CTC kicks off major project on a tight schedule
by: illustration courtesy CTC, An architect's rendering of the finished mall.

With work already underway and the rumble of heavy earthmoving equipment audible in the distance, Clackamas Town Center held a formal kickoff celebration on July 10 for a major expansion and renovation project, set to be complete by November 2007.

According to Leslie Boies, marketing manager for Clackamas Town Center, the improvements will include 250,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in two new outdoor 'villages' flanking Meier and Frank on the south side of the mall.

'There will be 30 new stores and four new restaurants, in addition to a 20-screen Century movie theater with stadium seating, a new food court and a six-level parking garage,' she said.

The food court and the theater will be located in the space left behind by the mall's defunct ice rink, and will include a huge public fireplace. A large new fountain will be installed in the area previously occupied by the three cedar totems, which were removed in 2004.

'Because of the new parking structure, we're actually going to gain parking,' said Boies.

The parking structure and communal areas in the outdoor villages are being paid for with a $19 million grant from Clackamas County, awarded through the Clackamas Town Center Urban Renewal Area.

'This is a major, major update of Clackamas Town Center. They describe it as turning the mall inside-out,' said Clackamas County Commission Chair Bill Kennemer. 'It takes a partnership to build a community. We're proud to be part of this project, to create economic opportunity locally and regionally.'

Those opportunities were hailed by Karen Bulter, representing General Growth Properties.

'By working together, we are creating an exciting public venue, which will result in 600 permanent jobs and almost 1,700 construction jobs, which is a nice boost to the local economy,' she said. 'We're expanding in a way that will make the center feel and function even more like a downtown area.'

Kennemer boasted that once the project is complete, Clackamas Town Center would be the premier shopping center in the entire Northwest region.

'That includes Seattle,' he added.

Plans are also moving forward for a MAX line, which will link the mall to a series of stations along I-205 and the rest of Portland's light rail system.

'That light rail line is anticipated to have the heaviest traffic of any line in the whole system,' said Kennemer. 'Service will begin in 2009.'

He predicted that the renovation of Clackamas Town Center and the start of light rail service would prompt additional development in the area, including new office buildings and residential units.

'You have to prime the pump - that's how urban renewal works,' he said. 'You prime the pump, and things happen.'

Once the water begins to flow from Kennemer's economic pump, the question becomes: Whose pail will it fill? Milwaukie and Happy Valley have emerged as rival suitors for the potentially lucrative property, which occupies unincorporated land presently served by the county.

'We're intending before the end of the year to come out and visit with Paul DeMarco, the mall's general manager, to see if they are ready to consider annexing into the city,' said Gene Grant, the mayor of Happy Valley. 'That would give them the ability to get all of their building permits and land use permits right across the street, where we are building our new town hall.

'We would also provide them with a city level of law enforcement protection.'

Jim Bernard, the mayor of Milwaukie, disputed Happy Valley's claim to the mall, and also the presumption that it would bring with it a large, new stream of property tax revenue.

'Clackamas Town Center is in our urban growth boundary,' said Bernard. 'Should Happy Valley attempt to annex it, they would have a fight on their hands.'

He continued: 'I don't think Happy Valley could provide the type of services that Milwaukie can - especially police services. Furthermore, annexing it would be a terrible drain on either city. All of the money goes into the county's Tax Increment Financing district to pay for development in the area - it can't be used for anything else.'

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