Property tax dollars and private funds expected to boost economic potential

Six small Portland business areas have been selected to participate in the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, Mayor Sam Adams announced Tuesday.

The areas will essentially become small urban renewal district, receiving public funds and raising private capital for structural improvements to increase business. They were selected through a community-driven process that included establishing steering committees, holding meetings to determine boundaries, conducting mailings and other public outreach, translating documents into many different languages, and hold small and large meetings to explain and develop a program to meet each district's unique needs.

Adams originally announced the NPI during his 2011 State of the City Address. It is part of the city's Neighborhood Economic Development Strategy that is being incorporated in the Portland Plan, the long-range strategic planning document the City Council will consider in coming months.

'Over the past four months, the community has been doing the talking, and the city has been listening. We are delivering on the Neighborhood Economic Development Strategy and on the emerging strategies in the draft Portland Plan, bringing much-needed money to east Portland and underserved areas of the city. We can share our pride in establishing a community-driven approach that will make a tremendous difference in our neediest neighborhoods,' Adams said.

The six areas include stretches of Northeast 42nd Avenue, Northeast Cully Boulevard, the Parkrose neighborhood, and the Rosewood neighborhood. Two stretches of Southeast Division Street are also included. One is from 117th to 148th Avenue, and the the is around Division and 82nd Avenue.

Unlike conventional urban renewal districts, the city will not issue bonds for the areas backed by their future property tax increases. Instead, they will receive the increase in property taxes for eight or so years. Portland Development Commission officials estimate each district will eventually received around $1 million before the allocation ends. They will also be expected to raise up to $30,000 a year in private funds for administrative costs.

Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, who has previously questioned the city's urban renewal practices, praised the announcement by saying, "Today's announcement is a promising step forward in the evolution of urban renewal. Bolstering the creativity and vision of these under-served communities with financial and technical assistance creates the potential for development in Portland to move beyond the symptoms of urban decay to treating the root causes."

The criteria for being chosen included: lagging commercial investments; higher than citywide 16 percent poverty rate and/or lower than citywide $48,500 median household income; a concentration of minority-owned and/or serving businesses; a concentration of locally owned businesses; commercial zoning and use; and business and community organization capacity.

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