Jointly Sponsored Peer Review to Enhance Bend's Central District

Example of an active street

Example of an active street

Central Oregon LandWatch and Brooks Resources sent the joint letter below to Bend City Council along with the associated documents to suggest small changes to the code in the Central Area Plan. These suggested changes were included with the adoption of the 2016 Urban Growth Boundary.

Dear City Council:

Brooks Resources and Central Oregon LandWatch are pleased to present the attached jointly sponsored peer-review and analysis of Bend’s Central District MMA Plan and Code Amendments.  

Brooks and LandWatch retained the services of Katherine (Kat) Schultz to complete this review.  Kat is a Director at GBD Architects in Portland and has more than 20 years of experience in mixed-use housing and planning. She is passionate about uncovering opportunities and challenges inherent in planning for smart growth and works to gain a broad perspective on the issues facing her community through her work not only as an architect but also as a Chair of Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission. 

Brooks and LandWatch share a common interest in the ultimate success of the Central District as we believe it is key to Bend’s transition to a more urban city with a variety of housing and transportation options.   To that end, we tasked Kat with reviewing the plan and code amendments with her experienced eyes to find ways to encourage the District’s transformation.   Kat’s review and analysis recommends some highly specific amendments to the draft MMA Code language as well as additional thoughts on elements of the MMA Plan that should be considered for long term implementation.

The planning effort and documents for the Central District represent a great planning effort and a solid final product.  However, there are a few simple code changes that could be adopted with the UGB amendments as a first step toward making certain the Central District Opportunity Area is successful. In summary, Kat’s proposed code amendments would accomplish the following:

  • Parking Standards – reduce minimum requirements to 0 and let the market determine what is needed.  In alternative, at least consider eliminating or at least further reducing parking for retail uses.  The Central District could then be utilized as a special case study area for the larger Bend Parking Study.
  • Building Height – 75’ allows for economical 5-over-1 wood construction and stays below high-rise construction building codes, which alone can greatly increase building costs.  This may be increased to 5 over 2 in 2018 in state code.  Heights should be established by backing into overall desired height using the number of desired stories.
  • Eliminate requirements for step-backs as building height increases, with possible exception of along 4th Street adjacent to residential zones.  Step backs greatly increase the cost of construction with questionable benefit.  Consider alternative means of height mitigation such as bays, stories in gable roofs or balconies to achieve similar visual effect without as significant impacts on building costs.
  • Eliminate requirements for additional setbacks from the street for taller buildings, especially along the already very wide 3rd Street corridor.  Additional setbacks would be counter-productive in nearly every way imaginable.

Utilizing Kat’s report and recommendations, we have made suggested edits to the current draft of the MMA Code for your consideration.  See Attached “Track Changes” version of draft MMA Code that identifies these specific proposed amendments.

However, simply amending the code, either as currently proposed or with the changes we are suggesting, is only a starting point to ensure the City gets the desired outcomes for redevelopment in the Central District.  There are follow up steps that need to be considered and implemented to make the most of the opportunity.  These include:

Mid-term actions:  follow up actions that should be considered for near term study and implementation.

  • Analyze current and projected parking demands in the downtown and Central District; consider adopting parking demand management measures like parking permits and meters.
  • Implement inclusionary zoning regulations as allowed by state law and consider other means of encouraging workforce housing in this area.
  • Study feasibility and consider implementing an Urban Renewal district to fund public investment in the Central District. 
  • Consider investing in street section improvements in the Central District to trigger private development; ie, Colorado/Arizona couplet.
  • Consider developer incentives to invest in Central District (see attached “Downtown Boise Housing Incentives” brochure.)  

Longer term strategies:  Issues and ideas to consider now and that could be put into play as the Central District develops.

  • Update/Revise Transit Plan, consider a special loop system between the Central District, downtown, and Old Mill with a distinctive vehicle.
  • Sustainability should be an ongoing theme in the Central District.  Consider incentivizing the creation of an “Eco District” within the Central District.
  • Gentrification – as the district attracts residents and becomes a success, values will rise and existing residents and businesses could be displaced. Strategies to mitigate these impacts have been employed in other cities that can be implemented to help alleviate these concerns.

Thanks for your time and attention on this topic.  Attached is additional information including:

1.    Kat Schultz’ Bend Central Area Plan Review

2.    Brooks/COLW proposed amendments to the draft Chapter 2.7.3200, Bend Central District

3.    Boise, Idaho “Redefine Downtown” summary documents as an example of what that city has done to encourage redevelopment and housing within and adjoining their downtown.

Kirk Schueler, Brooks Resources
Paul Dewey, Central Oregon LandWatch