Portland real estate is booming and Portland is now on the map for many national and international developers for the first time. This success, while enviable, is not without some negative consequences, as evidenced by increasing housing costs and congestion.
As Portland anticipates the arrival of even more people, it is trying to figure out where to put those new arrivals and how to preserve and enhance quality of life for both new and existing residents. Large-scale City planning efforts such as the 2012 Portland Plan and 2017 Comprehensive Plan reflect a recognition that not everyone has enjoyed the benefits of past prosperity and public investment, and that the City will seek to be more intentional and inclusive going forward.
An emerging redevelopment area offers an opportunity to try new things and develop differently this time. The Broadway Corridor redevelopment area is 24 acres located between the Pearl District and Old Town/Chinatown. The area is centrally located in downtown Portland, has freeway access and is served both by Amtrak, via historic Union Station, and by TriMet’s light rail. The “pearl” of this redevelopment area is the 14-acre U.S. Post Office site, bordered by NW 9th Avenue, NW Hoyt Street, NW Broadway and NW Lovejoy and purchased by the City of Portland in 2016.
The City purchased the Post Office site for almost $90,000,000 and understandably is carefully shepherding this public investment. The City’s Broadway Corridor Framework Plan provides a conceptual “framework” for future development of a 24-acre area including the Post Office site, but actual development will require a new type of public-private partnership and substantial further refinement of the plan, with the City committed to recovering its financial investment.
Prosper Portland, formerly known as the Portland Development Commission, has already started engaging with the community concerning what Portland’s expectations will be for its development partner, describing this generally as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to add to Portland’s economy and vitality and to deliver community benefits.” Goals include finding a development partner who will help achieve equity objectives and structure deals with equity in mind, and be creative in supporting minority- and community-owned assets. A steering group is helping Prosper Portland develop the qualifications for a developer RFQ, and Prosper Portland plans to have a developer on board to assist it with master planning in the first quarter of 2018.
The Broadway Corridor provides an opportunity to put the City’s goals and policies into effect on the ground. The ultimate redevelopment will have a substantial affordable housing component, but the City is also hoping to gain a major employer. Under the current schedule, the Steering Committee will review the draft RFQ on October 24, 2017 and Prosper Portland’s Board will approve a form of RFQ on November 8, 2017. Developer responses are currently expected in February 2018. The developer partner will serve as an advisor during the 2018 master planning process and assist with identification of implementable community benefits. The developer will also receive exclusive negotiation rights for the Post Office site, with development agreements to follow.
Anyone who visited the Portland’s Pearl District back when it was an area of old rail lines and warehouses and hasn’t witnessed its transformation would be astonished to see the Pearl today. The extent of the changes, from the restored Portland Armory—now home to Portland Center Stage—to the Portland Streetcar, to the active commercial district and many condominiums, is stunning. Now, another area is primed for change, and success will be measured in new ways this time around.