The BGs Food Cartel has played a key role in Southwest Watson Avenue’s rise as a growing food, and visitor hub.
When the city of Portland dismantles its popular food cart pod at Southwest 10th and Alder, Beaverton will get a new claim to fame: Home to the largest food cart pod in Oregon.
Yes. That Beaverton.
But if you go there, don’t expect the same disjointed Beaverton you would have seen five years ago. Through revitalization efforts and a city plan to focus on restaurants, entertainment and new housing, Beaverton is starting to boom. And that boom includes the January 2018 opening of BG’s Food Cartel pod, across the street from City Hall, which now houses 31 food carts, a speakeasy bar and an event venue that can fit 150 people.
“It’s been wildly successful,” Cheryl Twete, Beaverton’s community development director, said of the pod. “It’s a wonderful resource for the community. For now, it’s the second largest in the state, with only the pod in Portland at 10th and Alder rivaling it.”
The Alder pod is set to close on June 30 this year.
The Food Cartel pod is just the beginning for Beaverton, however. In the past five years, the city has also recruited 19 new restaurants for Old Town and Downtown, and has supplied grants through its tenant improvement program for businesses for 22 restaurants and 19 storefronts.
“Many are within our Restaurant Row, which is becoming the premium dining area for the West Side,” said Megan Braunsten, Beaverton’s development project coordinator.
Building a scene
Restaurant Row is the informal new name for Southwest Watson Avenue, which has seen a significant number of new food options and a new brewpub from the well-regarded Ex Novo Brewing come online recently.
Peter Grimm, an architect with Scott | Edwards Architecture, worked on the Ex Novo project and several others throughout Beaverton during the recent development burst. He predicts the plan will draw many more visitors to the city.
“Over the years, downtown Beaverton kind of languished for a while,” Grimm said. “It was driven by economics. They had low-diversity suburban development, and it didn’t really set itself apart or have an identity to bring people in. But in the last three to five years, that’s changed, as new people like Cheryl Twete have come into City Hall to create a common vision.”
Part of that vision is encouraging store and restaurant redevelopment through the tenant improvement program, which began 15 years ago but changed under Twete’s watch. Five years ago, Twete, who came to Beaverton from the Portland Development Commission, and the city decided to change funding sources for the program from community block grants to urban renewal and city funds. The move helped free up more money, Twete said.
Through the tenant improvement program, businesses can qualify for up to $35,000 in grant money or 70 percent of their costs to revitalize and uplift existing businesses. The city also spent $25,000 to help evaluate the Food Cartel pod.
“People love having the option to go out to a good restaurant that’s locally owned, and they don’t want to drive all the way to Portland for it,” Twete said. “We’ve given them choices in our own community.”
Ben Reese, co-owner of Lionheart Coffee Company, opened his first shop on Scholls Ferry Road in Southwest Beaverton four years ago. With the help of city grant money, he and his wife are now expanding with a second store downtown.
“The experience has been really great,” Reese said. “My wife and I, we live, work and play in Beaverton. Our cafes are really about creating safe, welcoming spaces for our community.”
The couple is excited about the growth around Restaurant Row, where their new shop will be. And they’ve already seen a lot of positive change in the culture of the city, Reese said.
“We’re really trying to enhance that food/outing experience on Watson,” Reese said. “City grants are one reason we’re able to take advantage of this opportunity. The city’s energy and support has been really positive and great. We’re really blessed to have that kind of energy around us.”
A tech worker boost
The entertainment and food options have attracted visitors from nearby tech companies and other large businesses around the area.
“People are now saying ‘Wow, Beaverton is really cool,’” Reese said.
“We get a lot of Intel, Nike, Columbia and Tektronix workers in our cafe now. It’s amazing how much industry is in and around Beaverton. I think Beaverton is showing up and meeting that demand.”
Grimm agreed that workers from area businesses are driving the boom by demanding food and entertainment options closer to where they work and live.
“Through all of this, there always has been a really solid employment base in Beaverton,” Grimm said. “Nike is a huge epicenter of talent and job creation. You have the whole tech sector to the West with Intel and Hillsboro. People with high- quality jobs are looking for food and entertainment options to explore.”
Another soon-to-be big draw for the city will be the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. The city plans to break ground on that project, which will be a 550-seat theater with classrooms and meeting rooms, in September.
“The stars are aligning,” Twete said. “We have a wonderful donor, Pat Reser. They’re donating $13 million for the project and we’re gathering the rest through fundraising and grants.”
A 355-space public parking garage will sit next to the arts center. That development should be finished in roughly 18 months.
Eat here, live here
More people are also seeking places to live in Beaverton.
“We’ve seen more than 500 housing units developed over the last five years,” Braunsten said. “People are coming downtown to live, and the retail environment is a draw.”
Affordable housing is also high on the priority list for Beaverton development. In one project, S|EA is building a 54-unit project two blocks from Ex Novo. Funding for that is coming from part of a $680 million housing bond from Metro.
Another recent project, The Rise Central Apartments by Rembold Properties, delivered 230 units, including 15 affordable units, this spring.
And a significant amount of new single-family housing is expected in the city’s South Copper Mountain district.
“We expect 3,500 homes will be built in the next 10 years at South Cooper Mountain,” Twete said.
The population is also on the rise. Beaverton had 95,385 residents in 2017. That figure could reach 100,000 this year. Overall, the city expects 11,140 new households in the area between 2015 and 2035, according to the city’s 2015 Housing Strategies Report.
“There are some big projects going up,” Grimm said. “And almost all the development is close to light rail. Beaverton is really creating a strong community with a distinct identity.”
Title: How Beaverton’s building a solid food and restaurant rep
Posted By: Portland Business Journal
Author: Zane Vorenberg
Date: June 6, 2019