PDC Seeks to Fund Coliseum Upgrades with Urban Renewal Funds

At the upcoming PDC Board meeting on May 11th, 3:00pm, the Portland Development Commission is expected to vote to use $375,000 of tax-increment funding to support updates to the Memorial Coliseum. This comes after the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods had voted to oppose Interstate Corridor urban renewal funds for the Rose Quarter. In this case the funds will come from the soon to expire Oregon Convention Center URA which will be folded into the Interstate Corridor project.

This action will benefit the public as it will create both construction and permanent jobs by allowing public funds to be used to make improvements to VMC (Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum). Improvements to VMC will revitalize and update the facility which will encourage more use as well as make the building more energy efficient. VMC improvements will also preserve this historic structure as a key component of the broader Rose Quarter redevelopment.

Read the Board Report on the proposed amendment here.

The meeting agenda is here.

Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd Gateway and Heritage Markers Go Forward

The PDC will hold a meeting Thursday, April 21st at Irvington Village, 420 NE Mason St. The advisory committee and neighborhood land use chairs will be updated on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Gateway and Heritage Markers Project. They are in the final phases of the project; it is currently in the permitting process and the design team is preparing drawings for bidding. Construction will begin this summer. They will be soliciting input from the representatives on a quotation that has recently been added to Project on the screen walls.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Heritage Makers project originated in community planning efforts begun over a decade ago by area residences and business owners. In the 2007- 2008 planning process, the 12-person Stakeholder Advisory Group further delineated the project in a Concept Master Plan with three goals:

• Create a clear threshold announcing the arrival into a unique neighborhood district
• Preserve, interpret and celebrate the diverse history of the area’s cultural community
• Focus the Heritage Markers on local neighborhood stories

This group guided the design work until the project slowed down while PDC determined how the project would be maintained. Metro has now agreed to maintain the project, so the project is ready to move into construction.

The final design includes two curvilinear screen walls that define this intersection as a gateway in and out of the N/NE neighborhood and business district. A small plaza provides pedestrian open space for the neighborhood. Pedestrian access to the plaza is from the blocks to the north and east. Four, twenty foot high Heritage Markers, are located in the plaza each with interpretive panels celebrating the diverse communities that have contributed to the North/Northeast neighborhoods.

During the 2007-2008 planning process quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were discussed. The design team would like to get feedback on a quotation from Dr. King that was added to the two curvilinear screen walls to accentuate the Gateway into and out of this unique and diverse neighborhood district. They would like to provide an update of the project and get feedback at the meeting on April 21st.

For additional information please contact Irene Bowers 503 823-2419 or Kathryn Krygier 503 281-0202

Here’s a listing of the markers to be installed and what they signify: http://www.pdc.us/pdf/ura/convention_center/mlk/MLK-Neighborhood-People-Places.pdf

Community Livability Grant funds available in Interstate URA

The Portland Development Commission (PDC) will have funds available in fiscal year 2011-12 for community livability projects in the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area (ICURA). PDC’s Community Livability Grant Program began in the Interstate Corridor URA in 2006 and expanded to the Lents Town Center URA in 2010. The program has awarded nearly $2 million to more than three dozen projects that improve livability for residents and enhance the unique nature of the Interstate Corridor and Lents Town Center neighborhoods.

For the Interstate Corridor URA Map, click here.

Up to $300,000 in Community Livability grants will be awarded in the coming fiscal year in each of the two urban renewal areas. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, neighborhood and business associations and neighborhood groups.
Individuals or groups interested in submitting an application are strongly encouraged to learn more about project eligibility, completing the application, and the evaluation and selection process by attending an information workshop. For ICURA: Thursday, April 7, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Legacy Emanuel Hospital, 2801 N. Gantenbien, Room 1075 in the East Wing.

The grants support a wide variety of community benefits: historic preservation, open spaces and gardens, community and cultural centers, social services, jobs training, and the growth of local businesses. The work is not always visible, but investment supports each organization’s ability to benefit the community.

