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Price tag on Foothills is estimated

About 120 people attend open house to learn more about the redevelopment project

Redeveloping the Foothills district could cost $55.2 million to $61.2 million, according to early financial estimates unveiled last week by project planners.

The estimates were shared at a July 14 open house on the project, a public-private partnership to get the largely industrial 107-acre area ready for redevelopment.

About 120 people attended the meeting, hosted at city hall by Williams, Dame and White, a Portland firm hired by the city and local property owners to work with a group of local stakeholders and craft a framework plan for the district.

If all goes according to plan, the project team will resolve issues with infrastructure, building in a floodplain, traffic and connectivity and financing to make Foothills ready and more appealing for development, extending urban renewal east of State Street and strengthening downtown's connection to the Willamette River.

The group remains on track to release a final draft in August, hold an open house in September and seek council approval of the plan this fall.

The new cost estimates include $11.5 million to $17.5 million for a transit plaza, park and ride facilities, a rebuilt Foothills Road, a new Terwilliger intersection and a grand staircase off B Avenue - all projects related to a proposed streetcar line between Portland and Lake Oswego that is now undergoing analysis.

They also include $9.9 million in 'optional' projects, including streetscape improvements on State Street, relocation of a PGE substation and an A Avenue connection.

Not including the streetcar or the extras, the effort is projected at $33.8 million.

None of that would require tapping the city's general fund, said Matt Brown of Williams, Dame and White.

'There (are) a variety of sources' of funding, including private property owners and developers, he said.

The city might also consider redrawing the boundaries of its existing downtown urban renewal district, expanding it or creating a new one for Foothills. Urban renewal funding, Brown said, 'is created by the development value in the district.' Other options include development-derived sources like system development charges or a local improvement district.

Open house participants rotated between stations covering a variety of topics, including the Foothills district's long-term vision as well as existing conditions; transportation issues; open space and urban design options; environmentally sustainable features and floodplain management; and preliminary costs and phasing options for development.

Officials are focused on redeveloping the northern portion of the district first while paving the way for future revitalization of the southern part. And their plan hinges on the extension of Portland's streetcar line to Lake Oswego.

Streetcars would run in the public right-of-way along the Willamette River and then on a rebuilt Foothills Road, with a park-and-ride lot at a stop at B Avenue between the river and State Street, and a transit plaza at the end of the line, which would stop where Foothills Road currently intersects with State Street.

One resident questioned whether the framework plan would become irrelevant if a streetcar line never materialized.

But consultants believe the framework could be retooled even if that project never comes to fruition.

'If there isn't a streetcar, you would have to subtract a very rich transit option, not only for downtown Lake Oswego but for the Foothills development,' said Christe White, a member of the development team. It would also change the way 'the pedestrian environment operates.' However, she said, 'All of this is valuable information.'

Some participants expressed concerns about a new intersection planned across from Terwilliger Boulevard at State Street, a proposed new 'northern portal' into the Foothills district.

Others took issue with the architectural details depicted in conceptual designs for the district.

Leslie Pirrotta, a Lake Oswego resident for the past 12 years, said she's not against the general idea of redevelopment, but she wants assurance Foothills won't end up looking like Portland's South Waterfront or Pearl District. Instead, she feels it should look more like Lake View Village.

'It should blend in with what we've already started,' Pirrotta said.

Consultants said the Foothills plan will be 'unique to Lake Oswego' and not at all like those Portland developments, where buildings stand 200 to 300 feet tall.

White said an advisory committee is considering a mix of buildings throughout the district, with varied heights and massing.

Because of a natural change in grade, she said, from ground level on State Street a pedestrian might see the top floor or two of a six-story building, which could be 75 to 90 feet tall. And they might not see the building tops at all.

Committee members seem 'comfortable' with 90-foot-tall buildings in the northern section of Foothills, and maybe a few taller structures to the south, White said. She said they might be OK with some buildings being even taller where the topography allows it.

White also noted that the conceptual renderings don't represent final plans for architecture or building materials, as design guidelines haven't yet been developed.

'We understand there is a coveted village feel to Lake Oswego,' she said. 'We want to complement it.'

David Jorling, who participated on a citizen advisory committee that recommended studying the potential streetcar line, was among open house attendees. He acknowledged the Foothills and streetcar proposals have morphed since they first emerged as possibilities, but he feels that's the way this sort of planning should work.

'These things all need to be looked at; hopefully, they'll come back with a cheaper project people can support,' he said. 'But change is always difficult.'