At its May 1 meeting, the Forest Grove Planning Commission began work on Stonewood Center, a set of four commercial buildings with a parking lot between them. The project would be located between Ace Hardware and what will eventually become the new Forestplace Apartments, a development adjacent to the west edge of the Ace parking lot. That project was approved by the commission in January.
During the meeting, commissioners heard a staff report, applicant testimony and public testimony on Stonewood Center, which would first construct a 13,910-square-foot, single-story building on what is now a vacant grass strip along the south side of Pacific Avenue, sitting just behind a TriMet bus stop. That structure would include a coffee shop/kiosk on its west side.
Across the parking area, on another grass strip to the south, the applicant — A. C. "Buzz" Avery (represented by Barry Newdelman Associates Architects of Portland and Multi-Tech Engineering of Salem) — has proposed three more structures, including a 7,778-square-foot, single-story building that would share a common wall with a two-story building of 11,795 square feet. The third would be another two-story building, also 11,795 square feet.
The latter two buildings would be separated by an 814-square-foot plaza. All three would be built in phase two, depending on whether tenants could be successfully recruited.
Access to this project would be from the current entry points to the Ace Hardware parking lot — one from Pacific and one from Fir Lane.
Three issues surfaced during the testimony. First, since the parking is in the interior of the project, the entrances to the building along Pacific would be facing the parking lot to the south, not the sidewalk. This keeps the unattractiveness of the parking lot away from the street, but raises the problem of the look of the building from the street.
The street-side view would be the rear wall of the building and in many cases, buildings' rear walls are simply blank. But city code does not allow blank walls along a street. Thus much of the discussion was how to use windows or some other architectural aspects to improve the street-side view.
A second issue is the coffee kiosk, which would be located near the entrance from Pacific Avenue. The issue is not the queuing up to buy coffee, but the challenge of getting back onto Pacific, which would require turning left across the driveway. After hearing the concerns of the Commission and members of the public, the applicant will continue to work on this problem.
A third issue was the number of parking spaces, with planning commissioners questioning whether the proposed plan had too few spaces. The uncertainty depends on the exact uses of the building, since an attorney's office has a different need for parking than a medical office or coffee shop. Commissioners requested a traffic engineer's analysis of this question. Because the commission needs this additional data, it continued this public hearing until the June 19 meeting.
Meanwhile, our two May meetings will formally consider the Westside Project.
Tom Beck writes a column on the activities of the Forest Grove Planning Commission, which he chairs.