N/NE neighborhoods in the news.

Some articles in the local press that have caught my eye and ear lately:

oregonlive.com: Shalonda Menefee would leave Portland to protect her sons, if she could (titled ‘Mom loves her city but fears for her sons’ in the Oregonian print edition)

Portland Observer: Potential setback for Rose Quarter community benefits agreement

Observer: Urban League of Portland reports that ‘Black woes grow worse

Observer: No time to relax: Youth advocate sends message on gangs

Portland Tribune: Portland Public Schools puts focus on achievement gap


MLK Boulevard and urban renewal.

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.

Fulcrum Fitness @ MercPerks.

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.

Pizza Hut (of all things) to land at Alberta and MLK?

It seems as though a Pizza Hut is going to occupy the empty building at 5020 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard – the building that last housed an adidas outlet store:

Trace Salmon wonders on the King Neighborhood Association blog just how beneficial a development this is for the neighborhood:

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.

At the very least, it’s no comfort to fans of Old Town Pizza at Vanport Square to have a national chain set up shop just down the block.

SMYRC honors Bayard Rustin

The Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center honors civil rights leader Bayard Rustin with a portrait and banner at their Garlington Center site on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard:

To learn more about this hero, who was discouraged from more public aspects of activism in part because he was gay, watch this excellent documentary clip:

Thank you for SMYRC for the deeply thoughtful act of making Rustin a visible symbol of their organization’s mission.