From an article by George Breunder in the June Concordia Neighborhood Association newsletter, Concordia News:
Traveling up MLK Boulevard on a recent Sunday, a lot of new buildings and businesses were quite obvious, but I counted maybe a dozen pedestrians every 20 blocks – and most of them were waiting for Tri-Met. Not much customer interaction.A street of buildings, not of people. Yet MLK Boulevard is one of the very noticeable products of the Portland Development Commission (PDC), the city’s version of what used to be called “urban renewal,” that dates back to the 1960s.
What was envisioned was the restoration of a blighted area, along with a strengthening of the local community and its infrastructure (people, homes, businesses, streets and sidewalks). MLK improvements were rolled up in an Urban Renewal Area (URA) designation with specific boundaries and a variety of planned projects. The idea was that community residents would tell PDC what needed to be done and PDC would plan and finance it.
In the Concordia News article, Mr. Breunder goes on to describe the Urban Renewal public forums hosted by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods earlier this year, and the misgivings that many N/NE Portlanders have regarding the Portland Development Commission’s activities and efforts in the area.
Discounted rates at Fulcrum Fitness, located in the Heritage Building on MLK Boulevard, can be had aat the Portland Mercury’s e-coupon site, MercPerks.
Fulcrum Fitness promises you “unique programs, including personal training, post rehab training, an outdoor Portland boot camp, and a large variety of exciting and challenging fitness classes.”
You can read a bit more of the Heritage Building’s history here, here, here; the 2001 proposal for the redevelopment on the site noted that “the Development Team for this project plans to continue into joint ownership of the building after completion of construction and lease-up phases. To the best of our knowledge, this will be a first for NE Portland in combining the strengths of several small, minority, and emerging businesses as partners in a new development.” While the Heritage Building has struggled to lease out its spaces over the past few years, the above description sounds like what the NE MLK development Vanport Square has turned out to be.
Long envisioned as a focal intersection in the plans to rejuvenate the King commercial district, the site has been plagued by poor foot traffic, no onstreet parking and a lack of commercial activity in the vicinity. With another large national chain expanding into the area, the continuing development of walkable communities with local identities is in question in King.
The Portland Development Commission’s Vanport Square project stalled after the first third was completed and is still not fully leased. The existing buildings on the south end of the site were bulldozed for a phase of the project that never began and removed a noise buffer from neighbors on Garfield Street.
Unable to wait indefinitely for economic conditions to change, private landowners are put in the postion of leasing to whomever can profit from the decreasing affluence of the community as customers with means patronize other neighborhoods. King could benefit from a renewed discussion about what we want our community to look like long-term and not wait for apathy or resignation to make that decision for us.