December 04, 2004

Part Of Old Town To Move Into River District Urban Renewal Area?

Plus Updates On Two Related Projects

Those who follow urban renewal in Portland (including regular readers here) may recall that when the the City Council was debating whether or not to extend the life of the Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal Area, the League of Women Voters proposed letting it expire while also moving portions of Old Town Chinatown out of the that zone and into the more recently created River District Urban Renewal Area.

By the time Council voted to extend the district by a compromise of an additional four years, they also directed the Portland Development Commission to study the League's proposal to see if it was a viable approach.

Late last month, The Oregonian reported that this study had been completed and that the League's proposal in fact is workable.

On Dec. 9, [Janice Wilson, a development commission director] will ask the commission to take the next steps of deciding what portions of Old Town Chinatown should be annexed to the River District and when.
Given state law restrictions on adding to established renewal areas, Wilson said only 62 acres of the 132-acre Old Town Chinatown neighborhood could be added to the River District.
About $76 million in urban renewal money is aimed at Old Town Chinatown for projects that would include building new headquarters and a station for the Portland Fire Bureau, rebuilding Ankeny Plaza, contributing to a public market project and improving Northwest Naito Parkway.
By adding additional acreage to the River District, an additional $68 million in renewal funds from taxes on increased property values could become available, Wilson said.

For whatever it's worth, the League's own analysis and proposal (pdf) in fact identified the same 62 acre limitation, so they appear to have known what they were saying at the time they first pitched the idea. We don't get ahold of a copy of Wilson's report until Monday morning, so we don't know how much overlap there is between it and the League's original proposal.

The article also quotes the president of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association as saying something that strikes us as a little snotty: "Our main concern is that we are being penalized for being successful." Yes, that's right. This is all just some sort of unthinking sneak attack upon the precious Pearl District. How astute of him to notice.

Wilson's report will be presented to the PDC at their meeting on the morning of Thursday, December 9.

Meanwhile, the Portland Tribune just had some news on one of the proposed projects mentioned above: If the Portland Public Market is deemed to be both feasible and a good fit for the Ankeny Plaza area, there's $300,000 in Federal money available for it.

Finally, just to round things out, the Tribune also reported on another project which is looking at a location near Ankeny Plaza about which we'd not heard previously: Establishing a so-called Little Italy Portland in a sense to replace an Italian district in Southwest Portland which "remained intact until 1961 when it was abolished due to the first Urban Renewal effort."

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Comments (1)

  1. David August, President of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association on 08 Dec 2004

    In regard to the quote attributed to the president of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association as sounding “snotty”, what was not reported in the Oregonian was my comments that our neighborhood leads the city in absorbing low income affordable housing to help create a mixed income area. In fact, by next year there will be close to 1,000 low income affordable housing units in the Pearl District that will constitute close to 20% of our population. This in an area of 8 by 15 city blocks. The vast majority of urban renewal dollars are used for this purpose as well as for much needed park space (Jamison Square) that other residential areas of the city already enjoy. Our district still has much to be developed north of Lovejoy. Without the continued support of those urban renewal dollars, it is hard to see how this mix of housing will be able to continue. We consider what has been accomplished so far as very successful and has been recognized as a model for other cities throughout the country. So if that sounds snotty to you, I make no apologies.