TriMet seeks land for new MAX

    The second block of property, between Southwest College Street and Southwest Jackson Street on Southwest Sixth Avenue, includes a 1,500-square-foot piece of land owned by Mexican cuisine restaurant Cha! Cha! Cha!, according to TriMet Communication Director Mary Fetsch. Fetsch said a former counselor’s office on a 1,700 square foot piece of land is the only other building that TriMet is currently pursuing property ownership for on the second block.

    The turnabout on the block south of Southwest Jackson will consist of three light rail tracks – two tracks for extra MAX trains to rest on while not in service, and a third for the train route. Fetsch said it will be necessary for TriMet to acquire the second block because the tracks will cut through the block to begin the turnabout.

    The owner of Cha! Cha! Cha! was out of the country and unavailable for comment on the possible sale of the building space to TriMet.

    The second block also includes the PSU-owned Sixth Avenue Building, although that building is not one of the two buildings TriMet is currently pursuing to purchase in that block.

    Although no appraisals have been made for either building on the second block, TriMet expects to have ownership of the land within four to five months. Fetsch said that TriMet does not currently have a plan to acquire any of the other buildings on the block.

    The MAX Green Line, which Portland public transportation provider TriMet says will be finished by fall 2009, will connect Clackamas Town Center to PSU. To facilitate the construction of the new light rail line, the State Board of Higher Education approved on Friday a purchase of a Portland State owned parking lot for $590,000, so that TriMet can create a turnabout for the MAX line.

    The PSU-owned parking lot is one part of two city blocks that TriMet has acquired, or is trying to acquire, in order to build the turnabout. One of the two blocks, south of Southwest Jackson Street between Southwest Fifth and Southwest Sixth Avenues, including the PSU parking lot, has already been acquired by TriMet.

    Lindsay Desrochers, vice president for Finance and Administration at PSU, said the university is very involved in terms of advocating the use of light rail, and that PSU is the largest user of central city transit in Portland.

    The Green Line, estimated to cost $557 million and also called the I-205 project, will run down Southwest Fifth Avenue and Southwest Sixth Avenue to Union Station. Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2007 with an anticipated opening of September 2009.

    After construction is completed on the MAX line, Desrochers said that it is likely that TriMet will sell the unused space in the block between Southwest College Street and Southwest Jackson Street to PSU.

    When eventually bought by PSU from TriMet, the area will function as a “super block,” that Desrochers said will be able to hold two or three housing or classroom buildings. Desrochers added that freshman demand for housing is so high that the university hopes to build 500 to 600 new units within 10 years, although no plans have yet been made.

    A rate increase in housing costs would happen during the 10 to 30 year period that it would take to complete any kind of housing construction on the block.

    ”We need to carefully plan so we don’t oversubscribe our financial situation,” Desrochers said.

    Two or three more floors will also be built on top of Parking Structure 2 to help ease the increasingly difficult lack of parking options for students, Desrochers said. She also said that once the new MAX line is completed, more students will be able to avoid parking by riding the 8.3-mile-long light rail route.

    The new student recreation center will be completed in fall 2009 to coincide with the opening of the new MAX Green Line, according to Portland State and the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

    PSU and Portland public transportation provider TriMet plan to coordinate multiple projects over the next two years to finish the recreation center and new the MAX line.