Forest Grove planners bring some new ideas to the citys table

When it comes to improving the quality of neighborhoods, Forest Grove leaders are about to introduce some new ideas.

Planning commissioners and city councilors will soon consider updates to the city’s comprehensive plan that would encourage more walking than driving while also helping draw new businesses.

“We want to improve the walkability of our neighborhoods and to do so we need to provide some little (outlying) commercial centers,” said Jon Holan, the city’s community development director.

Right now there are only two such centers outside the main downtown core and the commercial strip along Pacific and 19th avenues.

The single Lucky Market and Deli at Sunset Drive and Willamina Avenue marks one center. The second, at Thatcher and Gales Creek roads, hosts a Plaid Pantry as well as machine, autobody and motorcycle-repair shops.

Zoning limits both areas to no more than 2,000 square feet per building and prohibits certain kinds of businesses, such as medical centers.

Planners are thinking about adding two more commercial centers to the city, both on David Hill Road. One would be where David Hill will eventually intersect with Highway 47 and one would be at Thatcher Road, across the street from Thatcher Park, Holan said.

Planners also want to encourage more mixed-use development at those centers and to expand the square footage allowed per building, perhaps up to 30,000 square feet, Holan said. That’s about the size of the New Seasons store at Orenco Station, he said.

The other neighborhood-improvement strategy is to increase the density and size of Forest Grove’s downtown core. The Planning Commission is considering the idea of at least doubling the current residential density of 20 units per acre and perhaps more than quadrupling it to up to 90 units per acre.

This could spark more residential development, which would support more commercial activity, Holan said. Prospective businesses might be more interested in locating downtown if they see more potential customers living within walking distance — perhaps in mixed-use developments, with apartments above commercial space.

Right now, Holan said, residential densities are too low to encourage private investment.

The higher density could be achieved with the city’s current four-story height limit on downtown buildings, Holan said. So far nobody has built past three stories, he said.

In addition, the Planning Commission has recommended expanding the downtown core from its eastern border, now at Cedar Street, two blocks further to Elm Street.

- Jill Rehkopf Smith

Contract Publishing

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