More apartments, smaller retail in new Area C plan

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By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The developers who for years backed a big-box grocer in a new portion of Keizer Station submitted a new plan to the City of Keizer last week.

No tenants have been announced for the proposed development as of yet. The main building is nearly 40,000 square feet smaller than the large-format retail store proposed originally. The plan also has significantly more apartments than were included in the previous iteration.

The Keizer City Council will consider the plan as soon as its Monday, Oct. 15 meeting.

City officials have yet to receive what they referred to as a narrative, which could offer further insight as to what type of businesses may ultimately occupy the main building on the property. But site plans show a significantly downsized main building, which could make for a smoother approval process.

Co-developer Chuck Sides said the plan was “cleaned up” so as to mitigate land use planning concerns that ultimately derailed the original plan.

“Obviously the economy has taken a hit, and there’s not the demand for the amount of retail space that once was,” he added.

Opponents of the plan appealed the Keizer City Council’s approval to the Land Use Board of Appeals, which remanded the plan back to the city of Keizer, citing flaws in the traffic study. LUBA referees ruled, and the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed, that a rule mandating that construction of a big-box store and nearby mixed use development be built concurrently wasn’t strong enough. The size of the new anchor building could sidestep that issue.

“If it’s under 80,000 square feet, there’s a need for mixed use but it does not have to be vertical mixed use,” said Sam Litke, the city’s senior planner.

Keep Keizer Livable is a neighborhood group organized to fight the development. They also forced to a local ballot a proposed ban on big-box stores outside the currently developed portion of Keizer Station; it failed in March 2011 by 39 votes out of 8,072 cast.
The group’s co-founder, Kevin Hohnbaum, said the downsized main building was an improvement, but is waiting to see further details.

“We certainly still have some concerns about traffic, specifically traffic flow,” Hohnbaum said, adding that the turn lane onto McLeod Lane could be too short, resulting in traffic stacking up at the intersection.

Some differences between the two plans:

• The anchor building is much smaller than what developers submitted to the city in 2011. The largest retail building is sized down from 116,000 square feet to about 77,000. Plans also show two tenants occupying the structure instead of one. In 2011, the occupant was expected to be a large discount grocery like Walmart. The current plans do not indicate who might be in the building.

• The new plan adds 11 apartment buildings into the mix. Prior plans showed three apartment buildings just south of an extended McLeod Lane NE, which would connect to Trail Avenue. The newest revisions show 11 apartment buildings north of the McLeod extension, where the large format grocery was to be located. The structural plans do not indicate how many apartment units are included in the new proposal.

• Two buildings – a three-story structure at the corner of McLeod Lane NE and Chemawa Road NE and an 8,000 square foot retail building at Lockhaven Drive NE and Chemawa – appear unchanged. However, drawings submitted to the city suggest the three-story building will be just offices, not a mix of retail and office.

• A restaurant pad in the northeast corner of Chemawa and Lockhaven replaces an office plan, while retail is in place of two smaller buildings in the northwest corner of the tract.

What’s unchanged:

• A 53,000 square foot medical center from the 2011 is included, seemingly the same, in plans submitted to the city last week.

• Two retail buildings are still slated for the southeast corner of McLeod and Chemawa.

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