For anyone who doubts that East Multnomah County is on the cusp of its next wave of growth, the evidence was clear last week as two substantial developments inched forward.
In Gresham, developers and city officials announced they have a new plan for moving ahead with the long-stalled Pleasant Valley community, which was brought into the urban growth boundary in 1998. And in Troutdale, the City Council voted to annex 569 acres of Alcoa's former Reynolds Metals site, which is being purchased by the Port of Portland.
Although the two projects will serve much different purposes in East County's future, each is vitally important to the larger community's long-term vision. Both Pleasant Valley and the former Alcoa site must be developed with specific goals in mind and with quality throughout.
Complete community needed
The news about Pleasant Valley, reported in Saturday's Outlook, was a welcome reversal from previous pessimistic reports. Up until this announcement, it was beginning to appear that the cost of providing roads, water lines, sewers and parks would be so high that the area southwest of Gresham would never take off. However, the main developers of Pleasant Valley's first phase - which includes 541 acres - now say they will absorb most of the upfront costs and recoup that money through charges assessed to homebuilders and homebuyers.
The plan makes sense in that it gets the city out of the business of trying to finance the infrastructure, and it reduces costs for private developers. But even as the first subdivisions move out of the planning stage, the city and developers also must remain committed to the overall plan for Pleasant Valley - which is envisioned to be a complete community with a town center, 5,000 homes, parks and land for employment.
Our belief is that Pleasant Valley, with its appealing topography and close proximity to both Gresham and Portland, eventually will become one of the most desirable places to live on the Eastside. That outcome can be attained through close adherence to the overall plan, even while development - for cost reasons - begins on a more limited basis.
Troutdale's economic opportunity
It is also important for the Port of Portland to give full consideration to the big picture as it moves closer to development of the former Alcoa site.
The Troutdale City Council hailed the property's potential for industrial development when it voted unanimously last week to annex the portion of the property that's within the city's urban growth boundary.
The probable use for the site is industrial, although it also has been suggested as a location for a racetrack should NASCAR decide to come to Oregon instead of its preferred site in Washington.
Although many people in Troutdale were at first suspicious of having the Port of Portland purchase the Alcoa land, the port offers great advantages over other potential industrial developers. The port has high standards for development - as evidenced by its Rivergate project in Portland - and it will consider community objectives, such as sustainable development and riverside trails.
Already, the cities of Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview and Gresham have created a blueprint for development in the area known as the Columbia-Cascade River District - which is between Interstate 84 and the Columbia River and includes the Alcoa property. Their vision calls for higher-wage industries and recreational and tourist opportunities.
In the same way that Pleasant Valley's success will depend on attention to the overall plan, we hope that the port incorporates community goals and input as it develops and leases the Alcoa property.
In both cases, the desire shouldn't be simply to develop land, but to add value to the East County community by concentrating on quality.