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Times-Litho moves ahead with mixed-use future


Committee envisions housing, grocery on downtown property

It's a destination property with a retail magnet, attractive housing and a vibrant public space. It draws people downtown, increasing local spending, raising property values and spurring further investment in the area.

That's the vision for the Times-Litho site on the corner of Pacific Avenue and A Street, which currently holds an assortment of separate structures, most of them empty.

But change is coming, thanks to the Forest Grove City Council's approval Monday of the Times Litho Ad-Hoc Committee's recommendations for redevelopment.

In addition to the above vision, the committee recommended market-rate housing — not subsidized — for the mixed retail/housing project.

"We need people with disposable income to be living there," said Cynthia Sturm, owner of a commercial real estate brokerage and a committee member.

The city also needs a good destination store to draw people downtown, according to the committee, and a niche grocery store is high on the list.

City officials had hoped to interest New Seasons in the space, but New Seasons, Trader Joes and other such stores all choose sites that have big, adjacent parking lots and are near major intersections, Sturm said. "We have more of a boutique situation," she said, referring to stores such as World Foods or Green Zebra, an offshoot of New Seasons.

Commitee members also liked the idea of an indoor market or a farmer's co-op, as suggested by City Councilor Victoria Lowe.

Those would fit well with the recommendation for some sort of public gathering place, such as a small park or plaza that would allow people to sit, relax and perhaps enjoy small events.

"All the outstanding communities in the Northwest have some kind of public amenity aspect," said Rod Fuiten, another committee member.

The committee also recommended a public-private partnership that could include not just the city but perhaps Metro and other governments as well, one that wouldn't necessarily involve free land or lower system development charges but might include marketing and promotion services or help with permits or some other area.

The city council unanimously accepted the recommendations, which means staff will now prepare to solicit developers through a Request for Information/Proposal in the form of a prospectus.

The Times-Litho committee expects the RFI to be ready for developers in late February, with an April deadline for them to submit their visions for the site, after which the city will hold open houses to let the public see the ideas and give input.

By May, according to the committee's rough timeline, the city will decide on a development proposal and will spend the summer negotiating with the developer, followed by groundbreaking in 2015.

The sooner the better, according to Jerry Johnson, an economist who has been consulting and working with the city on this project.

"Right now," he said Monday, "this is just sort of a black hole and it's not helping anybody."