Discussing urban renewal in inner N/NE Portland.

The Portland Development Commission’s website hails Rhythm Traders (at 3904 NE MLK) as a PDC-aided success story.  To quote from PDC’s story on Brad Boynton’s move of his shop from NE Broadway to NE MLK:

Boynton purchased the building last spring because his business had outgrown its previous space along NE Broadway. He was attracted to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. area for a number of reasons, but was particularly enticed because the property was located in an urban renewal area. Boynton quickly saw the effects of investment around him, as new real estate developments along the boulevard increased property values and led to an overall decrease in crime, just in the short time the store was in its remodeling phase. Additionally, Boynton’s property is located adjacent to the Heritage Building, one of several PDC catalyst projects.

Throughout the redevelopment process, Boynton took advantage of several programs operated by PDC… Beyond the financial assistance [from PDC], Boynton also found that having additional staff from PDC overseeing the development process was extremely helpful, as he had never undertaken a remodel at this scale. PDC expertise and oversight provided better assurance that work was being done in the proper manner.

Boynton was further impressed with the welcome he received from neighboring property owners who offered help and encouragement, answered questions and provided advice.

Rhythm Traders, on the corner of NE MLK & Failing

At an Urban Renewal Area Town Hall meeting earlier this month, Allyson Spencer wondered whether a minority-owned business would’ve gotten this kind of support from the city, and from fellow business owners.

The town hall was part of a series of community meetings on urban renewal organized by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, and co-sponsored by the Urban League of Portland, Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, and Oregon Humanities.

Speakers and area residents were invited to ‘share prespectives on how inner North/Northeast Urban Renewal Areas have historically impacted neighborhoods,’ with feedback delivered to the PDC.

Folks who attended the town hall were deeply critical of the ‘urban renewal process’ in Portland. Among the views I heard expressed by different attendees  during the meeting included:

  • There has been “intentional blighting” of neighborhoods on the part of city agencies to make them unlivable, a process of “scrubbing the area of long-time owners,” with Urban Renewal Areas and “white saviors” coming in. As a result, property taxes have soared, and it’s now more expensive to live in the area (inner North/Northeast, aka Albina) than it was before.
  • This sort of meeting out to have happened at the beginning of the formation of Urban Renewal Areas, rather than years into the establishment of the Interstate and Oregon Convention Center URAs.
  • There’s a lack of diversity in the area now, as gentrification has been a “little form of genocide,” a “slow death” for the community that lived in the area.
  • African-American Portlanders in Albina are now forced to live in Gresham on “reservations, virtual concentration camps without walls,” where people are dying little by little.
  • The PDC has a “ghetto door” for minorities – it prefers to work with “other” businessfolks and organizations.
  • Commerical redevelopment tends to meet the needs of people moving in to the area, rather than the needs of long-term residents.
  • Predatory investors, aided by deregulation, have alighted on the neighborhoods in the area, pushing housing prices ever upwards; the city has responded with “empty promises” of affordable housing.

One person noted that “gentrification has displaced us from our history. We need to create our own space for talking. Redevelopment is also a process, not just… buildings.”  Seeing urban renewal as more than just dollars and new buildings – that’s something I couldn’t agree with more.

The town hall meetings continue tonight with an Urban Renewal Area Community Forum and Planning Session at Billy Webb Elks Lodge; attendees will ‘participate in work sessions to provide input into the future of the URAs and economic development in inner North and Northeast Portland.’ The full schedule of meetings is here.


Providence Elderplace at Irvington Village.

Last year, Providence ElderPlace took over operations of the Irvington Village assisted living apartment complex at NE Mason & MLK Boulevard:

The transfer of operations was hailed in local press as keeping Irvington Village operating, since it had been losing a fair amount of money.

I’m hoping, though, that someone at Irvington Village is taking the time to keep an eye on the outside of the building. This is a photo of the sidewalk in front of I.V. this afternoon:

The Planned Parenthood protests: 40 Days For Life, and a response.

The 40 Days For Life prayer campaign is underway, having begun with last Sunday’s protests. Here’s a few folks out this afternoon:

In response to the anti-abortion protests at Planned Parenthood, Rebecca Lewis writes in The Portland Socialist (Volume 1, Issue 1, February 2010):

…Although the right is attempting to give themselves a veneer of radicalism by positioning themselves as advocates for children of color, what they’re really doing is taking the sexist and racist position that women, especially women of color, can’t think for themselves and make a conscious decision about how to take care of their own bodies.

Very few of the anti-choice protesters were from the neighborhood, and their argument fell on deaf ears, especially as most of the people who spouted that garbage were white men. The case against the new Planned Parenthood loses even more credibility when one considers that it’s the first and only clinic in the Portland area in a community of color.

