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East Portland UR boundaries may change


The Portland Development Commission voted last month to shrink the boundaries of the Airport Way Urban Renewal District, including the removal of Cascade Station. This may be translated into bringing new areas into urban renewal, in Gateway or elsewhere in mid-Multnomah County.

PDC staffer Bruce Allen, sitting in for absent staffer Bob Alexander, called for removal of a total of 871 acres from Airport Way. He noted that at 2,700 acres, the district - located between Northeast 82nd and 185th avenues - is the second largest in the city. The land being removed is mostly undevelopable, along the slough or roadways, and most of it is publicly owned. It includes Inverness County Jail and land within the flight path of Portland International Airport, where Federal Aviation Administration forbids new construction.

Allen said PDC worked with the Columbia Corridor Association. “There was concern that we not take out anything we'd regret later. We decided to leave in any privately owned land, whether it was developable or not.”

The removal does include the 120-acre Cascade Station commercial park, home to Ikea, which is owned by the Port of Portland and developed by the Bechtel and Trammell Crow companies on a long-term lease. Because the district has reached its maximum indebtedness, no additional tax increment financing can be collected from this parcel. “It's very unusual to take out developable land like Cascade Station, but in this case there's no need to leave it in,” PDC Commission Chair Scott Andrews said.

State law forbids any jurisdiction from putting more than 15 percent of its land into urban renewal districts at any time, and Portland is close to this limit. The removal of this acreage thus provides the city “a lot of flexibility to expand elsewhere,” staffer John Warner said.

PDC received an immediate cry from east Portlanders: Do your expansion here!

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association Chair Mark White urged PDC to either expand the existing Gateway district or start a new one in Glenfair and Centennial. He said that east Portland contains 30 percent of the Section 8 housing for very low-income people in the entire county, and he quoted East Precinct Commander Mike Reese to the effect that Glenfair currently contains the hottest spot for crime in Mid-county.

Marie Daniels, a member of the East Portland Action Plan Citizen Advisory Committee, seconded White's plea. “We support the removal of the acreage here from urban renewal, but we're concerned about removal of urban renewal land from east Portland. It's a matter of equity.” There should be a slow process of reassessment, and the EPAP CAC should be involved in it, she said.

Andrews replied, “The issue today is just the removal of the land. There will be discussions of other areas as well, and I would support the study of any area (for placement in urban renewal) that made sense.”

PDC staffer Justin Douglas, who oversees the Gateway District, later said the agency is considering expanding the Gateway boundary along a corridor bounded by Northeast Halsey and Southeast Stark streets from 106th to 122nd avenues. The intent is to place more commercially developable property in the district. He added that this is very preliminary and specific decisions about what property to include, if any, have yet to be made.

In a related matter, PDC voted to sell a 105,000-square-foot easement to DP Industrial Portland for $280,000. The company owns an industrial park at Northeast 185th Avenue and Riverside Parkway. It has 265,000 square feet of leasable space, of which 60 percent is currently leased. The easement, intended to provide access to the property, would be used to create a parking lot for a tenant, LaCrosse Footwear. The company is investing $2 million in the property, will provide 200 jobs at good wages, and is “one of the few footwear companies doing actual manufacturing in this country,” PDC's Jennifer Nolfi said.

Allen added, “This is the only new activity in the Columbia Corridor in some time.”
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