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Battle over Trader Joe's, Northeast Portland gentrification, simmers

Jockeying continues over Portland Development Commission’s plan to lure a Trader Joe’s grocery to Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street, which has become a lightning rod for concerns about gentrification of the area.

On Thursday, critics of PDC’s plan issued a press release announcing a Monday press conference to call for alternative uses of the property. The critics, including a group called the Portland African American Leadership Forum, argue that a Trader Joe’s will further gentrification of the area, and they are pressing for alternate uses of the site, such as affordable housing.

The five-person PDC board agreed in November to give agency Executive Director Patrick Quinton authority to negotiate sale of the 1.8-acre site to Majestic Realty. The California developer expects to be able to land Trader Joe’s to the site, made possible because PDC offered a below-market price for the land. A second building that might house four to 10 small businesses also is envisioned.

Later in the day Thursday, PDC issued a press release of its own noting that Majestic hired Colas Construction as general contractor for the $8 million MLK South development project. Colas is Portland-based and owned by an African-American.

“This project creates a chance to demonstrate all that we’re capable of as a company,” stated Andrew Colas, Colas Construction president, in the PDC-issued press release. “I have watched many developments and construction projects throughout the years being built on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and I have always dreamed of the day that I too would get that opportunity.”