Developers try to stay balanced as urban area expands

by: HOLLAND PARTNERS GROUP - An artists rendering of how the project currently called the Orenco Wrap will look when it is finished. A name change is in the works.Hillsboro planners are predicting explosive growth in the city during the next two decades.

They believe the population will jump from around 93,000 residents today to more than 133,000 people by 2035 — an increase of almost 40 percent.

Accommodating that growth will require the construction of more than 25,000 new housing units during the next 20 years, the planners say.

Two areas have been identified for much of this construction. One is AmberGlen, a 606-acre tract between 185th and 206th avenues. The other is South Hillsboro, a yet-to-be annexed 1,417-acre tract just south of the city limits.

Planners are confident both areas can be developed into dense, mixed-use neighborhoods with a variety of housing choices, such amenities as parks and bike paths, and integrated employment centers and shopping options.

Although those sound like bold claims, Hillsboro has achieved such a success in the past with the Orenco Station, a master-planned community that is still growing.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Platform 14 is nearing completion and will soon be ready for occupancy at Orenco Station.“Hillsboro got the formula right. It’s a beautiful, desirable, well-planned neighborhood near jobs, shopping and transit,” says Gary Vance, development director for Holland Partners, a developer that is completing one project near Orenco Station and starting construction on its next one.

The project nearing completion is Platform 14, a 190-unit apartment complex just south of Cornell Road, along Orenco Station TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Platform 14 is nearing completion and will soon be ready for occupancy at Orenco Station.

(The project’s name comes from the fact that the Orenco Station light-rail station is the 14th stop west of downtown Portland.)

Vance says leases for Platform 14 are being signed and the first occupants are expected to move in by the end of the year.

The company’s next project, unofficially called the Orenco Wrap, will include 304 housing units and more than 448,000 square feet of retail space. It will be built just east of Platform 14, at Northeast 231st and Cherry Avenue.

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Transit connections

Orenco Station, which boasts, shops, restaurants, office space and apartments, is located near Intel’s Ronler Acres Campus. Vance says the company’s recent announcement that it will expand its facilities there means the projects are even more justified than before.

Vance also says the company has been very happy working with Hillsboro on the projects. In fact, according to Vance, Holland Partners hopes to be involved in both the AmberGlen and South Hillsboro projects.

Vance warns, however, that repeating the success of Orenco Station is not guaranteed. Neither location is served by transit, although planners have talked about connecting AmberGlen to the eastside MAX line. South Hillsboro cannot easily be connected to transit, but it is large enough to accommodate its own employment centers.

But Vance says there are many other challenges to overcome, too. For example, Intel’s recently announced expansion plans are likely to increase construction costs for other area builders, Vance says.

“There’s a delicate balance that developers have to deal with on every project, including construction costs, property values, projected rental rates. There are myriad factors that have to come together just right to guarantee success,” says Vance.

‘Best new burb’

Those factors are still coming together at Orenco Station. Plans have already been announced to build a 160-unit affordable apartment complex just across Cherry Avenue from the coming Holland Partners project. It will be built in phases by REACH Community Development, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing and support for individuals and families.

Work on the first 57-unit phase is scheduled to begin next fall.

Hillsboro planners gambled when they first began working on the Orenco Station Residential Village Concept Plan in the early 1990s. Metro had already designated it a Town Center in the 2040 Concept Plan that calls for development to be concentrated along transportation and transit corridors. But little new development had actually occurred along the eastside MAX line from Gresham to Portland that had been completed years earlier.

Nevertheless, PacTrust, the master developer, worked with city planners to design a new kind of neighborhood for Hillsboro on the 209 acres that it owned. Instead of a traditional suburb, the company envisioned a community that included a mix of condominiums, apartments and single-family homes built around parks where walking and biking was encouraged.

The company worked with the city to change the zoning ordinances for the area to allow for narrow streets, garages in the back of the unit accessed through alleys and measures to encourage some residents to work at home.

The concept, called New Urbanism, was intended to mimic older neighborhoods. But in fact such neighborhoods had never existed in suburbs and the project was something of a large-scale experiment.

The first phase was built on the north side of Cornell Road. It includes the locally owned Orenco Station Grill and such popular chains as Starbucks and New Seasons.

When the first phase proved popular, urban planners from around the world came to study it. It was named “Best New Burb” by Sunset Magazine in 2005 and won such awards as the Oregon Governor’s Livability Award in 1998, the Best Masterplanned Community in American Award by the National Association of Homebuilders in 1998, the Ahwahnee Award by Active Living by Design in 1999, and the Transit Communities Livability Design Award by AIA/ULI/FTA/STPP in 1999.

Open space talks

After that, Orenco Station kept growing, with even denser condos and apartments built south of Cornell. PacTrust sold its holdings there to other developers who convinced the city to allow them to build even more units per acre than called for in the original master plan.

Holland Partners was one of those developers. According to Vance, the site of the company’s coming project was originally zoned for medium density. The company persuaded the city to increase the density to allow for an even larger project.

“We are confident the demand is there. This is how many people want to live now — in mixed-use communities close to work and shopping, so they have more time for friends and family,” says Vance.

But Vance says shared open space is also important in such communities. In fact, Holland Partners is talking with the city of Hillsboro to convey 4.2 acres it owns across the street from its coming project to the city for a park. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

The park will also benefit the tenants of REACH’s nearby project. Called the Orchards at Orenco, it will be affordable to residents earning just 50 percent of the area’s median family income, or $25,000 a year for a single-family household.

Reach officials say the project is intended to house workers in the nearby shopping malls.

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