The Significance of Downtown
Downtown is the very heart of Gresham, serving as the center of economic and cultural activity for the past 100 years. Its authentic Main Street is a rare commodity, with historic architecture, restaurants, shops and civic buildings providing a strong community identity and creating a centralized East County destination. As the center of Gresham, the vital small businesses that make up Downtown need to be nourished. To support their viability and continue Downtown’s trend toward a “24/7” neighborhood, the City must add value by building upon the existing infrastructure, creating high-quality housing and professional services. To strengthen and sustain Downtown, both permanent residents and visitors must be attracted to the area to increase the daily flow of business activity and commerce.
Historic Downtown Gresham
A century ago, downtown hosted a blacksmith shop, a feed mill, a school, a church and a five-and-dime store. How times have changed.
Today, the tree-lined streets of Historic Downtown Gresham bustle, enticing visitors to amble among specialty shops and restaurants, to grab a coffee and a book, to sip a specialty craft brew or taste the ethnic flair of Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Italian or American cuisine. The Gresham History Museum is right here — so is the Gresham Public Library — and at any given time you may stumble on some of the city’s signature downtown events: the Gresham Farmers Market, the Art Walk, the Rockin’ Around the Block Car Show, the Teddy Bear Parade or the prized Mt. Hood Jazz Festival.
And not only are there more and more opportunities for downtown living — with accessible mass transit very nearby — but new businesses, development projects and available properties are continually coming into view.
Downtown Planning Background
Since the mid-1960s, the City of Gresham has been actively planning land use, infrastructure and public facilities enhancements for the Downtown area.
In 1993, the City began a two-year planning process that resulted in the 1994 Downtown Plan. The Downtown Plan is a 20-year plan that includes 19 guiding principles that encourage more intensive development downtown while maintaining the character of Main Street. The 333 acres in the Downtown Plan were rezoned to allow mixed-use and transit-oriented buildings. As a result, Downtown was divided into six sub-districts, distinguished by emphasizing different primary uses and determining the intensity of development.
During the last 10 years, implementation of the Downtown Plan has increased densities in the area, helping to create a compact commercial core. Nevertheless, development of Downtown has lagged behind adjacent neighborhoods, and behind expectations for the area as a whole. The City completed a market study in July 2005 to determine the feasibility of larger retailers locating Downtown, and a new study is underway to reaffirm downtown’s development plan and identify obstacles to new development.
In 2007, the City, working in partnership with the Gresham Downtown Development Association, created on a Downtown Development Strategy.
City’s Comprehensive Plan has recently been modernized to reflect current conditions and circumstances as a result of state required Periodic Review. Also, as emphasized above, many other actions and events have occurred that has changed the policy, land use and market context of Downtown.
Ongoing, the project has been expanded to create a new framework for development and potentially rezone parts of Downtown to accommodate and encourage planned growth. This new project is the Regional Centers Planning Implementation.