday, March 17, meeting to recommend Tualatin-based CenterCal over Williams and Dame Development to transform the former industrial site into a multi-use retail center. In its Urban Renewal Committee role, the City Council will review the assessment and make an official choice for a developer at an upcoming meeting.

CenterCal, former Center Oak Properties, is helmed by Gresham resident Fred Bruning, who was behind projects such as Gresham Station and the Bridgeport Village shopping centers. Portland-based Williams and Dame, whose chairman is Homer Williams, has developed numerous projects in the city's Pearl and South Waterfront districts.

Each developer delivered his proposal in separate presentations. Committee members were equally impressed with the presentations, said Chairman Mike Wall. In the end, they liked Bruning's confidence in his ability to attract a large, possibly unique, retailer to the site.

'They were both really impressive,' Wall said. 'But Fred was really able to express his vision for what he felt the citizens of Troutdale wanted to see down here.'

Bruning discussed a sporting goods or outdoors-oriented outlet 'that we don't have in this area,' Wall said. 'He would be enhancing that with other retail, along with housing in the mix.'

Bruning was unavailable to comment at press time on what specific retail tenants he might be able to attract for the $7 million urban renewal project.

Williams and Dame also emphasized a mixed-use village plan for the site that would incorporate residential, restaurant and retail uses.

Adjacent to the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets, the 20-acre site is bound by Interstate 84, the Sandy River and railroad tracks. With the exception of the city Parks and Facilities Department, the property has gone mostly unused since the city relocated the former sewer plant in late 2001.

'The thing that put the hook in all of us,' Wall said, 'is Fred had a vision for complementing the historic corridor in downtown Troutdale to make sure the core area benefits because of the development.'

City officials heard earlier from approximately 15 interested developers, but CenterCal and Williams and Dame were the only candidates to submit formal proposals. Because the committee deemed the two developers to be highly qualified, they decided to expedite the process and interview each one.

'The committee didn't believe that much could be gained by extending out another round of RFQs (requests for qualifications),' said Rich Faith, community development director. 'They had enough to go on to make a preliminary decision.'

The final decision now rests with the City Council, the city's Urban Renewal Committee.

Members are under no obligation to go along with the committee's recommendation, but Wall envisions his group being involved as the process plays out.

'We'll probably still be involved,' he said. 'These things take a long time to fall together. Anything could happen.'

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