It’s a remarkable development story. How can a property with a history of failed developments be designed and constructed in the middle of a global pandemic and in the face of significant challenges for fires in the forests? According to Karl Ivanov, the principal developer, and Andy Limbird, the land use planner for the City of Springfield, it depends on trust and flexibility. The City Club program on August 3 was an opportunity to see how this success happened. To view the full program on You Tube, click here: Marcola Meadows
In the center of Springfield sits a 100-acre parcel that had sat unutilized for decades while the owner waited to find the right development opportunity. In 2006 it seemed that the proposal had arrived – a mixed used development anchor by a large retail store. A master plan for that development was approved in 2008, but the collapse of the housing bubble that year doomed the proposal, and the property became bank owned.
In 2012 there seemed to be renewed hope: a proposal to site a federal medical facility surfaced and was vigorously pursued by the City. That proposal did not materialize however, and the property remained dormant, until 2018 when the property was purchased by a new development group.
As anyone who develops in Oregon knows, the state and local development process is complex, and often challenging. The property remained under the original master plan approved in 2008, but the new group had a much different vision for the property – a vision that contemplated much more residential use, and public uses such as a school and a church, with relatively little commercial uses. That makes it even more intriguing that the group purchased the property “as is” with none of the entitlements that it would need to modify the master plan, the land use designations, and the zoning to accomplish their objectives. The process generally moves rather slowly; thus it is no surprise that much work needed to be done on getting the changes needed to make development possible when, in March 2020, the City in essence shut down because of the COVID pandemic. What is a surprise to many is that in the face of that, with City staff working remotely, the developer and the City process over 14 significant land use actions over the next two years.
Equally surprising is that today the group has started or completed 226 single family homes, continues to build at the rate of over six homes per month, is almost a year ahead of schedule and within its planned budget. None of this overlooks that fact that there were real challenges to getting the project underway, including wetlands issues and storm drainage challenges arising from the reality that the land in the development is very flat and does not allow significant infiltration.
That same feature complicated sanitary sewer construction, leading to situations where some wastewater pipes have minimal cover under the streets. Both Mr. Limbird and Mr. Ivanov were very clear that success depended on something that is not too common in develop0emnt – mutual trust between the developer and the governing jurisdiction. Mr. Ivanov, the president and founder of I&E construction, said that his experience in developing projects on a national scale and the staff’s willingness to work with him enabled them to make development decisions “on the fly” without long time intervals for processing. Both Chris Goodell and Monty Hurley, principals in AKS Engineering came to the same conclusion – everyone needed to be able to think outside of the box and come up with solutions which minimized the need for long drawn out reviews. He emphasized how the first phase of residential construction was built under the existing master plan while at the same time the parties were processing plan amendments to adjust for subsequent phases.
Responding to questions, Mr. Ivanov agreed that there have been some challenges dealing with parking issues in the constructed part of the development. He said that much of that can be attributed to so many tradesmen being on the site and that problems should ease once construction is completed next year.
In response to another question h=e said that all the multi-family construction (which will include 312 apartment units), will be all electric, while natural gas can be available in the single-family homes