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October 20th, 2010 | City Hall
 

Lobster Fest

Who and what would feed off this oddly designed urban renewal district proposed by the mayor?

     
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Mayor Sam Adams’ proposal to create a new urban renewal district stretching from Northwest Portland through downtown to Southwest Portland sparked a fiery response from Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen earlier this month.

The county and local school districts all stand to lose millions from their dwindling budgets if City Council approves this new lobster-shaped district when it comes up for consideration in 2011.

That’s why Cogen has pressed for serious discussion about whether the city even needs the redevelopment tool that freezes the tax base over the life of the district.

“At the last meeting you confirmed that the work to date in creating this 70 percent ‘straw dog’ proposal was the precursor to the discussion of whether and when and according to what criteria the creation of a new urban renewal area should occur,” Cogen wrote in an Oct. 9 email to city officials.

“That discussion has not yet even begun,” Cogen wrote.

The Portland Development Commission says the 345-acre district is worth the hit over the next 25 years to the county and schools because it would create jobs and bring more cultural amenities downtown.

So who benefits from what would be the city’s 12th urban renewal zone?

Here’s a look at projects currently included in the proposal, which Adams says is “tight,” not gerrymandered.

1. Con-way Properties
1417 NW 20th Ave.
The ground-transportation company has offices in Northwest Portland steps away from trendy Northwest 23rd Avenue. But those offices are surrounded by vast parking lots the 600-employee company would like to redevelop.

2. Metropolitan Learning Center
2033 NW Glisan St.
Portland Public Schools’ MLC is a K-12 school next to Couch Park. But it’s not the school that would benefit. It’s the site next to the school Adams wants—for a potential parking garage.

3. Lincoln High School
1600 SW Salmon St.
PPS has talked for years about going to voters for a multimillion-dollar construction bond issue to benefit all schools. The school district still plans to do that. But the redevelopment of Lincoln could be aided separately by a new urban renewal district because it would let PPS tap urban renewal money to refurbish the downtown high school, thus diminishing school district leaders’ concerns about the impact of the district on PPS’s coffers.

4. South Waterfront
Two Portland groups, Allied Works Architecture and International Outdoor Group, pitched to Adams the idea of turning the South Waterfront park into a 72,000-square-foot amphitheater with a separate “destination eatery.”

5. Multnomah County Courthouse
1021 SW 4th Ave.
The deteriorating building needs a major overhaul with a price tag estimated at $209 million. Its existence in the district could produce that cash and sweeten the deal for the county, just like including Lincoln High would make the pill an easier swallow for PPS.

6. Morrison Bridgehead
The county also owns the land on the west end of the Morrison Bridge, and it’s conducting a process to determine how to redevelop the empty parcel. That request for proposals comes out in November. Ron Paul, a food-policy consultant and a former restaurateur, plans to submit a plan to use the surface lot as his long-sought-after James Beard Public Market.

 
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