Project could take two or three years to fully develop

HILLSDALE - Hopes and fears surfaced at the June 6 Hillsdale Neighborhood Association

as a large gathering of neighbors considered the pros and cons of creating a food cart plaza at the southeast corner of Southwest Capitol Highway and Southwest Sunset Boulevard.

Hillsdale resident Richard Stein, the plaza's driving force and developer, displayed a rendering

of how the court might eventually look with its five food carts. Three cart owners were present

to answer questions as well.

At the HNA meeting, Stein explained that the plan is to phase in the plaza to test out the concept incrementally. Starting in late July or August, the carts will be placed on a semi-circular

pad around the edge of the plaza. At the back of the lot will be two, screened port-a-potties

equipped with wash basins.

The complete project might take two or three years to fully develop, he said.

Stein, an architect who designed the bike plaza between Baker & Spice and Food Front Cooperative Grocery, said that the carts themselves would have to meet "strict design guidelines."

In its final stage, the court would include a trellised promenade, bike racks and perhaps

twinkle lights in the big tree that is the plot's centerpiece.

He emphasized the need for the design guidelines after resident Glenn Bridger compared

food cart lots to tacky mobile home parks.

Stein's proposal varies from other food cart sites in that it isn't located in a parking lot.

He said the design creates an "attractive and vibrant social space" where the community can gather. He added that it also gives Wilson High students more food choices and would cater to Wilson pool users in the summer months and to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market clientele on Sundays.

The corner property is privately owned, zoned for commercial uses and now is home to a high school sign and no other improvements. Any design reviews or appeals will follow the existing public notification and meeting process.

Several outspoken opponents in the crowd of about 40 worried about the wrong kind of "vibrant" activity in the new plaza. A Beaverton High School principal, who declined to give his name to this reporter, called the plaza a clear "attractive nuisance at the entrance to a high school."

"Drugs and outside ‘elements' will be showing up," he warned.

But others argued that having people gathered at the site would ensure exactly the opposite. Dwayne Beliakoff, one of the cart owners, said that the cart operators would put "Five sets of eyes on what's happening" and would control behavior.

The group also discussed how a "Good Neighbor Policy" would help integrate the plaza with the school and the community.

Stein explained that while the carts would be on wheels and be moveable, they would remain at the site. In answer to a question, he said that alcohol would not be served in the plaza.

One local Mexican restaurant owner complained about unfair competition from the carts, but Stein said a cart catering to Mexican food enthusiasts would be limited to being a taco

stand and not compete with the full-menu restaurant. He added that he had approached the restaurant about having a cart at the plaza, but had received no response.

Stein said that of the 30 to 35 people who had been in touch with him about the plaza idea, only three or four had opposed it.

"It's been about 8 to 1 in favor," he said.

After the meeting ended, he said he was grateful he had put the plaza on the HNA agenda as it highlighted questions that he wants to explore.

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