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?