Grant applications are due to PDC by Monday, May 10 at 5 p.m. Applications will be reviewed by Community Livability Committees for each urban renewal area, which will make recommendations back to PDC. Decisions will be announced by Thursday, June 30, and projects can begin as soon as the grantees have formalized a Letter of Agreement with PDC.
Since 2006, PDC has awarded approximately $1.8 million in Community Livability Grants, ranging from $5,000 to more than $100,000. Projects receiving awards have included:

• Green/energy efficient upgrades to a historic building
• Preservation of historic assets: Kenton’s Paul Bunyan statue; Historic Columbian Cemetery
• Improvements to small community open space and community fruit garden
• Added outdoor performance space
• Exterior improvements to a music center
• A wheelchair ramp for a community medical center
• New shade trees and benches at Humboldt School
• Heating, electrical upgrade, and doors for a new art center in Kenton
• Exterior building improvements for a community center in Boise
• A new furnace and energy efficient improvements for a child care center
• Historic building improvements, including acoustic upgrades, new solar power and sustainable storm water runoff

Details about the grant program, highlights of two recent projects and a downloadable application are available at: www.pdc.us/clg, or contact Susan Kuhn at kuhns@pdc.us; 503-823-3406 (Interstate Corridor URA).

Is PDC on Track with Neighborhood Economic Development?

The DRAFT Neighborhood Economic Development (NED) Action Plan is now available for review. Comments are due March 30, 2011 and may be submitted to Kate Deane, Community Economic Development Manager at the Portland Development Commission at: deanek@pdc.us or by filling out the form included in the electronic document and mailing it to Kate Deane, PDC, 222 NW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR, 97213.

As a neighborhood resident, small business owner, or if you are interested in helping to revitalize Portland’s commercial corridors, this is your opportunity to review the Draft Action Plan and provide comments. Your input is vital as the City of Portland works to create public-private partnerships, develop new resources for neighborhoods, and build capacity for local organizations.

More information about the NED Action Plan project can be found at: http://www.pdc.us/bus_serv/ned.asp.

Vanport 3: Vacant Lot, Clinic, or Trader Joe’s?

Original King Commercial Center Sketch

Meetings were held recently at Curious Comedy so that the Portland Development Commission could update the Vanport business owners and members of the Vanport Project Advisory Committee. The topic was the unsolicited proposal the PDC has received to complete Phase 3 of the project. This phase is the keystone of the development that would provide a landmark building at the corner of Alberta and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The project has struggled to attract an anchor tenant necessary to get the project going and attract smaller retailers to participate. Lacking that commitment and considering the adverse economic climate, the project was put on hold.

In order to anchor the project, a grocery store was the main focus of negotiations between developers, PDC, and retailers. Various companies were approached and some expressed interest but none would commit to the site. 24 Hour Fitness became the main prospect for an anchor but backed out. In the time since the first plans for Vanport were made, the site has been ringed by new fitness clubs, gyms and grocery stores. New Seasons built the Concordia Store at 33rd and Killingsworth, Arbor Lodge store at Interstate and Rosa Parks, and is rumored to be negotiating a deal to build again at Williams and Fremont. Whole Foods took over the Nature’s at 15th and Fremont and Safeway has just begun another remodel of its King store and will be adding more organic and “natural” items.

The latest proposal would consist primarily of a post-surgical rehabilitation clinic, offices for the Urban League, and only 5000 square feet of retail. The clinic was estimated to bring in foot traffic of only 100 people a month. Sara King of PDC said at the meeting that the proposal, in its current form, falls short of PDC’s expectations for the project. Ray Leary went a bit further, saying: “There’s not enough lipstick . . . to dress up this pig.”

One thing neighbors have said they wanted to see at the site that would complement the current offerings is a Trader Joe’s. Indeed, there have been ongoing negotiations with the retailer but developers Ray Leary and Jeff Sackett have been told “not now.” Trader Joe’s typically has its customers drive as far a 10 miles to shop at their stores and the company fears a new store at this location would take too much business from its Hollywood location. Trader Joe’s would not necessarily be dissuaded by other grocers in close proximity due to its niche business model.

When the Vanport businesses purchased their spaces in phase 1, they were told by PDC to be patient in waiting for the completion of the project in a way that would bring the traffic to make thier businesses thrive. In the end, it seemed the concensus was that this project was not what they had been waiting for and if given the choice, they would rather go on waiting for the right anchor tenant than see this project get built.