The right-wing extremists were also not beyond threats of violence to get their point across. One demonstrator held a sign that said, “Read doctors don’t kill babies.” When challenged to explain the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller at his Wichita, Kan., clinic, he replied, “It’s a good thing he’s not around to commit mass murder anymore.” In another incident, a clinic defender was told by an anti-choice protester that he’d like to take a gun and shoot all the pro-choice activists…

These protests should be recognized for what they are: An attempt to close our clinics and intimidate doctors and clinic staff, as well as women, in order to eliminate abortion as an option for women in working-class communities.

Planned Parenthood on MLK opens today.

Today is the ‘grand opening’ of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette’s new reproductive services building, at MLK and Beech Street. The opening was marked this morning and afternoon by several dozen anti-abortion protestors, a handful of Planned Parenthood supporters, and a sizable showing from the Portland Police Department.

Planned Parenthood is opening this 40,000 square foot Surgicenter (a terrible name, no?) to replace smaller facilities nearby. Like any large project, it was in the planning for years, which gave opponents time to mobilize and respond. Early pressure on the original developer, Bob Walsh, Sr., led him to pull out of the project. I quote the Mercury quoting the Oregonian quoting Mr. Walsh about the protestors’ activities:

“It’s disruptive and very threatening,” he said. “I just didn’t want to put my family through that.”

A search of the web easily turns up anti-abortion sites where people have spread the word about the Planned Parenthood’s move to MLK. For example, Pro-Life Action of Oregon has a blogpost from this past Friday noting that Planned Parenthood Washington has a pastor on their payroll, and decrying his involvement with PPCW and with abortion services in general.  Pro-Life Action includes words from Rev. Isham Harris, minister of NE Portland’s Upper Room Home Church:

“This clergyman is not in harmony with the Holy Spirit because Christ came so that we may have life,” says Rev. Harris. “Psalm 137 tells us that children are a heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is His reward. I question whether this reverend is being led by the Holy Spirit.”

Rev. Harris is distressed that Planned Parenthood chose Black History Month to open its abortion mill. “They have a total disregard for Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., for the plight of African-Americans. I feel the same about the Portland Development Commission. I totally abhor this.”

Two aspects of this quote run through much of the protest literature: the theme of the disregard that the Portland Development Commission has for the community, as evinced by its approval of the project, and the idea that Planned Parenthood (and its locations that tend to be in poor/black neighborhoods) is participating in a ‘black genocide’ via abortion.

The PDC is especially noted for its intentional disregard of the testimony of local community leaders concerning the undesirability of an abortion facility in the heart of N/NE Portland in this video, prepared by Precious Children of Portland, and narrated by activist Bill Diss:

STAND WITH US – PRECIOUS CHILDREN OF PORTLAND from mary dombrowski on Vimeo.

The Portland Observer’s article this week on Planned Parenthood says:

The Portland Muslim Community Center, right next door, isn’t keen on having a clinic that offers abortions in such close vicinity.
In December, Muhammed Najieb, the imam of the center, told the Portland Observer that he felt like the project was railroaded through by the Portland Development Commission which helped finance the construction.
Najieb said he [sic] abortion issue was a big reason the center was planning on moving and constructing a new mosque on North Vancouver in the Humboldt Neighborhood.

Imam Najieb gave this speech about abortion and the upcoming PPCW building in 2007, at the Irvington Covenant Center (also on MLK BLvd):

The Willamette Week noted this week that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, has been a determined supporter of the anti-abortion movement. The Black Genocide website collects statistics and news articles that chart the effect that abortion has on the African-American population.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood have turned out, as well, though not with the consistent visibility of anti-abortion activists, who have been seen weekly on the Boulevard. Here is video of the Portland Feminist Action League, rallying on MLK Boulevard’s sidewalks in support of Planned Parenthood last year:

A photo of the building itself gives you a sense of the size of it, and suggests that Planned Parenthood is, in fact, providing many other services than just offering abortions:

This & that.

A few notes about some local events & issues that have caught my eye lately:

  • The Portland Development Commission is considering changes to the Oregon Conventional Center Urban Renewal Area (URA) and the Interstate URA. My understanding is that the city seeks to move MLK Boulevard from the Convention Center URA to the Interstate URA, thereby providing longer-term funding for development on MLK Boulevard. Public meetings about changes to the URAs commence this week with an ‘urban renewal area town hall truth telling.’  Access the schedule of public meetings here.

Predevelopment work is underway for an education and family-housing project on the former Lutheran Church site at the corner of NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and NE Skidmore in Portland, Oregon. The site is currently home to Albina Head Start’s Carolyn Young Center and Traci Rose House and is zoned for high density residential uses. Based on preliminary design work, the current concept includes 23,631 SF of commercial space on the ground floor and 32 residential units on the second through fouth floors.

  • The African Film Festival at PCC-Cascade began this weekend. Check the month-long schedule of films at http://www.africanfilmfestival.org/. Queen of Sheba and Horn of Africa, both on MLK, are among the festival’s sponsors.