The West Portland Town Center Plan (WPTC) is one of several efforts under the SW Corridor Inclusive Communities Project. It was funded by a Metro Construction Excise Tax (CET) grant in late 2018. This project parallels the ongoing work on the region’s SW Corridor Light Rail Project and Metro’s SW Corridor Equitable Development Strategy.
Past planning efforts in the area
An important milestone in the history of Barbur Boulevard and the West Portland Town Center came in the 1990s. With the Metro 2040 Plan, Barbur Boulevard was designated a “high-capacity transit corridor,” and the area around the West Portland Crossroads was designated a Town Center. These designations signaled future improvements and a more significant role for the area in future planning.
What is a “town center”?
Per Portland’s recently adopted 2035 Comprehensive Plan, Town Centers are large centers that serve a broad area of the city and have an important role in accommodating growth. They provide a full range of commercial and community services, high-density housing, mid-rise commercial and mid-rise mixed-use buildings (typically up to five to seven stories in height), are served by high-capacity transit connections, and have a substantial employment component. Town Centers provide housing opportunities for enough population to support a full-service business district.
Since then, however, Barbur Boulevard has remained largely unchanged, and West Portland is a “Town Center” in name only.
Barbur Concept Plan
In 2013, the adoption of the Barbur Concept Plan established a unifying vision for the Barbur corridor and identified seven key places along Barbur Boulevard that have potential to be destinations, including the West Portland Town Center (also known as “The Crossroads”). This plan also raised questions about whether the Town Center designation was still appropriate for West Portland.
2035 Comprehensive Plan
That question was considered during the City’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update process, and the Town Center designation was reaffirmed and retained. In December 2016, Portland’s new 2035 Comprehensive Plan formally incorporated the Metro West Portland Town Center designation into Portland’s land use plan. The Town Center designation signals the City’s intent for The Crossroads area to become a more complete community, with a full range of housing choices along with commercial and community services.
The 2035 Comprehensive Plan also designates Barbur Boulevard – which currently lacks amenities, safe bike lanes and walkable streets – a Civic Corridor.
SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy
Over the past decade, regional planners have also been paving the way for a new light rail line in the SW Corridor. We know from past efforts that, as plans become a reality, the value of land around the light rail alignment begins to rise as developers purchase land for new buildings.
Recognizing that it was only a matter of time for the land values to start escalating in the SW Corridor, the cities of Portland and Tigard (with a grant from Metro) developed a SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy (EHS) in 2017-18. This strategy will help ensure that lower income and vulnerable communities aren’t priced out of their neighborhoods as improvements to the corridor are made.
There are two main goals of the EHS:
- Lay the groundwork for early actions to prevent displacement, and plan for more housing options and opportunities in the corridor.
- Build capacity in under-represented communities for advocacy and public involvement. This increases the influence of these affected community members on the future of their communities, reducing the impacts of this large regional investment on the most vulnerable populations.
The EHS work also created a SW Community Grants Program to fund community-based partners like Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), Organizing People/Activating Leaders Environmental Justice Oregon (OPAL), Muslim Educational Trust (MET), Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) and Unite Oregon (UO) to organize and engage low-income tenants in a capacity-building process related to affordable housing and transit issues.
This effort culminated in May 2018 when a list of Community Solutions was presented by community leaders and CAT to elected leaders. Tenant leaders and community-based organizations continue to expand engagement and educational activities throughout the corridor today.
With the EHS, Portland and Tigard set affordable and market-rate housing targets for the SW Corridor. The strategy sets a target of 3,000 new homes along the corridor between 2019 and 2029. A minimum of 850 of those new homes will be affordable for low income households between 0-60 percent of the median family income.
The West Portland Town Center Plan will carry forward key directions from the Equitable Housing Strategy as well as the Comprehensive Plan goals and policies of building inclusive, connected and healthy communities.
See the SW Corridor Inclusive Communities Project for more information.