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City selects developer for catalyst site

Roy Kim wants to restore a heartbeat to the center of Rockwood.

The Gresham Redevelopment Commission (GRDC), a body composed of members of the Gresham City Council, on Tuesday, Nov. 17, chose RKm Development, of which Kim is the president, to develop the 5.5-acre parcel left vacant 15 years ago by Fred Meyer.

“All day I’ve been listening on and off about all the terrible stuff that’s going on in the other parts of the world and it almost seems appropriate that we focus back on our backyard,” Kim said at the meeting. “We seem hopeless to do anything about what’s going on elsewhere.”

Kim’s had his eye on what’s being called the catalyst site since 2007 when the city first announced a planned redevelopment. At the time, he snatched up a piece of property adjacent to 18535 S.E. Stark St., and waited for this very moment.

“The reason I purchased (18449 S.E. Stark St.) was because I found out that the city was purchasing the Fred Meyer site, and when the city owns 5.5 acres of land, I’m thinking it’s going to be a matter of time,” Kim said. “I didn’t know it would be eight years, but that’s what I was thinking when I purchased it.”

At this point in his career, Kim told the GRDC, he only looks to take on projects where he can make a transformative impact. He’s most well-known for projects in Beaverton across from an adult business and Bethany Village, which was a field in Washington County that’s now a metro-designated town center.

Kim was unanimously recommended to the city council by the GRDC advisory committee, which praised Kim for his long-term approach to development. He was chosen over Hanlon Development and Pate Retail.

For example, he still owns all of the buildings he developed in Bethany Village years ago.

Another positive about working with Kim, the committee wrote in a report, is that he plans to use his own capital to invest in the catalyst site. This means that Kim won’t be on the hook to pay back investors, and can give the benefit of time to small businesses who will need a year or two to get going and become profitable.

“Patient capital,” is how Josh Fuhrer, executive director of the GRDC, explained it.

Fuhrer figures it’s exactly the kind of thing Rockwood needs, as the businesses the city plans to include on the site will range from startups and new restaurants to job training sites and education centers.

“The American dream lives on in Gresham more than anywhere else in Oregon,” said Commissioner Mario Palmero. “We only have one shot to get this right and if this (advisory) committee is saying you’re the guy and you’re company is the one, than I’m OK with that and I’ll support that.”

In his application to the city, Kim said he views the youth and diversity in Rockwood as a strength and said the demographics would inform architectural design choices as well as programming for future community events on the site.

He envisions buildings with styles from Latin America, Northern Europe and Asian with space for things like Kwanza and Cinco de Mayo celebrations and Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras parades.

“As a minority and owner of the adjacent parcel, we embrace and understand the need for such diversity in our community,” Kim wrote in a letter to the GRDC. “We envision the catalyst site as a cultural marketplace - a place for hand-made and locally-grown food and products, vibrant cultures, social enterprises and entrepreneurial energy.”

With the green light from the GRDC, Fuhrer says he thinks the city can have a shovel in the ground of the catalyst by fall of next year.

“I first saw the Fred Meyer store in 1971 and it was almost like a death when it went away and it’s like CPR has finally worked,” said Commissioner David Widmark. “We are bringing life to this community.”

Commissioner Karylinn Echols said she expects the project to separate Rockwood from its current reputation of crime and poverty.

“One of the things we see coming from this project is that the entire part of Gresham is lifted up, lifted up in its reputation, livability, in its opportunity and in its celebration of diversity,” Echols said.

“Is it inappropriate for me to dance on this dais?” joked Commissioner Lori Stegmann in casting her “yes” vote for Kim.

“Thank you for hanging in there Mr. Kim. Eight years is a long time and clearly you saw something in Rockwood,” Stegmann said. “We always knew and always planned that Rockwood would transform and knew that Josh (Fuhrer) was going to be the right person. We joke about little, old Gresham, but there are such amazing things and amazing talent in this small city ... we can be one of the best in the world and that’s really exciting to me.”


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