Change is coming
Many longtime Portlanders frequently seem shell shocked by the pace of change in the city. Large new apartment buildings and oversized infill houses are changing the character of existing neighborhoods, sparking protests from some homeowners and historic preservationists.
Even relative newcomers can be alarmed. They include a number of the residents in one tall Pearl District apartment building that opposed plans for another one before the city council. Although the council tentatively voted to block the project, its decision is not yet final.
For residents who have similar concerns, a panel that appeared before the Portland Business Alliance last Wednesday has some advice.
First, you ain't seen nothing yet. Three huge redevelopment projects are in the works that will transform much of downtown and the surrounding area in coming years, creating two new neighborhoods and pumping up a business district.
But second, the projects are being planned to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, such as construction of the Memorial Coliseum in 1960 that wiped out much of Portland's thriving African-American community. In fact, the panelists promise, the project will help compensate for such mistakes by ensuring a certain level of affordable housing and job training for those struggling in today's economy."
"Portland is poised to embrace incredible growth and challenges. We have to leverage public-private partnership to achieve our goals, like equity, workforce training, diversity and affordability," said Brad Malsin, principal and founder of Beam Development and president of the Central Eastside Industrial Council.
The other two panelists were Gregg Kantor, chair of the Albina Vision Trust, and Kimberly Branam, executive director of Prosper Portland, formerly known as the Portland Development Commission. During the March 21 forum breakfast titled "East Meets West: Portland's Changing Skyline," they focused on the following three projects"
"The Broadway Corridor has the capacity to accommodate 10 percent of the employment growth we expect to see over the next 20 years," said Branam.
"We have the opportunity to create a brand-new neighborhood in Portland, and to right some of the wrongs from the past," said Kantor, a former CEO at Northwest Natural.
"The Tilikum Crossing is the intentional connection between east and west Portland that shows how the transportation system within the Innovation Quadrant will change. We have to get people out of their cars. In five, 10, 15, 20 years, you won't even recognize the transportation system," said Malsin, who also serves on a board composed of employers and residents in and around the quadrant.
As the name of the panel puts it, these projects are poised to change Portland's skyline even more than what is already happening. The City Council has already voted to increase the maximum building heights in the Broadway Corridor to 250 feet on the southern portion and 400 feet on the northern portion. The Albina Vision Trust is working on plans to keep the new neighborhood it foresees more affordable than the Pearl District. And both OHSU and OMSI are already planning to redevelop the properties they own in the South Waterfront area.
But Branam insists Prosper Portland is not ignoring the rest of the city, especially East Portland, where residents have felt neglected for many years. She pointed to three "transformative project" supported by her agency in Lents, including a large new apartment building that recently opened and two others are currently under construction near it at Southeast 97th and Foster. And she said discussions are currently underway with residents and employers in the Rosewood neighborhood and Jade District for future projects.
In addition, Branam said that when Proposer Portland sells the land it owns in the Broadway Corridor, it can spend the profits outside the River District Urban Renewal Area where it is located. That is different than traditional urban renewal spending, where the funds remain within the areas where they are generated. But in this case, Branam says the profits could be investigated in East Portland.