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White elephant may go shopping

Blazers say coliseum could get retail makeover for several big-box outlets

Converting the Memorial Coliseum into a one-stop 'urban home retail center' is the Portland Trail Blazers' top choice for its reuse, said Vice President J.E. Isaac.

The idea, proposed by Gerding/Edlen Development Co., is to split the 136,000-square-foot building into several retail stores such as Home Depot and Costco, along with parking.

'It is the front-runner,' Isaac said Friday.

But he added that the Blazers, who manage the property for the city, are still mulling other options before handing their recommendation to the city's Office of Management and Finance by the end of the month.

The final decision is up to the city.

'We're in the process of determining right now which of those ideas we want to recommend,' Isaac said during a Lloyd District forum at the Commercial Real Estate Women luncheon last week. 'We have not made a commitment to the GED (Gerding/Edlen) idea. It is the front-runner. The coliseum is a gigantic property. There's a million ways to redevelop it.'

One option for the coliseum reuse that never got off the ground was a hotel-casino proposed by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Since the Rose Garden opened in 1995, coliseum use has declined, prompting calls for its destruction. A 2001 study by Urban Design Associates recommended demolition of the coliseum.

The City Council insisted it didn't want the 42-year-old veterans memorial building demolished. Instead, the focus has shifted toward converting its shell to use as part of a retail or an amateur sports complex.

'They're going down that route because the city has created a narrow focus; the option of taking the building down is gone,' said Scott Langley, president of Ashforth Pacific Inc., the Lloyd District's largest landholder. 'The focus seems to be, obviously, on revenue. The experts were hired and told what they thought, and it's being ignored.'

Sports-complex idea fades

Isaac said the home retail center is favored over the amateur sports complex Ñ proposed by developer Doug Obletz Ñ because it would cost millions of dollars less to build and attract east-side shoppers who now make treks to outlying areas such as Hillsboro's Tanasbourne, the home of mega retail stores like Dania Furniture, Ethan Allen and La-Z-Boy.

The amateur sports complex idea Ñ featuring an Olympic-sized pool Ñ carries an estimated $100 million price tag and requires an annual operating subsidy, Isaac said. 'We're concerned about the financial viability of this idea.'

Bringing in retail stores such as Costco and Home Depot, however, would generate revenue for the city from leases and create jobs, Isaac said.

The coliseum reuse plan is just one of several ideas in the works to revitalize the Lloyd District, which is bounded by Interstate 84 to the south and Northeast Broadway to the north, and the Willamette River to the west and roughly Northeast 16th Avenue to the east.

The neighborhood's top guns are working in concert to transform Lloyd into its own Pearl.

The development goals include a convention center headquarters hotel, residential housing, more retail and the construction of an east-side streetcar.

More housing wanted

'The momentum is there,' said Langley of Ashforth Pacific, which two years ago proposed a superblock development of residential units, an office tower and an urban retail plaza. 'There's a lot of opportunity in the area.'

The superblock project, between Northeast Ninth Avenue and Multnomah Street at the entrance of Lloyd Center's Nordstrom store, is dependent on a tenant and the economy.

Or Ashforth Pacific could do it jointly with Glimcher Realty Trust, owners of Lloyd Center, he said.

Doug Pugh, Ashforth's vice president of marketing, said all the Lloyd District lacks Ñ in comparison with the Pearl and River districts Ñ is more residential and retail development.

'There's plenty of commercial space, but in order to make it a 24-hour neighborhood we need to bring in residential.'

There are three projects to meet that need: redevelopment of most of the block that once contained the Original Portland Ice Cream Parlour & Restaurant on Northeast Weidler Street into condos and retail; 185 apartments and retail stores planned by Beaverton-based Trammell Crow Co.; and the Cascadian project, which has sold 80 percent of its 60 condominiums.