(Central District | Photo Courtesy of City of Bend)
Central District Vision Closer to Realization as Urban Renewal Efforts Gather Pace
Long-term efforts to spur revitalization of a central Bend area and incentivize creative mixed-use redevelopment — including housing options and better integration with the downtown core — are accelerating, as a final draft plan heads toward City approval.
In the wake of Bend’s fast-paced growth over the past decades, plans have been formulated over several years to redefine the center of the city as a place that accommodates mixed residential and commercial development, entertainment and community-friendly spaces.
The City of Bend’s “Core Area Plan” process has identified how to move these opportunities forward, using tools like urban renewal.
As part of the City’s UGB expansion several years ago, approvals included amendments to its comprehensive plan that identified nine “opportunity areas” where the city could “grow up” in multi-story form rather than sprawl out.
One of those areas is what’s known as the Bend Central District (BCD), the area located in the heart of the city between the railroad tracks and NE Fourth streets, from Revere to the NE Third Street underpass.
The opportunity area and urban renewal designations, along with recent favorable zone changes, have been designed to incentivize developers to invest in the BCD. Now the draft implementation plan is moving towards review by appropriate taxing and planning approval authorities and come before the City Council for a vote on May 20.
The fundamental changes to the city planning code and incentives such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will allow for and encourage more mixed-use buildings, make parking more accessible and maximize buildable space, as well as creating a walkable neighborhood to help accommodate growth.
At the May 20 meeting, the Bend Urban Renewal Agency (BURA) will consider a resolution to authorize the Draft Core Area TIF Plan & Report for formal review/comment by the applicable taxing districts, the County Commission and the Planning Commission.
In 2019 the Bend City Council directed BURA to establish the Urban Renewal Advisory Board (URAB) to serve as the advisory committee for the Core Area Project (CAP) planning/study process to create a common vision and implementation plan for Bend’s Core Area.
Central Oregon Landwatch Planning Director Moey Newbold said, “We are excited to see this move forward. As people continue to move here, the Bend Central District is one of our best hopes for Central Oregon to grow into a place we want to keep calling home.
“A revitalized neighborhood in the heart of Bend will reduce pressure to sprawl, provide more housing options and create new vibrant nodes of activity.
“The potential of re-developing an area close to downtown Bend to make it an attractive, walkable place for people to live and work is something we can all get behind.”
The central plan will:
- Develop an urban design framework for the area;
- Identify needed circulation improvements to enhance connectivity within and between areas as well as to the city at large;
- Identify programs and projects for the area, including streetscape improvements, public spaces, gateways, affordable housing or art and beautification programs;
- Determine location, phasing and costs for necessary infrastructure (sewer, water, storm water and transportation) to support potential development and redevelopment of the area;
- Develop funding strategies, incentives and other implementation tools, such as urban renewal, to achieve the vision for the area and encourage public-private partnerships;
- Identify barriers to development and any needed code amendments or zoning changes, if necessary, to achieve the vision for this area;
- Determine the boundary of a potential urban renewal area that would encourage investment within the area through tax increment financing (TIF).
Long term Bend-based real estate development leaders Brooks Resources Corporation has already laid down a marker for such creative repurposing of property close to the city’s core with the acquisition of the former Murray & Holt car lot off Franklin Avenue.
Brooks Resources purchased the 1.76-acre property to capitalize on its future development potential as part of the emerging BCD infill and redevelopment opportunity zone.
Brooks’ President and CEO Kirk Schueler said possible concepts that could be explored which would align with the new BCD overlay could encompass mixed-use development such as multi-story projects featuring apartments or offices over ground floor retail.
He added, “Brooks Resources has an interest in seeing the Bend Central District flourish and we see this property as an essential asset to the BCD.
“While we have explored different development concepts, we don’t have an immediate plan for the property. We’re making an investment in the potential of this land and hope to create a mixed-use development in the future that is well received by the entire City of Bend.
“If we don’t grow up then the alternative is to grow out. While there are strategies for both types of growth that can create livable neighborhoods, we think it is time to put some focus on how to grow up in Bend. Infill development that incorporates density and vertical mixed- use development is the solution for accommodating growth in a denser form.”