Mar 18, 2008

Troutdale Urban Renewal Committee Picks Bruning/CenterCal

Last night, after hearing separate presentations from developers Williams & Dame and CenterCal Properties, Troutdale's urban renewal advisory committee elected to bypass an RFP process and recommend Fred Bruning's CenterCal as the city's developer for its Riverfront Renewal Project. The committee's recommendation now goes to the Troutdale Urban Renewal Agency board for consideration.

During discussion of the two developers' response to the city's request for qualifications, opinions were evenly split between the two developers. But the committee's preference swung decidedly to Bruning's firm when the time came to vote between the two firms. CenterCal was the preferred developer by an 8-3 vote.

CenterCal's proposal was for a commercial development based on acquiring an anchor retail tenant, perhaps a Cabela's, that would focus on Troutdale's position as the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge. Williams and Dame representatives proposed the construction of a brand new mixed use high density neighborhood, emphasizing local retailers. They gave Portland's south waterfront and Pearl district as examples.

Bruning said he would be extremely interested in acquiring the current Columbia Gorge Outlet Mall and either updating the look and stores of the mall or replacing it entirely with something else. I believe this may have swayed the advisory committee in its decision toward recommending CenterCal. Williams and Dame representatives also said they would look into "doing something" with the outlet mall, but they didn't seem to make this a priority in their presentation. Committee members also seemed to question the sustainability of a new mixed use neighborhood on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge scenic area.

I have no idea how my fellow urban renewal agency commissioners will feel about the advisory committee's recommendation. I'm still undecided myself. But I put great weight on the advisory committee's recommendation. Their discussion/debate last night was thorough, to the point, and well reasoned. Every committee member spoke highly of each developer and agreed that either one could do a great job with the project.

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