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Urban-style, mixed-use project coming to Gresham

Daily Journal of Commerce

September 2nd 2004

A project that will soon be under construction in Gresham is being touted by the developer and Metro as something that will look and feel like it doesn't belong in the suburbs at all, but somewhere much more urban.

"It's an impossible project for Gresham essentially. This is a project almost like what you'd find in the Pearl (District)," said Phil Whitmore manager of Metro's Transit Oriented Development program.

Called The Crossings at Gresham Station, the development, located across the street from a planned TriMet light-rail MAX station, will be Gresham's tallest mixed-use building at between six and eight stories.

The development calls for 80 market-rate and some affordable apartments that will sit atop 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The Crossings is located squarely between phase one and phase two of Gresham Station, a commercial complex that includes 300,000 square feet of retail and will soon include 85,000 square feet of medical offices, an L.A.

Fitness facility and 15,000 square feet of additional retail space.

According to Whitmore, Metro purchased 13 acres of the Gresham Station property because it didn't want the residential part of the project to become "a typical suburban development."

"We had a vision there of trying to have a higher density mixed-use community and that's a vision the city of Gresham shares," he said.

It's also a vision shared by the project's developer, PEAK Development LLC, which purchased the site from Metro. PEAK managing member Mike Rossman called the project "aggressive and ambitious for Gresham."

"The building is the quality of something you'd see in the Pearl District. Typically you don't receive the rents, either residential or retail, to support that in Gresham," he said.

But Rossman said a 10-year property tax abatement from the city of Gresham along with grants from both Metro and from the state have made the project possible.

The 2.1-acre site is the first to be developed of the original 13 acres that Metro purchased at Gresham Station.

"We wanted it to set the stage," Whitmore said. "It's designed so that it looks like a series of individual buildings and creates a more interesting pedestrian environment that will continue a kind of Main Street feel. This will ramp up the area's activity considerably."

Emily Matza, an associate broker with Norris Beggs & Simpson, is marketing The Crossings' commercial space. She said the project's location in the middle of the Gresham Station development is a "huge benefit."

"The (commercial) tenants are going to benefit from the big box retailers like Old Navy, Cost Plus Imports and Bed Bath & Beyond," she said. "Any retailer wants to be closer to those. They are a big traffic generator."

Matza said she will be focusing on retailers - smaller, more "boutique shops" - that want to be close to larger, national chains.

The Crossings' ground floor space also has a designated restaurant space totaling about 6,500 square feet. Matza said the remaining retail space could be divided to accommodate tenants needing as little as 700 square feet or as much as 7,000 square feet.

She has been marketing the space for about five months and has one lease out for signing, but declined to mention the tenant's name as the deal is not yet final.

"We feel good about the interest this early," said PEAK's Rossman. "It's a tall order for Emily (Matza) to pre-lease just as we're breaking ground."

"People tend to get more motivated when they see dirt moving," Matza said.

A groundbreaking ceremony for The Crossings is planned for next week. The general contractor on the project is Lone Oak Construction Inc.; Myhre Group Architects LLC is the designer.

Although Metro does not yet have a developer for its remaining 11 acres of Gresham Station property, the regional governing body has some ideas about what it would like to have developed there.

"We're trying to get a movie theater as an anchor tenant to revitalize the area and attract restaurants," Whitmore said. "We
will try and figure this out first. It will tell us what property we have left. If we can't get something like a movie theater, it would change our retail strategy."

Whitmore said one of Metro's parcels will likely be developed into a similar mix of residential and commercial uses planned for The Crossings. Whitmore said building condominiums as part of future development would be preferable.

"Condos are the ultimate goal," he said. "Because they can support higher construction cost and higher land values."

The new MAX stop at Gresham Station will likely not open for more than a year and a half. Whitmore said plans call for a station building for the train to drive into and residential development on both sides of the stop.