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Analysis shows New Seasons might work; other options murky

A market analysis of the city-owned Times-Litho property at the west end of downtown Forest Grove indicates the city might have to spend more money to lure developers.

“Pricing for residential and office commercial space in the Forest Grove area is relatively low, and will limit new construction opportunities without significant public investment,” states the executive summary for the June analysis conducted by Johnson Reid, LLC.

But a retail store, particularly a specialty grocery such as New Seasons, may offer a better opportunity for the site, according to the analysis.

Nearly a third of the $77 million spent on “Food and Beverage Stores” by residents within five miles of the Times-Litho site is “leaking” to stores in Hillsboro and elsewhere, the report found.

The area’s traditional grocery needs are served by Safeway, Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart, the report noted, “but a specialty grocer targets a market niche not well served by these retailers.”

Forest Grove demographics are changing in a way that makes the city a better match for such a store, according to the analysis.

“Trader Joe’s won’t happen,” said Jeff King, economic development manager for the city. But “New Seasons might fit,” he said.

That’s because unlike Trader Joe’s, which considers typical demographic categories such as population and income level, New Seasons also considers education level.

Another possibility is apartments or housing, perhaps for some combination of Pacific University students or “high-end visitors” to the school, King said.

The typical mixed-use arrangement of ground-level retail beneath three floors of apartments would not work, King said, because Forest Grove residents probably wouldn’t pay the kind of rent needed to support such an expensive project.

Underground parking would be a problem for the same reason.

But an arrangement of housing adjacent to retail might work, he said.

In a narrowly approved decision last December, the city bought the 2.68-acre property for $800,000.

The Times Litho Ad Hoc Redevelopment Committee will recommend a course of action to city councilors sometime this fall, King said.

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