Brooks Resources, the land developer behind some of Bend’s most expensive neighborhoods, has bought a former Franklin Avenue car dealership with an eye toward urban redevelopment.
The Murray and Holt Motors lot would be Brooks Resources’ first urban infill development site. Brooks is considering building 50,000 square feet of offices or roughly 130 apartments over a single story of retail, CEO Kirk Schueler said. The 1.76-acre parcel at 181 NE Franklin Ave. lies in the Bend Central District, which allows more dense development and buildings up to 85 feet tall under certain conditions.
“It comes down to this desire to build something in an urban environment and contribute to this direction Bend sees for the central district,” Schueler said. “It’s new for us.”
Urban redevelopment also represents a new strategic direction of investing in income-producing properties, Schueler said. Brooks Resources has developed North Rim on Awbrey Butte, NorthWest Crossing and The Tree Farm, a joint venture with the Miller family of Miller Lumber and other partners in NorthWest Crossing.
Brooks’ involvement in The Tree Farm development is what eventually led the company to take a closer look at properties near Third Street.
“We put a pin in the intersection of Third and Franklin and measured a quarter-mile radius, which is a 15-minute walk,” Schueler said. Although Brooks Resources’ headquarters is on Franklin near downtown, he said executives were “taken aback” by the realization that groceries, professional services, public transportation and a hardware store were all within walking distance.
“We looked at the Bend Central District and saw in it the potential to be the most mixed-use area of Bend.”
The Tree Farm, which is outside of Bend’s city limits, had been opposed by the conservation group Central Oregon LandWatch, which was concerned about maintaining wildlife habitat and preventing wildfire hazards.
That contention, however, led to conversations between Brooks executives and LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey. LandWatch dropped its case before the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals over The Tree Farm in 2016 because Brooks supported the concept of reducing development density near permanent growth boundaries such as U.S. Forest Service land, Dewey said.
“We also agreed to work together to make the Bend Central District happen or to try to encourage it,” Dewey said. The city adopted the central district code as part of its urban growth boundary expansion.
Now LandWatch, Brooks and other developers have formed the BCD Initiative, an organization that promotes creating urban renewal districts to capture future tax revenue that would be spent on infrastructure improvement in the designated areas.
Brooks has not filed any plans with the city for the Murray and Holt site. “That timing is somewhat contingent on the city’s urban renewal efforts,” Schueler said. The Bend City Council on Wednesday directed staff to start working on possible districts, including one along Franklin.
Schueler thinks revenue captured by an urban renewal district should go toward reconstructing Franklin from the railroad underpass to Fourth Street to make it pedestrian-friendly. “It’ll be an important determination on our timing,” he said. “It’ll certainly be a motivation for us to know that there are some improvements coming to the streetscape.”
If Brooks opts to build the mixed-use apartment building, it will most likely be more than 65 feet high, Schueler said. Under the central district code, 10 percent of the units must be designated as affordable.
Brooks wants to build in the central district because of the increased height limit, Schueler said. The company is actually selling a roughly 3-acre property on Colorado Avenue where a Seattle developer wants to build a four-story apartment building.
Schueler said Brooks prefers the Franklin Avenue site because it could be built out in phases. “You could do 50 apartments in a six-story building, then just add onto it in the back when we’re ready to build the next 50,” he said.
Brooks bought the Murray and Holt site Friday for an undisclosed sum. The seller, an entity that includes former car dealer Jack Holt, listed the property last year for $2.9 million.
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