Beaverton's $150 million vision for downtown is now in voters' hands

With a lot of thanks and kind words - and a dash of public criticism - the City Council Tuesday night adopted an urban renewal plan to help revitalize Beaverton's central business district.

The unanimous approval puts the $150 million, 30-year plan - which will not increase residents' taxes - in the hands of city voters, who will decide the measure's fate in the Nov. 8 election.

The city's urban renewal district encompasses nearly 1,000 acres and around $777 million in assessed property tax value in and around the city's core. The area includes historic Old Town, the TriMet transit area, Central Beaverton's office and retail area and the 'employment district' east of Highway 217 between Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and Allen Boulevard.

An urban renewal district provides a funding mechanism that encourages redevelopment of a designated blighted area to increase property values.

Tax increment financing effectively freezes assessed values at a certain level and pays for redevelopment projects and bond debt through the amount the value increases from that level.

Reflecting on the plan's progress through the past year, Scott Winter, a member of Beaverton's Planning Commission, related a story about his daughter's 9-year-old friend. The girl was inquisitive about the maps and plans scattered about Winter's basement recreation room.

Struggling to explain urban renewal in simple terms, he said a phrase suddenly came to his mind.

'It hit me like a bolt of lightning: 'What we're trying to do is build a city,'' Winter said, repeating the phrase for emphasis to the council and a handful of spectators. 'The planets may never align like they are now. We can't miss this opportunity.'

Councilor Marc San Soucie also praised the plan, making note of the input of residents, businesspeople and leaders who contributed ideas, goals and support.

'I look forward to the next steps in the process,' he said. 'Our goal here is to try to build the city that 5,000-plus visionaries, who spoke to us in the last few years, wanted us to construct. I look forward to the benefits it's going to bring to the city.'

Not everybody in the room, however, was ready to harmonize 'Kumbaya' in celebration of urban renewal's potential.

Beaverton resident Ramona Crocker, a self-described 'naysayer' of urban renewal, said she didn't care for the sense of inevitability city leaders conveyed about the plan, which she believed was unfocused and incomplete.

'The area in question is too large. There are too many opportunities for the money to be frittered away without really accomplishing what needs to be accomplished,' she said, referring to 'improving mobility and transportation throughout the city.'

Washington County's government and special service districts affected by the plan, including the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and the Beaverton School District, recently passed resolutions favoring the plan.

Expressing appreciation to council members for their efforts toward the plan, Mayor Dennis Doyle said a friend recently asked him if urban renewal was 'the Beaverton way.'

'I think this is truly the Beaverton way,' he said. 'This is so essential to deliver for our citizens. The pressure is on us to get it done and bring it home. We are going to build the city of Beaverton for this next century.'

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