The third and final community meeting about the Parkrose-Argay Development Study took place at Parkrose Middle School last night. To get caught up on what’s developed so far, read my recap of the last community event. I represent Historic Parkrose and the Argay Terrace Neighborhood Association on the committee that meets monthly to discuss development ideas.
To begin the night, Joe Rossi thanked the community for being involved and reminded everyone he has six other family members who are decision-makers in this process. In personal conversations with me, Joe has expressed excitement about this project and gratitude for the planning team. He has ideas about what types of businesses he’d personally love to see, and he might even like to live in one of the homes that will be developed one day. It’s abundantly clear that Joe and his family desire to develop the property to benefit the neighborhood and continue their family legacy.
City planner Barry Manning and Walker Macy architects Ken Pirie and Morgan Maiolie presented the details of their Preferred Concept plan, which takes the most popular aspects from previous concepts and melds them into one plan. April Bertelsen of the Portland Bureau of Transportation addressed traffic safety concerns especially on NE 122nd Ave, which has its own team working to improve its safety, access, and transit. Jerry Johnson discussed the market conditions that influence what type and how much housing and commercial spaces should be developed.
The most exciting development in this iteration of the plan is the Rossi Farm barn staying where it is and being repurposed as an event space and a hub for a dining development such as a high-end food court or food truck pod with an open plaza north of the barn. This idea would allow so many people to enjoy the barn and would use the barn as a place-maker. I would definitely love to book concerts and perform with my band there!
We learned from early surveys and conversations that the most common community desire is for a grocery store with quality produce and healthy options. This plan has a 30,000-40,000 sq. ft. grocery store just south of the barn, which could likely accommodate stores like Trader Joe’s, New Seasons, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, etc.
Multiple people have expressed their disappointment that the preferred plan doesn’t have as much commercial space as they hoped. In addition to the grocery store, this plan has 50,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the east side of 122nd. Jerry Johnson said the preferred plan accounts for his analysis, which estimates the market demand for commercial space in the area to be roughly that amount. Building more commercial space would run the risk of spaces sitting empty with no tenants. Johnson said a small restaurant needs 1,500-5,000 sq. ft., so there may be room for about twenty businesses depending on how the commercial space is divided. He also showed statistics showing the decline in retail sales from physical locations and the trend towards service-oriented businesses as well as dining.
While 50,000 sq. ft. would not be enough commercial space to rival popular districts in Portland, I think it’s certainly enough to establish the development as a destination, especially if a quality grocer and unique barn dining hall anchor the area even if they are across 122nd. The tenant mix plays a crucial role in establishing a cohesive destination as well. I encourage us as a community and as individuals (including myself!) to start the businesses we want to see at this development. I hope to open a coffee shop one day in this new development with my business partners at Rocky Butte Coffee Roasters. Maybe now is the time to start researching your dream business!
To summarize the rest of the concept plan, a new road from Shaver St. would run diagonally directly toward Mt. Hood in order to capture that stunning view. There would be high-density urban-style apartments likely 4-stories tall near 122nd, perhaps with commercial space on the bottom level. Further east, there would be 2-3 story apartments more typical of the suburbs, and east of that would be townhomes. The plan also shows a small cottage pod, and many people, especially me, have expressed a desire for more cottages and fewer townhomes. I have also campaigned for more community hubs for the apartments like a swimming pool or a shared kitchen/clubhouse. The plan has a gradual height decline so that Luuwit View Park and the existing houses won’t be adjacent to towering apartments. The concept would allow for 350-500 apartment units and over 100 townhomes or cottages.
There was a long question and answer portion, and the two main community concerns I noticed regard traffic congestion and safety and problems that could arise from density such as parking. Because there is a Trimet bus serving 122nd, the minimum number of parking spaces required is quite low. The main response from Barry Manning has been that the increased traffic on the streets and adding/improving sidewalks and trees should decrease speeding and that the high density conforms to the current zoning whereas low density such as single-family houses would not conform. Joe Rossi has pointed out that the area they have in mind for apartments was never zoned for single-family housing (some people have incorrectly assumed it was). I think people have some valid concerns, but whenever I start to feel uneasy about an aspect of the development that might negatively impact our livability, I take comfort in that I know the families who own this land. Of course, they have to operate within the City of Portland’s rules, but I trust them to develop the land in ways that minimize potential harm to neighbors like me.
Right now there is no timetable to when this project might start to take shape, but this is a good reminder to appreciate what we have before it’s gone. I’ll be thinking of that at Taste of Parkrose and the next time Joe invites me to pick strawberries.
Do you have a question about the development study + concept plan or an idea of what you’d love to see or not see develop? Comment and I’ll respond!