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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Oregon

Buckman Heights
Location, Location, Location
Developers Push Growth Limit

Buckman Heights
Location, Location, Location

The residents of Portland have long been pioneers in the smart-growth movement. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Buckman Heights Apartment project. This project, which mixes affordable apartment units with townhouses, is close to public transportation, and has easy access to shops and jobs.

This project follows the cardinal rule of real estate and smart growth: Location, location, location. Prendergast & Associates, the developers, have transformed a vacant inner-city auto dealership into a walkable, bikeable neighborhood with easy access to a range of existing services.

The apartments and townhomes they created incorporate a huge array of "green building" elements, from energy-efficient windows to low-chemical carpets to recycled content in the building materials. One building has a 2,000 square-foot roof planted with native grasses. The developers have also designed a groundbreaking stormwater filtration system.

Whenever residents need to leave their homes, they have easy access to jobs, shopping and recreation through a range of transportation options. Most live only about 5 to 15 minutes away from their jobs, which they can get to via four high-frequency bus lines, light rail, bike lanes and pedestrian routes. Residents can even take advantage of two on-site CarSharing Portland cars -- part of a program to provide as-needed access to automobiles. The Buckman Heights project proves that, given time and effort, good things can grow in an asphalt jungle.

Developers Push Growth Limit

Despite urban growth boundaries and strong land-use laws, sprawling development is creeping along the Tualatin Valley Highway in Oregon. At issue is an ongoing battle between developers and smart-growth advocates about the best way to manage the region's high-technology-fueled growth. Developers want to add over 450 acres of prime farm land to the region's growth plan -- smart-growth advocates want to stick to the current boundaries.

Genstar, a Canadian company with its U.S. headquarters in San Diego, has an option to buy a plot of land that has been designated for potential future addition into the buildable area for about one-sixth the market value. Genstar is trying to convince the Portland area's regional government to allow them to start building a 4,000-unit housing complex -- the largest ever built in Oregon -- on the site right away.

If the proposal is approved, the amount of prime farm land in the urban reserves will be reduced to 2,017 acres, down from the 3,086 acres that was originally slated to be preserved. It would be the first time that prime farm land has been added to the region's buildable area since 1979.

The urban growth boundary concept has made Oregon one of the most livable states in the country. But piecemeal, poorly planned additions threaten the region's quality of life. Hopefully, residents of Oregon won't let their communities slide down the slippery slope to suburban sprawl.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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