City presents vision for Washington Square Regional Center

The proposed Washington Square Regional Center Plan envisions a large amount of new housing.
The proposed Washington Square Regional Center Plan envisions a large amount of new housing ranging from single-family homes to densely built apartments and everything in between. The plan covers an 827-acre area around the Washington Square mall, including parts of Metzger and land west of Highway 217. Efforts to redevelop this area have been in the works for two decades now. Infographic/City of Tigard

Housing everywhere. That’s the primary theme running through the City of Tigard’s newly released plan for the long-term redevelopment of the Washington Square Regional Center. 

The 827-acre planning area centered around the Washington Square Mall could be a centerpiece of local efforts to provide more housing in the coming years. But, bringing that concept to life will require the joint efforts of the City, Washington County and a host of private sector partners, all of whom have been seeking to redevelop this area for the past two decades. 

“We’re trying to balance community aspirations with market realities and be mindful of being able to deliver new projects and programs,” City of Tigard Senior Planner Susan Shanks told the Tigard City Council at its Oct. 5 meeting. “In the past … we kind of overpromised a little bit by promising big expensive projects that we were never able to follow through on.” 

The mall sits at the heart of the regional center, which stretches to the east past Hall Boulevard and south of Highway 217 and Greenburg Road. Those three locations present three different visions for the future, each with housing as a central component. 

The immediate area around the mall itself is envisioned as a mixed-use commercial core with high-density housing and significant pedestrian and transit amenities. The area between the mall and Hall Boulevard, meanwhile, is likely to remain almost exclusively residential, with a potential Main Street-style commercial hub planned for Hall Boulevard itself. Finally, the area to the southwest of the mall would be mixed use with commercial and light industrial businesses proliferating along with medium and high-density residential development. 

This broad outline largely follows existing business development patterns. However, the new emphasis on housing is being driven by Oregon’s ongoing housing shortage, as well as demand for home variety from the public. Input from community engagement efforts over the past two years, Shanks said, drove home this message. 

“What we heard from the community is they want more affordable housing options, more large household options and a broader range of housing types to choose from and not just apartments,” she said. 

While much of the regional center area falls inside Tigard city limits, some of it sits in unincorporated Washington County, including the Metzger neighborhood. In those latter areas, the City has been tasked with providing long-range planning which could be accomplished if and when they are annexed into the city.

Areas within the city, meanwhile, will need significant changes to the City’s comprehensive plan to allow new residential and mixed-use developments in the regional center. This will be considered in December, while public hearings to allow zone changes are tentatively scheduled to follow. 

“There are definitely some market challenges – the retail sector is changing and changing even more so because of COVID,” Shanks said. “But there are a lot of regulatory challenges and that’s something we can do something about.” 

In addition, a host of future pedestrian and biking improvements to improve connectivity with existing neighborhoods and streets are called for in the plan. 

Councilor Heidi Lueb noted that housing patterns in the regional center showing around 60 percent of households are renters make the need for new and affordable housing in the area all the more important. 

“I want to emphasize it’s really important and I really appreciate we’re looking forward at this so everyone can stay in this area where they have established their families and homes,” she said. 

For more information visit: www.tigard-or.gov/thesquare.

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Josh Kulla is a writer and photographer with experience reporting on city, county and state government, as well as photographing news, sports and events, across the Portland metropolitan area. In his spare time, he can be found photographing Northwest landscapes. He can be reached at josh@tigardlife.com.