Job forecasts, construction costs fluctuate wildly as developers move forward

City leaders may be determined to turn the North Macadam District into a biotech neighborhood, but recently released job forecasts show the scientific sector will account for only a small share of the 30-acre site's jobs.

At the same time, estimated infrastructure costs for the $1.4 billion development ÑÊfor streets, utilities, streetcar and a proposed aerial tram Ñ has jumped 55 percent, from the $240 million first projected to $372 million.

Oregon Health & Science University and developer Homer Williams predict that an estimated 5,000 jobs will be generated in the course of the 15-year transformation of the industrial waterfront into labs, offices, housing, restaurants and hotels.

The majority Ñ about 4,500 Ñ would be directly related to OHSU's clinical research and patient care.

Only about 300 will be in bioscience and small 'incubator' companies, predicted Steve Stadum, corporate counsel for OHSU. Nicole Peterson, financial analyst for Williams' development company, said the hope is that bioscience jobs 'would grow and multiply.'

'We're interested in attracting private bioscience companies down there, whether pharmaceutical or other,' Stadum said.

The newly launched bioengineering program, now located at the Oregon Graduate Institute, which merged with OHSU three years ago, also will be relocated to Southwest Macadam Avenue, Stadum said.

Another 500 to 1,000 jobs would be created by retail and hotels in the North Macadam District, which stretches from Southwest Moody Avenue to the north and Curry Street to the south and between Southwest Bond Avenue and Whitaker Street.

After three years of shrinking employment and a succession of corporate exits to the suburbs, city officials have pinned their hopes for future job growth on the North Macadam development and its emergence as a biotech hub. Local venture capitalists like Ralph Shaw, however, have warned that the city is late in jumping onto the biotech bandwagon and should look for alternatives.

The proposed tram will link OHSU's Marquam Hill campus, where 8,000 people work, to North Macadam.

Stadum said construction of 20 buildings on the 20-block site they co-own also will generate thousands of construction jobs. The city put it closer to 650 direct construction jobs.

Either way, it may be a stretch for the district to produce the 10,000 permanent jobs over 10 to 20 years, as was first estimated by the Portland Development Commission and the Bureau of Planning and Development.

Costs will be assigned soon

Tommy Brooks, Mayor Vera Katz's liaison to the planning bureau, said the 10,000 number came from the additional 5,000 OHSU jobs projected over the next 30 years for the Marquam Hill and South Waterfront campuses combined. Another 5,000 new jobs is achievable through commercial development, he said.

Neighborhood activist Larry Beck Ñ a longtime critic of the tram Ñ said he saw the jobs projection as 'aspirational, not necessarily their goal. The hope was that there would be OHSU jobs and private spinoff jobs, and you'd take that technology and create products you can market and sell.'

Williams said if you add in existing jobs at Zidell Marine Corp., Leggett & Platt Inc. and other industrial companies already located in the 140-acre North Macadam area, the number of jobs eventually will reach 10,000.

Williams, OHSU and PDC are in the midst of drafting a development agreement that will spell out the amount each will pay for the estimated $1.4 billion neighborhood and tram. The proposed agreement will be reviewed at PDC's advisory board meeting May 8.

Estimated infrastructure costs of the development have increased because 'the scope has expanded,' said Peterson, the financial analyst for Williams.

Expansion of the streetcar system from RiverPlace Hotel to Southwest Gibbs Street is estimated at $11.5 million, the tram at $15.5 million, she said.

OHSU is proposing to pay 46 percent of the total cost; Williams' North Macadam Investors, 49 percent; PDC and the city, 3 percent. Another 1 to 2 percent would come from federal funding sources.

Code exception approved

Once the agreement is approved by PDC, Stadum said they can begin building design.

'This is the most exciting thing the city has seen in a long time,' he said.

Stadum said OHSU officials envision five to six buildings, ranging from 200,000 to 350,000 square feet, over the next decade. Construction would be spaced out every few years, he said.

'The density the city wants drives bigger buildings,' he said. 'We don't have a lot of retail services on the hill so it will be new. We're a little bit isolated now and want to be part of the neighborhood.'

Stadum said OHSU also is looking to build a conference center-hotel to accommodate its need for seminar and event space. The first OHSU building is not expected to be completed until late 2005.

The North Macadam development eventually will include two hotels, office-research buildings, health clubs and restaurants. About 12 buildings will be residential towers, designed to resemble the tall, skinny towers that dot the Vancouver, B.C., skyline. The city's planning and fire bureaus recently approved building code changes that will allow Williams to build back-to-back or 'scissor' stairs, such as those in the Canadian towers. The stairs are typically not allowed under U.S. building codes.

Pacific Coast Restaurants, which operates Portland City Grill, and Starbucks already have expressed interest in locating facilities there, Williams said.

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