For the past 18 years, Roy Kim, owner of commercial real estate developer RKm Development, has created a variety of mixed-use suburban neighborhoods in the Portland area. His success has been predicated on his philosophy of emphasizing community and diversity in his projects.
When Port of Camas-Washougal chief executive officer David Ripp and port commissioners John Spencer, Larry Keister and Bill Ward toured Bethany Village, one of RKm Development’s sites in Portland, earlier this month, Kim relayed an anecdote that made them feel comfortable about the prospect of RKm developing the port’s waterfront land.
“Roy mentioned how (he) leased out both the recreation center and the adult home and wasn’t satisfied with the way they were being run and how they were fitting into the community, so (he) took the lease back and ran it (himself),” Spencer said at Monday’s port meeting. “That said a lot to me just about how much (he) cares about the community aspect of this.”
At Monday’s meeting, Kim presented his qualifications for developing the port’s property, credentials that include comparable projects in Oregon, including developments in northwest Portland, Beaverton and Gresham.
After the presentation, the commissioners gave Ripp their consent for the port to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement, which would preclude a memorandum of understanding and finally a formal development contract.
“(Kim) wants to have the community involved. It’s not about them, it’s not about us. It’s about ‘we’ – them, the port and the community,” Ripp said after the meeting. “(They) want to make sure the community is heard and not just come in and have a preconceived perception of what should be built. They want to take what the community wants to see and help focus it and build it, as long as it makes market sense. It’s very exciting.”
According to a news release issued by the port, RKm’s vision for the waterfront near Parker’s Landing includes “a harmonizing, multi-use area for dining, shopping, errands, family fun and inter-generational entertainment” beside residences with views of the Columbia River.
Ripp said he still hopes the port will “have a shovel in the ground in two years.”
At Monday’s meeting, Kim didn’t present specific plans for his vision of the Washougal development but did talk about why he finds the project so appealing.
“One, we try to stay away from (sites) central to Portland, or central to a larger community,” Kim said. “We think the future, actually, is the areas that surround the center, because the center is getting too expensive, too dense, (and) traffic is difficult. (The suburbs) are where we see more opportunity. The second thing is this property is large enough that we can master-plan it and see from one end to the other, have control over quality or sequence or mix of uses and how they interact with each other. That’s a great opportunity to be able to see that. The third thing is obviously the waterfront. The waterfront is special. There’s not that many opportunities to do something special.”
At Monday’s meeting, Kim talked about three of his projects: Downtown Rockwood, a mixed-use office, multi-family residential, plaza and play area on 5.5 acres in Gresham, Oregon; LaScala, a mixed-use building with ground-floor retail shops in Beaverton, Oregon; and Bethany Village, a mixed-use town center with retail, apartments, condominiums, offices, an athletic club and senior living in Portland.
He said RKm Development owns and manages all of the commercial buildings it has developed.
“We start with a completely blank slate. (We’re) very open in terms of what ideas can be (implemented),” he said. “Our thought is no site should come with a prescribed idea of what should be there. It shouldn’t be like, ‘I do this type of building, so that should go in here.’ It comes from the neighborhood, the personality of the site as well as the personality of the community. There’s a lot of thought behind, even architecturally, what statement we want to make, what message do we want to send the community, how do we want the community to perceive this, in addition to obviously the business side.”
Washougal resident Gary Simmons asked Kim about the possibility of incorporating the area’s history into the project, noting that the “modern feel” of the Rockwood site probably wouldn’t be an ideal fit here.
“I’ve read about the history (of this area). We pulled out some old pictures of this site from hundreds of years ago, and we were trying to get inspiration from those old pictures. I think this site particularly has some interesting history and identity and personality that we’ll hopefully (implement),” Kim said.
“When I think of the site, it’s going to be an interesting study because there’s history, there’s the personality of Washougal and Camas, and then there’s young people that are moving here and changing things a little bit,” Kim added. “It’s interesting to me how all of this would come out when we have these discussions, because I think there’s going to be push and pull to that. I agree this is not going to be modern. The inside of the buildings may be modern or incorporate technology or things like that, but when you drive around or walk around, the site doesn’t feel to me like a modern building site.”
Keister said that Kim’s vision for the project aligns with the port’s vision.
“As a community, we’ve been discussing this project for a long time. What Roy is saying is so in line with what the community has been asking for and the development that we have in mind for our waterfront property,” he said. “The concept that he’s (talking about) is blending right in to what we had in mind. This is a great opportunity for us.”