On a recent weekday afternoon, Troy Field is bustling with activity. Children play a game of flag football while others lounge in the grass soaking up the summer sun. In the mornings and evenings, locals can be seen walking their dogs in the former Bend High athletic field. And every Memorial Day, Tracy Miller hosts a daylong reading of the names of military service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the 0.8-acre patch of grass on NW Bond Street won't be a public gathering space for much longer. Bend-La Pine Schools, which had declared the property surplus, accepted a developer's $1.9 million offer on the land at its Friday board meeting. That sale is contingent on getting the public facilities designation lifted and the completion of an environmental assessment, but if successful, it could transform the quasi-public space into private playground for the wealthy.
Though the offer came from Portland-based Brownstone Development, that company's president Randy Myers says he is representing an unnamed out-of-state hotel developer. The plan, he explains, is to build a four-story, boutique hotel-condo, in which high-end condos are individually owned and rented out to visitors when the owners are away, much like a vacation rental.
"Vacation rental sounds kind of low end," Myers says. "These will be nicer units that can be leased out."
He goes on to explain that the condo owners will likely have multiple properties around the world, and would open them up for short-term renting when they are off in another location. Myers says that the unnamed developer has experience with these types of properties and has other developments in Bend, though none like the one planned for Troy Field. Similar condo-hotels can be found in tourist destinations like Aspen, Vale, and Deer Valley.
The future of Troy Field has been a point of contention, with some community members (and a majority of Source readers polled) arguing that the field should remain green space.
"We already have this important, communal public space that serves a purpose that everyone agrees is vital for a healthy urban environment. To replace it would cost many times its current value," says Foster Fell, a local activist who advocated for preserving Troy Field. "Why not keep it?"
The school board received a total of five offers, primarily from developers but also including a rejected offer from the City, says real estate broker Brian Fratzke. The Brownstone offer was initially received in April, he notes, but the board held onto it to give public entities an opportunity to make offers of their own.
"There was no interest at the price we needed to get the deal done," Fratzke explains.
Troy Field was initially listed for $2.62 million, but school board co-chair Nori Juba says Brownstone Development made the most competitive offer.
"This was the offer that was financially acceptable," Juba explains. "It really met all the criteria. It was a fair value for the property. It's not an easy transaction from the development perspective."
In order to move forward, developers will have to petition the City for removal of the public facilities designation. In the past, that land had been envisioned as part of a large public courtyard called Heritage Square. And while debate over the future of Troy Field reignited conversations about the square, it has been effectively stalled since 2010.
And while some had hoped that Bend Park and Recreation District would put in a bid for the property, BPRD Director Don Horton told the Source that the property was too expensive for its size to be a practical option for Parks.
"From the school board perspective, one thing we'd like the community to know is that we heard the community, and we respect everybody's expressed interest in different intended use for the property," Juba says, "but we have a pretty pressing need to raise money for new schools."
Still, the development is expected to have some local benefit. Though the development company isn't from Bend, Fratzke says Brownstone has expressed a desire to use local engineers, architects, and contractors. Juba says the project is expected to create 50 local jobs.
Assuming the City removes the public facilities designation, Bend-La Pine Schools will follow up with Phase 1 and 2 environmental assessments. Because the adjacent parking lot was the former home of Troy Laundry, some have raised concerns that toxic dry cleaning chemicals might be residing below the field.
If all goes according to plan, groundbreaking is expected to begin sometime in spring 2016, says Brownstone Development President Randy Myers. The development will change not only the skyline of downtown Bend, but the ambiance as well.
"I would even go so far as to call this move one more notch in the plan to gentrify and develop downtown Bend beyond recognition," Fell says. "Surely [Bend-La Pine] could have come up with the additional needed funds—chump change in comparison—through some other means than to sell off a popular, heavily used—dare I say 'iconic'—park, one of the few open and free spaces left in downtown Bend."
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