John Costa column: Bend’s west side fills in

Published Jul 27, 2014 at 12:12AM

Almost every workday, I spend an hour or so at a west Bend coffee shop catching up on the news, chatting with the regulars and, time permitting, reading a book.

One day recently, the noise of a powerful construction machine intruded on this idyll.

It was the sound of the ground being cleared for a new restaurant.

Unremarkable in many ways, except that it is a part of an ongoing transformation of the west side of the city.

Bend is changing in every section of the city and will certainly continue to do so, city planners told the editorial board of The Bulletin, as the new Urban Growth Boundary — the state-required blueprint for growth — is completed and approved.

The population estimate in the plan approaches 120,000 people, adding about 35,000 folks to our current population of 80,000-plus.

That will be felt everywhere, but something else has been happening west of the Deschutes River and looks likely to continue, if not accelerate.

At least that is my perception.

The word “urbanization” may be a stretch. “Diversification” may be a better one, but whatever it is, it’s happening.

“You are correct,” said Brian Rankin, the city’s principal planner.

And the reason is quite simple, Rankin said.

“You need (residential) rooftops before commercial” moves in, he said.

Once a certain threshold is met, office, commercial and retail development is sure to follow.

The Bulletin moved onto its west Bend site in 2000, clearing a debris field to construct its current home.

Now we are neighbors to doctors, dentists and lawyers, a day care center, apartment buildings, schools and a brewpub.

But that’s just the beginning.

Since 2000, the development of the city west of the Deschutes River, which has been going on for a long time, has clearly accelerated.

Since then, Bend Memorial Clinic opened a satellite center, Safeway and Ray’s opened food stores, the Bend Park and Recreation District constructed a new headquarters, the Deschutes Brewery expanded, Central Oregon Community College added multiple buildings, several public schools and churches have been built, NorthWest Crossing — with homes, retail, food services and offices — and a significant convention center have been developed.

Under construction is another hotel near the Old Mill District, an expansion of NorthWest Crossing, more schools, a medical office complex and another medical complex.

If it ever really was, the future of the west side is not as a residential reserve.

“There was a time,” city Director of Growth Management Nick Arnis said, “when 14th Street was the edge.”

That, he said, is no longer true. There is a greater diversity of retail, office and service facilities in the ongoing development of the west side of the city, Arnis added.

There is another factor that will impact the look and feel of the whole, not just the west side.

Speaking to the editorial board recently, the city planners said there is a heightened emphasis from state land-use officials on infill.

No doubt, the city will expand its borders as part of the new UGB, but they said not as much as some would hope.

There is a new pressure on city land.

The state, they said, wants to see the city accommodate part of its growth on the open land — in large tracts and small — that now exists within the current boundaries.

And there is a planning preference for developments — like NorthWest Crossing — that mix homes with offices, shops, restaurants, schools, etc.

Like it or not, it’s all part of an evolving Bend.

— John Costa is editor-in-chief of The Bulletin. Contact: 541-383-0337, jcosta@bendbulletin.com