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Marketplace rebuilds from ground up

The old retail center will be leveled and rebuilt, with medical offices and small businesses as tenants
by: Submitted graphic, This is an architect’s drawing of a portion of what developer Graham Bryce expects to construct in the Willamette Marketplace at 10th Street and Eighth Avenue.

Scrap all previous plans; the 35-year-old Willamette Marketplace is on a path toward renewal and restoration.

Instead of waiting for a company such as Walgreen's or Trader Joe's to come in and anchor a remodeled shopping center, Marketplace owner Graham Bryce will be tearing down almost all of the current 44,000-square-foot center and rebuilding from the ground up.

He'll rebuild even the parking lot, which he plans to level and add landscaping and lighting before opening new buildings for a variety of small businesses.

But no anchor, unless the medical offices can be called an anchor.

Doctors' offices will be leased or tenant-owned, and will include 6,000-square feet of space for a major Portland-area hospital family-practice clinic.

The only buildings that will remain basically untouched are McMenamin's West Linn restaurant and the two-story office building, Bryce said in a telephone interview last week during a Bend business trip.

Current tenants recently were given up to 60 days to move out, but the sooner the better. Bryce has offered to help accommodate those move-outs.

The commercial landlord says he has talked with city planners and the Willamette Neighborhood Association, and will be submitting an application to the city in mid-July.

Former WNA secretary and interim chair Stephanie Nicoletti says she and many of her friends are happy with the idea that a big box store is not coming into their neighborhood.

'I like that it's all small retail and that the medical offices have parking in the back of the property,' she said. 'But something has to be done about the traffic.'

The city historically has been interested in making safer the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 10th Street, and Bryce always has refused to bear alone the financial burden of a traffic light.

'That intersection is rated as failing now, and it also was failing three years ago,' Bryce said. 'The law says that I can't be held accountable to fix an existing problem; so the question is who's going to pay for the traffic light that will fix the problem?'

That answer likely will require a conference of owners of the businesses that create traffic through that intersection.

'The city is trying hard to find a solution,' Bryce said, 'and I've told them that I'm willing to share in the cost, even though I'm not obligated to fix it.'

Included in the initial plan are 30,000 square feet of second-floor medical offices and 43,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space in two buildings.

A new parking lot will be constructed adjacent to the Les Schwab Tire Center, Bryce said, because the medical offices will have their doors open to the west.

The retail spaces, however, will open toward another parking lot to the east (facing 10th Street).

The new plan, Bryce says, more closely matches West Linn's needs.

'The West Linn market area doesn't have enough density (to support a large anchor store),' he said. 'It's a market (area) for small tenants: 1,500 to 3,000 square feet.'

Bryce said he realizes that West Linn already has its fair share of grocery stores, so he will not consider that type of store. He also is not considering a pharmacy, he says, because most of them want 12,000-15,000 square feet with a drive-through window, and he doesn't have that much space to give.

Most of the current tenants will relocate or go out of business during 10-months of construction, he said, and then some of them will return to the new space.

Bryce says he might be able to move some of the businesses within the property, and not tear down all of the buildings at one time - thus keeping them in business even during construction.

Current plans will have the demolition done during the late summer while the application is going through about four months of the city's approval processes. But Bryce says he can get a demolition permit at city hall without going through the planning commission or city council.

'We're hopeful that we can do most of the demolition during that four months,' he said, 'and then when we finally get approval from the city we can start construction at that time.'

Bryce says he is thinking about demolishing last the building closest to 10th Street, and moving some of the current businesses into that building until most of the new construction is complete.