Businesses in the Vanport Square development are concerned about plans under consideration to complete the project on the vacant block at Alberta and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. with an office and clinic instead of retail. Long envisioned as the cornerstone of the partly-built Vanport Square development, Phase 3 has suffered many delays. Originally intended to be anchored by a new grocery store or 24 Hour Fitness, the Portland Development Commission has struggled to attract a commitment to the project.
At one time, PDC tried to lure a call center to locate in Vanport as retailers shunned the site. Once again, PDC appears to be changing its plan for the project and looking to consider development even if it doesn’t result in retail-based neighborhood center that could bring life back to this stretch of King and survival to the isolated businesses already there.
According to KNA’s Alan Silver who attended the last PDC public meeting to mention the plan:
PDC has been approached by two development teams about Vanport phase 3. One proposal would include the Urban League, medical offices, and commercial; the other team includes Jeff Sackett (one of the developers of Vanport Square), and its proposal includes commercial real estate, including negotiations with an anchor tenant whose identity the team is “not disclosing publicly at this time.”
The PDC is ‘gathering information’ on these two proposals at present. It expects to have no funds available to aid developers of Vanport phase 3, who will have to rely entirely on private financing to complete construction.
Vanport Square, aka the King Commercial Center, is the keystone in the future of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the King Neighborhood. Without the original long-term vision being realized, King’s center could be resigned to many years of low property values in a district that does not create a pedestrian friendly environment. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Vanport is caught in a “catch 22” situation where a lack of businesses fails to attact foot traffic. Lack of foot traffic fails to attract businesses. If a proposal is accepted that is not retail based at the street level, the long sought-after connection between the existing Vanport development and the Alberta corridor will not be fulfilled.
The Portland Development Commission has scheduled two informational meetings held December 21, 2010 for Vanport Project Advisory Committee (PAC) members and Vanport Square business owners. A morning meeting will be held to accommodate Vanport Square businesses and an evening meeting will be targeted to PAC members.
The purpose of the informational meetings is to outline the developer selection process and to clarify the role of the PAC in the selection process. As this meeting is scheduled only a few days after the developer’s submissions are due, PDC says they won’t be able to answer a lot of questions about the specific projects; however, they will schedule future meetings as their process develops.