(Map | Courtesy of NAI Cascade Commercial Real Estate Services)
The Move Signals Progress in Redevelopment of Bend Central District
If you live in Central Oregon, you know that the Les Schwab tire store on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Second Street is a flagship facility that has been around a long time. Les Schwab, a privately owned company with two tire centers in Bend, another independently owned store and a corporate headquarters here, is one of the largest employers in Central Oregon. The company has hundreds of locations and thousands of employees throughout the west. The site at 105 NE Franklin Ave. has been there since 1955 and is one of the top 20 Les Schwab stores in terms of gross sales.
In a landmark commercial real estate transaction, the iconic tire center will move to a new location that encompasses an entire city block just off Third Street, and the existing Franklin Avenue site is up for sale. The move is more than a simple relocation of a tire store: The transition marks significant steps toward the redevelopment of the Bend Central District (BCD). Walt Ramage, a commercial Real Estate partner and broker with NAI Cascade Commercial Real Estate Services, represented Les Schwab in the acquisition of the new location, which is intentionally close to the current site location. Both are located within the Bend Central District.
“The current Les Schwab store on Franklin is in the heart of the BCD, at the gateway to downtown,” says Ramage. “It was imperative to Les Schwab that they keep their new flagship store within that core.” The acquisition of the new site was named the 2020 Commercial Transaction of the Year by Central Oregon Association of Realtors as part of its ENCOAR Awards. The relocation moves the auto-dependent retail sales and service facility from the gateway site near the railroad underpass on Franklin Avenue to the Third Street corridor and southern periphery of the BCD. The new 2.4-acre property encompasses a city block between NE Third and NE Fourth streets, south of NE Clay Avenue and north of NE Burnside Avenue, not far from Bend Senior High School.
In making the decision to move the store, Ramage says the No. 1 goal of Les Schwab was community first. “It really speaks to who Les Schwab is as a company. They’ve always been first and foremost about the community. The three stores in Bend all sponsor or contribute to numerous school, community and cultural activities. They wanted this store to stay within the area where it has been since the 1950s, but also to give their customers the experience that they deserve with a new, updated flagship store.”
The design of the new store will be the same as that used with other Les Schwab facilities built in recent years. “We are excited to move to the new location so that customers have easier access. The layout and new store design bring things closer together,” says Dale Thompson, Les Schwab chief marketing officer. “We have found the new design to work efficiently in other stores. The customer area will be new and centralized, and there will be a couple of entrances. The goal is to bring a newer, more modern design to better serve customers. This design has been used in other locations for the past eight years and has been modified over the years to improve it even further.” He adds, “We’re proud to update the store here; this is our hometown and where we have our headquarters.”
One of the primary goals with the move, Ramage says, is to kickstart redevelopment within the Bend Central District. “That’s ultimately what the city officials looked for. For the residents within the BCD, there weren’t proper sidewalks within that city block. But now the sidewalk areas will all be widened and brought up to code and landscaped. The connectivity for pedestrians and people in that neighborhood who utilize those streets all the time is going to be much safer and much nicer.”
The move brings two-fold opportunity for improvement in the region: In addition to the new store site, which is currently in the permitting process, the existing location offers seven tax lots totaling about 3.5 acres situated in Bend’s Enterprise Zone, Opportunity Zone and the BCD. The parcel is adjacent to the 97 Parkway, which provides outstanding visibility for future buildings and signage. The zoning of the site is mixed use, so that it can be utilized for residential, retail and food and beverage units as well as for offices and clinics, convention center and meeting rooms, lodging, hospitals, parking, daycare, governmental buildings, schools and parks and open spaces. The site is ripe for major transformation: It’s being marketed nationwide, and a targeted marketing strategy is in place for local developers and businesses or governmental agencies interested in a large, inner-city piece of land in which to centralize operations.
A nearby parcel of 1.75 acres was purchased several years ago by Brooks Resources with the intent to redevelop the property. Collectively, the new and old Les Schwab sites and the Brooks Resources site create myriad possibilities for a large segment of the BCD to receive new life. “We own the old Murray & Holt Motors, on the corner of 2nd and Franklin,” explains Kirk Schueler, president and CEO of Brooks Resources Corporation, a local real estate developer that has created some of Central Oregon’s most recognizable communities, such as Black Butte Ranch, NorthWest Crossing, North Rim, Awbrey Butte, Awbrey Glen, Mount Bachelor Village Resort and IronHorse in Prineville. “We currently lease the property to Blue Dog RV, and we have explored a mixed-use, residential, multi-story building on the property. This is in the planning stages. We are hoping to keep moving toward that end, but we don’t have a timeline.”
Schueler says he believes that any redevelopment that occurs in the Franklin corridor is going to help spur investment by the renewal district on improvements to Franklin Avenue. “The city recently created an urban renewal district that includes much of the land in the Bend Central District. Any activity in that corridor is going to spur investment, whether it’s from us or someone else. The Les Schwab site will be interesting. Hopefully, someone finds an appropriate and excellent use for it. Anything that helps the neighborhood is great.”
Ramage says that the Les Schwab land acquisition did not come without its struggles. “The challenge was that auto-dependent uses are not allowed within the BCD. Even though there was pre-existing use, the land-use process took a considerable amount of time. The transaction took a little over 21 months to complete.” To facilitate the process, a proposal was submitted to amend the City of Bend Development Code to allow auto-dependent retail sales and service on the new property, and prohibit them from the site of the existing Les Schwab Tire Center. “The proposal stated that by maintaining the tire center within the BCD, residents in the BCD with vehicles will have access to product sales and services in close proximity to residences and places of employment, allowing for shorter trips to get the work done and the ability to have it done while at work without having to leave the area while the vehicle is being serviced,” he says.
“Throughout the process, with the team that Les Schwab assembled, we were able to overcome hurdles through education. What an honor it was to represent a company such as Les Schwab.”