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Old Posted Oct 10, 2007, 8:30 PM
360Rich 360Rich is offline
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[Vancouver] Vacated 7th Street Transit Center

Not sure where this belongs in the new SSP:Local Portland layout. Please feel free to move it if it is better suited elsewhere.

Downtown businesses and leaders pool temporary ideas for soon-to-be-empty transit center
September 28th, 2007

When the Seventh Street Transit Center vacates downtown Vancouver, there will be a harsh, unforgiving concrete patch left behind that has become the focus of much conversation around town.

C-Tran owns the 50- by 200-foot stretch of concrete just north of the center island on Seventh Street between Main and Washington streets, and planners are putting their heads together to design a beneficial use for the property to demonstrate what urban development can be.

The only catch – it has to be temporary.

The Columbia River Crossing task force has strongly indicated that if any future high-capacity transit is routed on Washington Street, a transit station would be needed at Seventh Street, said Lynn Halsey, director of operations for C-Tran.

Mel Stout, Harper Houf Peterson Righellis Inc.
An early concept of what the demonstration plaza at the soon-to-be-vacated Vancouver Seventh Street Transit Center could look like. This design will be a springboard for further discussion about the design.

Because the Federal Transit Administration paid 80 percent of the cost of establishing the transit center and the FTA would be involved with the CRC project, if the property is needed, it is unlikely the FTA would approve a request that the property be considered surplus until a final decision is made, he said.

The task force could start making decisions about rapid transit in the next year, but it could be eight to 10 years before the property is actually needed – a long time for the critically placed space to sit empty while the rest of downtown is actively redeveloping, said Lee Rafferty, a Vancouver’s Downtown Assoc. board member and co-owner of Spanky’s consignment shop.

Although any temporary redevelopment will be a C-Tran project, the VDA has taken the reins in designing a “place holder” use for the property and has started to bring in partners, such as Washington State University’s extension agency, Clark PUD, the city parks and recreation and transportation departments and the Esther Short Neighborhood and Uptown Village associations.

When C-Tran announced the change in service last spring, Rafferty and other downtown business owners were excited at the prospect of bringing positive energy to the transit center.

Megan Patrick_VBJ
C-Tran will soon vacate the Seventh Street Transit Center, and the Vancouver Downtown Association with partners is helping to design a temporary demonstration plaza in the concrete slab that will be left behind.

The area has become ground zero for crime activity, not necessarily by bus customers, but the people who try to hide in the shadow of bus activity, Rafferty said.

The negative goings-on have been a deterrent to attracting shoppers downtown, she said.

The vision: sustainability

So far, planners envision a small, inviting and pedestrian-oriented plaza with sustainable lighting, landscaping and reuse of existing materials.

This could mean the reuse of concrete slabs removed from existing structures as planters, curbing or seating, reuse of current signage, efficient use of water runoff and irrigation for water conservation or educational kiosks, said Identity Clark County Executive Director Ginger Metcalf, who has been involved in the project planning.

There is no official design yet, but Vancouver-based Harper Houf Peterson Righellis has loaned a landscape architect who has provided three plans of what the site could look like. The plans incorporate design elements used in the Main Street redevelopment plan.

So far, there have only been three parking spaces incorporated into the design on the south side – one where an electric car can plug in and recharge, one for a Flexcar and another for a carpool vehicle.

Parked vehicles act as a barrier to pedestrians, both visually and physically, Rafferty said.

“This is going to be exciting, new and cutting edge,” she said.

Clark PUD has expressed interest in demonstrating forward-thinking energy use with LED lighting and solar technology. A WSU extension agent who penned a pamphlet on urban trees has also offered perspective about what landscaping may be appropriate.

The plaza could be used as an outdoor classroom, where students can learn about sustainability, or as a showcase for student art projects or performances.

“There are unending possibilities,” Metcalf said. “It’s just a matter of how far our resources and imaginations will take us.”

The funding

The VDA will provide funding for the temporary redevelopment.

Starting two years ago, the group took advantage of a state tax credit incentive program and because of pledges by Bank of Clark County and The Columbian, it has $133,000 in the bank and is looking at gaining another $133,000, split by Albina Fuel and First Independent Bank at the end of the year.

The program is aimed specifically at revitalizing dead, decaying and pedestrian-oriented areas of downtowns, and the VDA has banked the proceeds so far for a worthy project that will bring a lift to the area.

Rafferty said the VDA believes this is the project.

“We could just put up a chain link fence and keep people out of that area, but what would that help?” Rafferty said.

Setting the pace

Making downtown approachable and vibrant impacts business, Metcalf said.

“This project was conceived by the VDA, an organization of businesses with a specific interest in making downtown an attractive place to shop and do business,” she said. “Vacant lots are not attractive, and we envision a place for patrons to shop, have dinner and enjoy the entertainment of downtown.”

Rafferty said the VDA is hoping further improvements downtown will inspire business and property owners to spiff up their places with a new awning or new coat of paint.

“Somebody has to set the pace,” she said. “We’re hoping property owners and shopkeepers can look at the area with new eyes and see there is greater potential.”

The VDA hopes to have a concept and partners identified by the end of October and by spring have installations at the site.

The transit center was scheduled to vacate Seventh Street with the opening of the new transit center in Hazel Dell on Sept. 30, but the unveiling of the new center is delayed due to design issues.

C-Tran is working with the city to return Seventh Street to two-way traffic. C-Tran will pay to have the bus shelters removed and to replace a street light, and the city will install a traffic signal and re-stripe the road.
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