The Portland Development Commission reissued its Request for Qualifications March 26 for the one-acre parcel it owns at the corner of Northeast 106th Avenue and Halsey Street. People interested in buying and developing the parcel must submit an application by 4 p.m. Monday, May 18. PDC originally issued the RFQ last December.
“As we looked back at it, we feel like a lot of the potential proposers didn’t see it, ” said Susan Kuhn, PDC project manager. “They missed it over the holidays, so we felt that it was best to put it out one more time and also clarify. We were pretty vague [regarding] a reason [to develop the land], hoping that there would be some creative, innovative ideas versus us being kind of more prescriptive.”
Kuhn added that the latest version is more specific about what PDC envisions for the site, based on the master plan and the community input.
In the latest RFQ, PDC pictures the site, next to the proposed Gateway Urban Plaza and Park, as a dense development area with retail and commercial space on the ground floors and housing on the upper floors to ensure “eyes on the park,” she said.
PDC might consider donating the property to the developer, then contributing up to $3 million in public investment from the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Area funding.
PDC prefers retail businesses on the ground floor, which will fill in some of the retail gaps in the Halsey-Weidler commercial district surrounding the site.
The RFQ suggests the ground-floor retail businesses that face the proposed plaza might include a cafe, coffee shop or restaurant that could spread out onto the outdoor space and interact with activities in the plaza.
Those types of businesses were listed in the original master plan for the site, Kuhn said.
She mentioned personal services, goods and services as possibilities but added, “We’re open to suggestions. It will be what the developer can bring to the table in their proposal. It depends on the community’s needs.”
The RFQ specifically gives preference for housing that is “market rate.” However, it states that a mix of affordable and market rate units would “also be considered.”
The preference for market rate is because “we believe that’s the direction from the community that we’re getting and that the market rate is something that will support that commercial district, which are goals for us,” Kuhn said.
Support of that commercial area was also outlined in the master plan. “Through the work out there on the Halsey Weidler corridor, we’ve heard that several times,” Kuhn said.
Ann Mangan, community relations manager for PDC, added, “Market rates will attract more residents, new residents, who have some discretionary income that would be supportive of the business district.”
When asked if market rate housing would displace lower-income residents in the city and trigger gentrification in the Gateway area, Kuhn replied, “Affordable housing also can help the business district, but we do see several relatively new subsidized projects in Gateway, and so we’re sensitive to balancing the housing needs,” she said. “This is one way to do it. So it doesn’t have to be all market rate or all affordable. It really depends on what proposals come in.” She added, “It’s bigger than just one piece. It’s the total proposal that we’ll have to consider.”
PDC also prefers density in the development, which, Kuhn said, might involve a building complex three to four stories high—the height suggested in the master plan and envisioned in the Gateway regional center by Metro.
The PDC staff would work with potential developers to secure other sources of funding, such as Metro’s Transit Oriented Development Program, the Portland Housing Bureau’s Multi-Unit Limited Tax Exemption Program, New Market Tax Credits, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the EB-5 Program and other sources.
At some point in the future, PDC might want to recoup the money it contributed to the project, Kuhn said.
PDC conducted a voluntary visit to the site for the general public and prospective developers on April 9. Only one or two new developers showed up at the event who had not toured the site in December, Kuhn said.