Our own MLK Boulevard received a mention in today’s New York Times, in an article on community discussions concerning gentrification. The article, which calls Portland “Sincere City,” is centered on responses to the city’s Restorative Listening Project, which aims to encourage Portlanders to think about how the fairly rapid gentrification of large swaths of Portland affects its residents.
No one comes off well in this article; but then, the New York Times’ style never manages to capture the richness of people’s voices.
Information on the next Restorative Listening Project public meeting, a viewing and discussion of the film “Local Color,” can be found at this page on portlandonline.com.
An earlier Oregonian article discusses the Restorative Listening Project here with the use of audio interviews with Portlanders on gentrification that can be access on the webpage.
Here, as promised, is the link for the “pro-poor” blog, Portland Gentrification and Other Problems. The author, whose identity is as secret as mine is in relation to this blog, takes the point of view that Portland’s development patterns and choices preclude options for poorer folks; little-to-no development is actually within the reach of low-income folks. His tone and his rampant use of the “bold” function take some getting used to, but he definitely brings a new voice to Portland’s discussion about development.
Vanport Square has two new street-level tenants, Old Town Pizza:
and Living Color Beauty Supply, one of several large cosmetics shops on MLK:
Across from the future Shaver Green building on Shaver & MLK is Anita Smith’s restaurant, Hannah Bea’s Poundcake and More, LLC.
This restaurant, open since 2001, was famously visited by TV’s Al Roker but by few other people in the years since. It has been a subject of local curiosity for some time, and a recent Willamette Week article noted that the owner has stopped paying on a $160,000 loan from the Portland Development Commission. With the restaurant’s lack of obvious customers and its everchanging hours, I’m not sure that the PDC can ever expect to see its money again (who thought that a loan this sizeable to Hannah Bea’s was a good idea?). On the other hand, perhaps its poundcake delivery business is booming….
On Friday, groundbreaking began on an affordable housing development at Shaver & MLK:
The site, which formerly housed an appliance repair facility (which I remember to be a rather shabby affair), will hold a six-story building with 85 units. According to the Portland Business Journal, “Shaver Green will included 10 units of federally-subsided Section 8 housing dedicated to clients of Lifeworks NW. The rest of the units will serve residents earning 60 percent of less of the county’s median household income of $32,580 for a two-person household.”
Further, “the building is designed by DECA Architecture and will aim to qualify as a gold level project in the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.”
It remains to be seen whether this project will present an attractive face to the neighborhood, or whether it will “look like subsidized housing.”
over the weekend, the Platinum Posse headed to Alu, a new bar owned by German-born Sandro Di Giovanni that has been open at 2831 NE MLK for several month. We were awed by this beautiful and enchanting place, beginning with its entrance:
and its lobby, where one of us reclined artistically on its plush couch:
Inside, we found ourselves awed by the quiet beauty of its red-lit, compact dining room, and rapturously we dug into tasty wine, a delicious Italian beer, and unspeakably tasty Käsespätzel and beet salad.
Alu charmed us.
The prices were reasonable as well, particularly if one isn’t expecting a full meal.
Patio seating is also available. For more info, check alupdx.com, which includes a menu.
An article in the Portland Observer than ran on April 2nd, 2008 discusses the state of retail and commercial properties on MLK. The article unfortunately mischaracterizes the price of real estate on MLK as in a freefall; a later notice in the paper included a correction stating that when “developer Eric Wentland [said] MLK real estate was worth 30 to 50 percent less than a year ago… he meant to say that it was 30 to 50 less than comparable properties in other parts of the city.” Certainly this important to know; it tells us that MLK, with its cheaper real estate, has the potential to attract substantial development; it also suggests that there are some strong factors that make such development difficult to foresee.
One problematic aspect of MLK that the article quotes commercial real estate broker Michelle Reeves on is the isolation of some projects, for example the Fremont Project which briefly held Terroir (more on this in another post). Whereas other commercial streets have more compact, dense placement of commercial properties, MLK is definitely spread out with numerous empty lots and even more dilapidated buildings in need of overhaul. While developers can be encouraged to take advantage of each property as it becomes available on the market (and at this point, I would think that much of MLK is on the market; ‘for lease/for sale’ signs along the boulevard bear this out), I think that a planned approach to the Boulevard’s redevelopment would be a highly beneficial approach to consider.
The question is: is there any way to accomplish this? Is the Portland Development Commission even slightly interested in MLK beyond ‘sprucing up’ the Boulevard’s trees and adding heritage markers? Would real estate developers and potential clients respond to a more intentionally planned development of MLK? Or will buildings continue to arise willy-nilly, with no attention to any overarching concept of what role MLK Boulevard might serve in the city?