After years of touting Juniper Ridge as an economic savior of sorts for Bend, the city believes it is just a handful of months away from being able to begin selling parcels of land on about 300 of the 1,500 acres of the planned mixed-use community.
David Ditz, Bend’s development manager for Juniper Ridge, said the two major planning initiatives his group has worked on all year were to create a special plan area (SPA) for the employment sub-district, which covers approximately 300 acres of the 500 that are currently inside Bend’s urban growth boundary, and to change the zoning of that property to light industrial.
“We’ve been working since January to get those defined and put in a document to become an amendment to the zoning code,” Ditz said. “The process of creating that document is now finished, and the first public hearing with the planning commission is scheduled for Oct. 12 in the city council chambers. After that point, we expect it to move on to the city council for formal approval in early December as soon as the SPA is adopted by the council.”
Ditz said the SPA allows for the city to record a partition flat to create the Suterra parcel so the Bend-based high tech company can complete development of its new facility in Juniper Ridge north of the relatively new Les Schwab Tire Centers headquarters, as well as a parcel of land for utility Pacific Corp. to build a substation. The Pacific Corp. parcel does not require rezoning because it received a conditional use permit from Bend’s planning department last spring, Ditz said.
“So, were on schedule with everything, everything is going well, we’re happy with our progress and we have a tremendous team of people,” he said.
But there is one other hurdle the city must clear before property inside Juniper Ridge, whose master plan includes subdivisions, light industry, a commercial center, and a four-year university, will be put up for sale. The zone change requires an agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to make the long-discussed improvements at the intersection of Cooley Road and Highway 97. ODOT has been studying a major program of highway improvements along that Northeast stretch of Bend over the last year, and currently there are four alternatives for expanding the roadway, but ODOT determined it can not afford any of them, all ranging in the $300 to $400 million range – there is just no way to find that money at the state or federal level, or from private investment.
“ODOT has called a pause, taking 30 days to see where they can reduce the scope of the project,” Ditz said. “There are two workshops planned for (the week of Oct. 5) to see if we can come up with a trimmed down solution. Then the city has to demonstrate a means of financing a contribution to that project. The number used in the past has been $50 million, but we think it’s going to be a lot less than that.”
Ditz suggested a local match of 10 percent to 20 percent, which falls in line with federal guidelines to receive funding from Washington D.C.
“Once the zoning change is done and a plan is agreed on with ODOT then we can begin to sell parcels,” he said.
He also added that the Juniper Ridge development board has yet to determine if it will list the properties with a brokerage, and that no marketing document exists for how and whom it will promote the land to, but there are plans to create one in the spring of 2010.
“We have not determined who will do that yet, but obviously we would like to work with local vendors whenever possible,” Ditz said. “As project executive, I am responsible for the financial performance of Juniper Ridge and I will do everything I can to see that it succeeds.”
Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, said before that indeed there is interest in Juniper Ridge from potential buyers, some that include companies that would relocate from out of state, but that no one is committing until final details are ironed out.