Centennial Mills will include food theme, park

The Centennial Mills site on the Willamette River between the Broadway and Fremont bridges is on its way toward redevelopment as a site for restaurants, art galleries and a culinary school, among other things — and will use many of the existing buildings and keep significant open space on the site. After years of debate and questions about the 4.75-acre site — on the west bank of the river just northeast of the Pearl District — the Portland Development Commission last week approved a development plan by a Costa Mesa, Calif., developer. The plan by LAB Holding LLC calls for the site to be redeveloped into a place with a strong culinary theme — with more than 45,000 square feet for restaurants, more than 27,000 square feet for retail, and a large space for a culinary school. But the plan also is notable for what it doesn’t do — it doesn’t propose high residential and commercial density, or high-rise condominiums along the riverfront. Area residents, and others, had expressed a preference for keeping open space on the site. “I think it really was the concept which resonated, which really won the selection committee over,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chairman of the PDC board, which voted 5-0 to approve the plan. “They loved the lower-density project.” LAB Holding’s plan won over two other finalists — one that would have redeveloped the site into more of a nightlife area, and another that would have built tall riverfront condominium towers. The LAB Holding plan calls for retaining many of the site’s buildings, including its former grain elevators and former flour mill. It also calls for a riverfront amphitheater and a walking bridge above Naito Parkway to what eventually will be a large public park just west of the Centennial Mills site. “We are thrilled,” said Shaheen Sadeghi, chief executive officer of LAB Holding, referring to the PDC decision. Sadeghi said his firm took “some risk” by proposing a plan with such low density. “We really looked at what the community was saying” in keeping open space, and many of the existing buildings, in the proposed redevelopment, he said. The various owners of the mill and elevators at the site produced flour and other products on site for nearly 100 years, until 2000. The PDC bought the site then for $7.7 million, and spent another $4 million for work on the site, including moving the Portland Police Bureau’s mounted patrol unit to the southern edge of the property. PDC officials and LAB Holding executives still need to complete a development agreement for the project, which would detail eventual ownership of the site and whether any PDC funds might be used to help develop public areas of the site. Final construction could be completed in 2011 or 2012, PDC development manager Steven Shain said. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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