Plaza placement puzzles Wood Village planners
Plop a lawn chair in the center of Wood Village's most public plaza, and someone is sure to say, "Who said you could camp out in front of Freddy's?"
But the muted cement-colored tiles and sedate planter boxes in front of the Wood Village Town Center Fred Meyer store truly are intended for everyone's use and enjoyment.
Plenty of residents of East Multnomah County do use the plaza, at least for a moment, as they trot from their cars to the chain hair salon and superstores located off Northeast Park Lane north of Sandy Boulevard.
"The public perceives (the plaza) currently as Fred Meyer's, which it isn't" admitted City Administrator Bill Peterson. "We'd like to connect it somehow, so people realize — this honest to goodness is a public plaza, where you're invited to hang out."
Spurred by a proposed development from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, city planners are redrawing the map for the town center, which is bounded by Northeast 223rd Avenue, Glisan Street and Arata Road.
A finalized master plan for the area suggests placing a second circular plaza just to the north, next to the existing open space. But that area is currently used by trucks offloading at Fred Meyer and Kohl's.
The idea has also irked Lee Leighton, the tribe's hired land use planner from the well-respected Mackenzie architectural firm. Leighton wants the public element to be located farther north, on a to-be-built street that leads to the front door of the Grand Ronde's development.
"(You're) trying to make the plaza be literally where the trucks coming into Kohl's have to make reversing motions to get in," Leighton said during a Wood Village meeting on Monday, March 6. "They literally have to! There's no other way (for them) to get into their truck docks."
"You've got a plaza up against blank walls," agreed Jim Coombes, a real estate manager for Fred Meyer. "Those large buildings (have) 22-feet masonry block walls, no fenestration, same as the back of Kohl's. It's not real inviting."
It's worth noting that the government's plan, and its suggested plaza placement, is merely an aspirational document written by consultants. It carries no force of law.
And as Peterson noted, tribal reps don't want city code — the actual law — to contain any diagrams, which would mandate where certain design aspects are sited.
So what's the bigger picture?
For Peterson, if the plaza is centrally located, it will link new development with pre-existing storefronts. That could stoke visitors and locals to abandon their cars and explore the area by foot.
In contrast, the tribe's preference for the plaza would be on a dead-end cul-de-sac in front of their entertainment complex.
"You don't go looking at anything else (and) you're not trying to tie (the plaza) to other pedestrian facilities," Peterson said of their plan. "You're there, you're looking at the back side of Fred Meyer and you're never going to go find the front."
As previously reported by The Outlook, town center master plans developed in the 1990s contained rosy dreams of a walkable, urban living hub.
Those documents bare little likeness to the sprawling parking lots, gas station and drive-throughs found in the town center today.
Few details have emerged on the Confederated Tribe's plan for the former site of the Multnomah Greyhound Park. In public records, the development is described as a secure entertainment complex with a lodging component.