May 17, 2024 - News

Beaverton ups its cool factor with downtown restaurant development

Two large blue and yellow beach chairs in a wet plaza in front of white rain covers and a brick building and tree

Beaverton has invested in its downtown and created a walkable restaurant row that includes the dining commons that survived the pandemic era. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Beaverton has become fun to visit — and call home.

Why it matters: The town of nearly 100,000 people is known as an affordable home for Portland commuters, but as the downtown grid has developed recently, Beaverton has attained a standalone charm.

The big picture: In the last five years, Beaverton's become a foodie destination. The 31 food carts at BG Food Cartel, across from City Hall, compete with newer restaurants such as AFURI Ramen + Dumpling and Maiale Rosa Wood Fired Pizzeria, as well as the classic Nak Won.

Zoom in: The 1st Street Dining Commons is a COVID-19-era experiment that stuck, giving people a place to hang out, with selfie-friendly giant beach chairs.

Context: Beaverton's transformation has been in the works since long before the pandemic.

  • "The most important thing about Restaurant Row was, we wrote a strategy and we executed it," Mayor Lacey Beaty told Axios about passing Beaverton's urban renewal plan more than 10 years ago.
  • Around SW 1st Street and Watson Avenue, it created storefront grants to both encourage new businesses and provide resources to established businesses to boost their curb appeal without getting gentrified out.
  • "That laid the foundation for the explosive success you're seeing now," Beaty said.

Beaty asks companies what they want when they are thinking of relocating there.

  • "They tell us amenities, restaurants and access to nature."

What they're saying: "The pandemic really threw the whole town for a loop," resident David Anderson told Axios, referring to a dip in foot traffic, which he has since seen bounce back.

  • Anderson, one of the owners of wine bar Syndicate, has lived in Beaverton since 1999, and is pleased with the city's efforts to become more than a bedroom community.
  • Most of his customers come from within two miles. On a recent Sunday afternoon, the bar was packed, taken over by a wine club.

Yes, but: Anderson grumbled that he doesn't see attendees from the new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts walking to Old Town to eat because of the busy roads and poor sidewalks.

The intrigue: The city attained federal funding for The Loop, which will make Watson Avenue and Hall Boulevard more pedestrian-friendly and connect the city north-south. Design work for the project is underway.

  • Anderson said lack of integrated mass transit hurts downtown Beaverton, despite the MAX Red line extension coming this fall.
  • "The way the town is, everyone's going to drive. It's a cultural thing, because this town is so spread out."

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