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Planners and dreamers

City planners are envisioning what the 25-year future of Portland's Southeast Quadrant will look like


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Remodelling continues of Firestation 21 on the Eastbank Esplanade. One member of the public suggested opening it up to the public for educational purposes.City planners are currently deciding how central Portland will look by 2035, and this summer the Southeast Quadrant has been enjoying its time in the sun.

That zone stretches from the South Banfield Portal down to the Clinton Triangle (where the new MAX line meets SE Powell Blvd.). Planners are especially concerned about the makeup of the Central East Side, which is slowly becoming a place for knowledge workers and “artisanal manufacturers” as well as he traditional warehouses and manufacturing.

State land use laws say Portland must come up with a 25-year plan, and use data from Metro and other sources to predict the future in concrete and steel. It must make sure the land supply is sufficient to meet the forecasted job growth and population growth for the city.

Consequently, industry and jobs have priority over housing here. The planners are currently looking at four ways to keep the Central East Side attracting the type of businesses that have arrived in the last decade, without driving out more traditional users who rely on low rents, the freeway and wide, sidewalk-less roads.

With more than 1,100 businesses and 17,000 jobs, the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability stated in a recent booklet: “Industrial uses and creative businesses sit side-by-side, as the area becomes an emerging location for cross-industry exchange, from film and digital enterprises to food, creative services and craft industries.”

For the past several months, Joe Zehnder, the Chief Planner at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, has been sitting in a room full of urban planners, economists, environmental and urban designers, sustainability and energy conservation experts.

“We’re looking at different ways to increase the types of businesses that can locate to the CES so we can increase number of jobs per acre,” he told the Tribune. “It has a lot more capacity. You often see a ground floor that is active, when upstairs it’s not.”

The warehouse industry today needs big, mechanized single story buildings with rail access, which is growing in the Columbia River corridor.

“Here we’re looking for the kinds of industry that are more able to move upstairs.”

He sees traditional manufacturers, knowledge workers and “makers” coexisting in balance.

If new homes, shops and offices are due to be built, such development will be limited to corridors, such as along SE 11th and 12th Avenues, (for example LOCA, the new development on the “goat blocks.”) But whichever plan is approved, Zehnder does not expect to see large scale changes to the zoning.

“Probably when we’re done, there’ll be two kinds of zoning for business. I bet we preserve some zoning for the way it is today, with a broader mix of business.”

Transit is important. The city invested in streetcar, bike and pedestrian facilities, and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line, opening in 2015, includes two stations within the district. A flood of curious bikers and pedestrians is expected in the neighborhood when Tilikum Crossing opens in fall 2015.

The city has been soliciting opinions from stakeholders the public the last few years. Kjell van Zoen, Founder and boss of Plywerk, runs his company in the former Italian Gardeners and Ranchers building. The former market is now a hive of small businesses, some that require gloves, most that don’t.

Van Zoen has been to stakeholder meetings, and notes that he was often the youngest person there.

“I would love the city to provide incentives to landlords to ensure that a certain percentage of ground-level and basement properties remain manufacturing/production/B2B supplier only spaces,” he wrote in an email.

“I understand that we also need space for retail on ground floors but would personally like to see all offices on upper floors. Our building is a perfect example of gorgeous, open, airy air conditioned offices upstairs and stark simple, white-walled spaces with electric, lights and loading dock access downstairs and in the basement.

He also wants the city to provide credits to employees who bike to work. Currently, his company pays its staff $30 a month to bike rather than drive.

“Parking is getting silly down there, which doesn’t help customers visiting businesses in the area.”

“They’ve all seen Portlandia,” says Juliana Lukasik, the Principal/Director of @Large Films which makes commercials, explaining how her clients come with an idea of what to expect of the east side. Lukasik has watched the “organic growth” of her work’s neighborhood around 8th and NE Couch Street since 2002. “Back then it had some less-than-savory characters wandering round,” she says.

The Doug Fir/Jupiter Hotel started the upturn and other businesses moved in. She woos clients with the fact that to make an ad, it costs 20 percent less than LA or San Francisco and 30 percent less than New York City. She also depends on the perceived hipness of the east side: not just the music, bars and restaurants, but the gritty feel, the bridges and buildings, to impress clients. And then she needs a space where truckloads of movie gear can come and go and where there are skilled crew members who want to work in Portland. The CES does all this for @Large.

“As the district’s organic growth continues it’s important that that state, city and county governments don’t get in the way. If it ain’t broke...We have had job growth and new construction when others in Portland didn’t.”

She has been president of the Central East Side Industrial Council for two years, making it very clear she sees no need for another Pearl District.

“Some people want a blanket change of zoning to create an anything goes district, that would kill low lease rates. If you don’t pay close attention to zoning you’ll end up like Texas where you can do what you want, where you get sprawl not clustering.”

And then there’s parking. “Go down to Bunk Bar, during day, we have areas saturated with cars. If you don’t have parking management you’re going to stymie that growth.”

by: CITY OF PORTLAND - A map of Portland's Southeast Quadrant.The Proposed Draft of Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan is available for

review and comment. http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/65310