By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
There were some unresolved issues in Keizer in 2015.
As such, some of the top stories from last year are expected to still be hot topics for the new year.
Another grocery store?
Keizer being down to one grocery store was one of the hottest topics in 2015, as the conversion from Albertsons to Haggen didn’t quite go as planned. When the store closed in late September, it meant River Road had two vacant grocery store buildings.
Speculation has been rampant about what grocery store chain might be willing to open in Keizer, which is currently only being served by the Safeway at River and Chemawa Road. A subplot is whether either of the two vacant store shells could be used, or if a new store would have to be built.
Could Area C of Keizer Station end up having a store after all?
Will Keizer’s growth continue?
New homes are under construction currently in Keizer, with more in the works, such as the Bowden Estates subdivision. Work continues on the Bonaventure and Mountain West Investment Corporation senior living center and apartments on the expanded McLeod Lane, not to mention more apartments and a new senior living center on McGee Court at the north end of town at Hawks Pointe Apartments and behind Emerald Pointe Senior Living Community.
Looking ahead, the question is will the pace of new development continue in 2016? For example, will the conversion of the Herber Family property at Verda Lane and Chemawa into apartments, rejected by councilors in 2014 but under appeal, be back on the table again?
Speaking of Verda and Chemawa, another project at that corner has been a lightning rod for controversy in recent years: the planned roundabout.
The project has been delayed a couple of times, but Oregon Department of Transportation officials opened bids in November and the project is expected to be completed this summer.
What’s next for parks?
In recent years, plenty of attention has been paid to Keizer Rapids Park. With the Big Toy play structure mostly complete, there are other projects that are planned for the park at the end of Chemawa Road. When will some of those projects start happening?
There is also a bigger issue for parks in Keizer: funding. Members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board have restarted conversations about how to bring in more money for parks, with a parks district (similar in concept to the Keizer Fire District) currently being examined.
Who will lead the chamber?
In December, Christine Dieker announced she is resigning as executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. A new director is expected to be named in early February. Dieker has run the chamber for more than 17 years.
In addition to the question of who the new leader will be, the related question is how that will impact the relationship between the chamber and the city.
Here is a look back at how some of the predicted top stories for 2015 turned out:
New mayor: Cathy Clark made a seamless transition from councilor to mayor. Brandon Smith rejoined council, former city employee Roland Herrera joined council as did Amy Ryan. For the most part, meetings in 2015 were shorter than in the past.
Big Toy/other projects at KRP: The Big Toy was indeed a hot topic, with Keizertimes coverage of the topic earning a first-place award from the Oregon Newspapers Publishers Association. The play structure was built in June and opened to great fanfare. Other projects at KRP in 2015 included new sand volleyball courts and additions to the amphitheater.
Keizer Station development: Several new businesses opened at Keizer Station in 2015, including new restaurants such as Gustav’s Bargarten and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Area C is being developed, with the question being if any retail or commercial efforts will follow.
Needing more space: There are still plenty of empty buildings along River Road, with the Albertsons/Haggen building added to the list in 2015. Chamber leaders have expressed a desire to move back to River Road; will that happen and will it lead to vacant buildings being filled?
Impact of marijuana: There wasn’t much movement in regards to recreational marijuana in 2015, though councilors have discussed rules of dispensaries a number of times.