By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

There were three large pads of blank white paper set up in a conference room at the Keizer Civic Center, one for each of three key corridors along River Road North: the River Road and Lockhaven intersection, River Road and Chemawa intersection and River Road south of Manbrin Drive, which included Cherry Avenue Northeast. Attendees were tasked with pointing out possible improvements for each section of Keizer’s “Main Street.”

Within 15 minutes, people were kneeling to fill in the first page of the south River Road pad and starting on the second page while the other two had only a handful of suggestions between them.

Most of the concerns dealt with traffic and safety such as the lack of adequate space for cyclists on River Road compared to Cherry Avenue, a need for more bus stops outside lanes of travel, the need for additional bus stops on Cherry and a request for a flashing red turn signal at Manbrin Drive to alleviate congestion.

“This is how we get started,” said Nate Brown, Keizer’s community development director. “We are trying to figure out how to most responsibly use (the River Road/Cherry Avenue) area and the tolerance for additional things like congestion,”

The city has enlisted the services of Portland-based consultants Otak and Angelo Planning Group to help craft a new path forward for development along River Road North and Cherry Avenue. The study is known collectively as the River Road Revitalization Projects and the first meeting to gather input from all city residents was held Thursday, April 26. The study is taking into consideration direction from past efforts and update them with input from current residents, business owners and other stakeholders.

In March, Kate Rogers, of Otak, and Matt Hastie, of Angelo Planning Group, met with business owners and other groups of stakeholders to dive deep into the current state of affairs and get some guidance on the path forward.

Hastie said one of the biggest take-aways from the stakeholder groups was a desire for “more restaurant, evening venues and family-oriented uses.”

People appreciate the convenience of River Road and would like to see more development, but not more traffic,” Hastie said.

The current state of transportation is something of a hodgepodge, said Rogers. Pedestrian access pulled in generally favorable reviews, cycling access mostly poor to fair, and access to public transit fair to good depending on the specific area.

She added that there is good potential support for new businesses and additional rental properties – a result of market analyses – but that Keizer’s lean toward being a bedroom community presents other challenges.

“Keizer (residents have) good spending power, but they are spending elsewhere,” Rogers said.

The city has posted drafts of some of the planning documents on its website, www.keizer.org, with other insights into the character of River Road.

The boundaries of the study moving forward covers about 1,000 acres, roughly one-fifth of the entire area of the city. Only 50 of the more than 2,000 parcels of land included in the study are larger than five acres. The highest concentration of jobs along River Road is near the southern end of the city – south of Homewood Court North – with another nearly-as-dense area around the intersection of Chemawa and River Road.   

The study will continue through the winter of 2019 with additional opportunities for public input expected. Make sure to check the Keizertimes for news of future meetings.