Katz pins citys health on OHSU plans

Mayor throws support behind 'science and technology quarter'

Just as former Mayor Neil Goldschmidt did 20 years ago, Mayor Vera Katz has tied Portland's economic future to a technology-based industry.

But while Goldschmidt's campaign in the 1970s attracted high-tech industries such as Wacker Siltronic, Katz on Monday hooked the city's economy to the growing bioscience industry by throwing her support behind the creation of a 'science and technology quarter.'

The new district would be fueled by Oregon Health & Science University's plan to became a major bioscience research institution in the coming years.

Under a proposal released at a news conference Monday, the quarter would stretch from OHSU's Marquam Hill facilities to Portland State University, the North Macadam Urban Renewal District and the Central Eastside Industrial District across the Willamette River.

Katz, who was ill and missed the news conference, said in a written statement:

'Our good efforts and investments are attracting the attention of and investment that is building the foundation for a critical mass of a bioscience economic base of firms, suppliers, jobs and wealth in Portland.'

Bioscience is the industry of creating drugs and other products based on the latest medical breakthroughs, such as DNA mapping. Katz cited a new cancer-fighting drug developed at OHSU as an example of what might come out of the new quarter.

Comparing the proposal to earlier efforts that brought Intel Corp. and other high-tech companies to the region, Katz said, 'If we make the right decisions, it will be our next Silicon Forest.'

Portland Bureau of Planning Director Gil Kelley said new bioscience research and related buildings could be built throughout the area in the next three decades.

OHSU President Dr. Peter Kohler predicted that such a move eventually would create thousands of new, well-paying jobs.

'Portland and the state of Oregon are looking at launching a major new industry,' he said.

The most controversial aspect of the plan is OHSU's insistence that an aerial connection be built between Marquam Hill and its proposed satellite campus in the North Macadam area.

OHSU officials say researchers must be able to travel between the two sites within 10 or 15 minutes. The city still hasn't decided which permits will be required for approval of the tram, but Kelley made it clear Monday that it is an important part of the new plan.

'The creation of an aerial connection is critical,' he said.

Residents living along the proposed route strongly oppose the tram or gondola, claiming that it would destroy the historic nature of their neighborhood, invade their privacy and reduce property values.

'Shuttle vans can make the trip in 15 minutes, except for rush hours,' said Larry Beck, an attorney who lives in the Lair Hill/Corbett/Terwilliger neighborhood, which lies under the path of an aerial connection. 'They should just live with that, stop fighting with the neighbors and get on with their expansion.'

It is unclear how much public money it will take to create the proposed quarter, or where it will all come from.

In May, Oregon voters will be asked to approve $200 million in bonds to help fund OHSU's expansion. Another measure would allow the state to own and sell stock received in exchange for publicly created technology development.

Creating a new neighborhood in the North Macadam area Ñ on the west side of the Willamette River just south of the Ross Island Bridge Ñ will cost up to $800 million, according to local developer Homer Williams, who is working with OHSU on the satellite campus. City financing options are limited, however.

A recent state Supreme Court ruling has forced the Portland Development Commission to put most new urban renewal projects on hold. The PDC will not know how much money it can invest in the North Macadam area until June at the earliest.

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