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East-side line will transport Lloyd District to next level

The concept of an east-side streetcar running through the Lloyd District and the Central Eastside Industrial District Ñ connecting to the downtown streetcar loop at the Broadway and Hawthorne bridges Ñ has been vigorously discussed within the east-side business community over the last 12 months. It's time to take this concept to the next level.

The Lloyd District has grown much over the last 10 years and has positioned itself to play an important and vital role in the central city's future. It has seen the addition of many of Portland's most important and recognizable buildings, including the Oregon Convention Center, Lloyd Center and the Rose Garden arena.

It also is home to a number of the city's leading companies, such as PacifiCorp, Kaiser Permanente, Liberty Northwest Insurance Co., Oregon Arena Corp. and the Bonneville Power Administration.

The area has a solid-access base that makes getting to and from the district efficient and convenient. By car, transit or light rail, the Lloyd District serves its employee and customer base well. The next logical piece of our access puzzle is streetcar Ñ to circulate people around our district and better connect the commercial east side to downtown and the central city.

All Lloyd District stakeholders agree that an east-side streetcar line would spur increased residential and commercial development on a number of open blocks within the area.

This type of development potential already has been demonstrated by the downtown streetcar. It has revitalized and attracted significant new mixed-use investment in the West End and Pearl District areas of the central business district. An east-side streetcar will leverage the more than $1 billion of private and public investment that already has been made in the district over the last 10 years.

In addition to public attractions such as the convention center and Rose Garden, the Lloyd District has a growing and diverse job base of 19,000 employees. This is forecast to reach 32,000 by 2015.

Coupled with growth in the Central Eastside Industrial District, the near east-side commercial area of Portland will be home to more than 20,000 new employees in the near future.

Moving the employees to their jobs on the east side is being addressed through the partnership of businesses working with the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association, which has increased employee transit use to its highest percentage mode share ever.

Today there are almost as many employees arriving to work on transit (43 percent) as there are driving to the district (45 percent) Ñ something no other district in the region can claim, including downtown.

An east-side streetcar will create a vital link between Lloyd District and the Central Eastside Industrial District, a true north-south connection that, for the most part, requires a car today.

Once on the east side, employees, and the literally millions of customers that access the Lloyd District each year, will be connected to Broadway-Weidler, the convention center, Lloyd Center, OMSI and points in between Ñ all without the need for a car.

More importantly, three important commercial centers (Lloyd, Central Eastside Industrial District and downtown) will be linked in a manner that is not currently possible.

In short, the Lloyd District is organized, has strong financial footing and is eager to see increased development in our neighborhood.

An east-side streetcar project is fully supported by the board of directors of the Lloyd Business Improvement District as a priority project underlying the development vision for the Lloyd District.

It also has the backing of the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association, as outlined in its Lloyd District 2000Ð2005 Strategic Plan.

Similarly, a partnership of Lloyd District stakeholders and the Portland Development Commission recently completed the Lloyd District Development Strategy, which prioritized an east-side streetcar alignment with an additional crossing over the Banfield Freeway at Northeast Seventh Avenue.

To this end, the board of directors of the Lloyd Business Improvement District unanimously endorsed a contribution of $50,000 to an effort with the Portland Development Commission, Portland Streetcar Inc. and the Portland Office of Transportation to initiate an east-side streetcar alignment study.

Streetcars are a necessary component of the Lloyd District's future. An east-side streetcar is a vital component of the central city's future.

Hank Ashforth is chairman of the board of Ashforth Pacific Inc., a commercial real estate firm with holdings throughout the West Coast. He lives in Southwest Portland.