Hometown Proud: Planning yields a live-work balance
Across America, there's no model of city planning that has perfected the balance between residential and commercial interests.
Some communities offer themselves as places for families to settle down, escape the din of the city and provide a high quality of life for its residents. Others position themselves as epicenters of commerce and industry, providing corporations with a comfortable place to build their headquarters and do business.
But on occasion, a city can create a prosperous and symbiotic relationship, and both Lake Oswego and Wilsonville seem to have found that equilibrium.
In Lake Oswego, the Kruse Way Business District has grown tremendously since the mid-1970s, when Clackamas County planners envisioned a corporate park that would one day become a regionally recognized business district featuring names like Navex Global and Autodesk.
For Wilsonville, the area north of Boeckman Road and much of the area adjacent to I-5 on the west has developed into an attractive location for corporations like Mentor Graphics, Coca-Cola, Rite Aid and FLIR Systems.
According to Lake Oswego Planning Director Scot Siegel and Chris Neamtzu, his counterpart in Wilsonville, there are three common threads to the development, growth and prominence of these two business districts: advantageous geographic placement, access to Interstate 5 and ample housing nearby for employees.
When Clackamas County decided to build a new gateway into Lake Oswego in 1976, the county had to negotiate the purchase of nearly 300 acres owned by the Church of Latter Day Saints north of the area where Kruse Way would be. After five years, negotiations closed and Lake Oswego annexed the property to begin constructing the roadway, with plans for a new residential development to be named Westlake.
"Kruse Way is uniquely positioned next to two major freeways, at the intersection of I-5 and Highway 217, so not only is it accessible for commerce, it's situated in Lake Oswego, where the community is well known for its livable neighborhoods, executive housing and top-notch public services and amenities," Siegel said. "It's a combination of local qualities and positioning in the region that led Kruse Way to become what it is today."
Part of Kruse Way's development as a premiere business corridor is the result of efforts by the commercial real estate firm Shorenstein Company to build functional and well-manicured corporate offices that would entice companies to locate themselves in Lake Oswego. What once was known as "mortgage row" — nicknamed for the number of financial institutions based along Meadows Road — has diversified to include technology companies and legal services, engineering firms and an array of corporations that fit the business district's culture.
Shorenstein Senior Vice President Matt Cole believes Lake Oswego is a unique place to do business because of the culture built around the corporations that call Kruse Way home and the quality of the city, both in infrastructure and livability.
"People choose to live here because of the quality of schools and the community that's been built here. We've developed enough of a critical mass of tenants that these businesses like to be around like-minded companies that recruit and attract good employees. That makes Lake Oswego a great city to do business in," Cole said.
Wilsonville's story is similar and begins around the same time as Kruse Way's development. The difference, however, is that when Wilsonville incorporated in 1968, its city planners knew exactly how beneficial its proximity to I-5 would be to the community's development.
Almost one-third of Wilsonville was zoned for industrial use in its early days, and companies like Tektronix began building headquarters and warehouses in the area north of Boeckman Road.
"I've heard Wilsonville described, historically, as a large hub for warehouses and distribution on the West Coast," Neamtzu said. "When you think about Wilsonville's geography, you can be anywhere on the West Coast within a day — to Canada relatively quickly, and conveniently located near I-84 extending east as well. So when you think about those three prongs and our proximity to the Pacific Ocean, ports and things that come overseas, we're in a very strategic location from a distribution standpoint."
Today, companies like Xerox, Rockwell Collins and Pacific Foods have all put down roots in Wilsonville, where a well-trained workforce already exists and infrastructure is well maintained. While corporations have come and gone, downsized or bolstered their workforces throughout the years, Wilsonville has remained committed to being a business-friendly community.
In Neamtzu's eyes, that commitment isn't one the City will be neglecting anytime soon as the community continues to grow in both residential and commercial sectors.
"We're always thinking about creating a complete community, a place that's attractive to business, to employers and employees," Neamtzu said. "The City has always been proud of and known for providing quality and reliable infrastructure. We work very hard to ensure we provide concurrency with transportation and the impacts that development brings."