Apparently the costs for completing a long-standing concept for Portland Road improvements exceeds by a substantial margin the amount of money available to the Urban Renewal Agency.**
The project will need to be down-sized. So what to do?
|Before the Interstate, Portland Road was our Highway to Portland|
The problems of Radiator Springs are in so many ways the problems of Portland Road. At best, low-value strip development has replaced the old motels and restaurants and shops.
One of the old motels, the Rose Garden, is now a bare lot, ripe for redevelopment. It's also known as the Epping property, and a couple years ago Council moved to change its zoning in order to make it easier to redevelop. Students in the Sustainable Cities Initiative studied it, as well.
The Police Station project also evaluated it as a possible site:
|The Motel is gone, and one use for the property|
could be a new Police Station - Rose Gardens Parcel
|On Northgate Ave looking to cross Portland Road to Bill Frey Drive:|
Portland Road is 5/6 lanes, large truck traffic also on Bill Frey Drive.
This isn't the way to encourage visits to the Kroc Center!
|Most of North Gateway Urban Renewal Area:|
Mostly industrial, cut by two rail lines and Portland Road,
and bounded by the Parkway and I-5, it has real challenges.
Note loop for Bill Frey Drive and the Kroc Center
|Portland Road Underpass Sidewalk: Salem Daily Photo Diary|
Icky, and a little scary, in truth.
|Portland Road Underpass at walk entry: SHINE historic digest for 1936|
But all this isn't really surprising. More interesting might be some very general assessment from realtors and developers and the way it shows that we have to think about systems - about changes to roads, to buildings, about the whole fabric of a neighborhood, and not merely atomic elements - and the way it show some of a disappointing same-ol'-same-ol' retread thinking.
[F]eedback from area realtors indicates that the road improvement alone is not expected to achieve the objectives identified, including attracting new investment. Preliminary discussions with real estate professionals familiar with the area identify other challenges, beyond the condition and appearance of the road, including:One of the elements we don't talk maybe enough about in "sustainability" is the need to sustain business in a place. Again, systems. (Like with the Kroc Center - it has "sustainable" features, "gadget green," but sustainable transportation for kids and sustainable operating budgets weren't given sufficient thought.)
• Perceived lack of safety; lack of cleanliness, general appearance and lack of upkeep in the buildings in the area
• Aging or undersized utilities; aging building stock that does not meet current industry needs; property owners need assistance to make these improvements
• Limited access to rail lines/spurs for industrial uses
• A catalyst tenant is needed in the area; focus should be concentrated, possibly beginning with the I-5 interchange
• Demographics of the area and vehicle traffic are not strong enough to support national/large anchor tenants; financial incentives are needed to draw major uses to the area
Maybe the fundamental criticism of the Pringle Creek Urban Renewal project - with the Civic Center, Pringle Parkade, SAIF, etc., is that it created a low-density campus (oh wait, the Kroc, too...) that at one time might have looked pretty, but didn't actually sustain the foot traffic and variety of uses that makes for a vibrant place. This is the same problem with the Capitol Mall, which is dead in the evenings and on weekends. Adjacencies, pattern, off-setting times - all these things are important ingredients beyond just nice things, nice furniture. Diversity, mixture. They help sustain things over time.
However, behind the realtors' critique of the area might lurk too much faith in the transformative powers of big box business. Do we really want Portland Road to mimic the development patterns now on Mission Street as it heads towards I-5 and Lancaster? Portland's streetcar districts are transforming powerfully without big box development.
Portland Road probably needs streetcar scaled development more than it needs big box anchor development. Storefronts, not parking lots.
But that means making the roads smaller, not bigger.
And the whole thing isn't set up for this.
Current traffic volumes on Portland Road do not exceed City or State traffic standards for capacity or delay. Recent recorded traffic volumes on Portland Road do not warrant changes to traffic circulation or access as part of the scope of Portland Road improvements.But we know Portland Road isn't working as it is now! (Remember, streets aren't just for traveling through; they're also for capturing/creating property value at.) How does its current dysfunction not "warrant changes"? Well, because the only dysfunction that matters is congestion and vehicle delay - through movement. Never mind that people who might walk or take transit and patronize a business are dissuaded from doing so because the road environment is so spectacularly crappy!
Interestingly, recent changes at the Lloyd Center in Portland might provide a nearby counter-example:
Wade Lange of American Assets Trust, a major local landowner preparing to redevelop 16 blocks in the area, said last year that though the bikeway certainly didn't enable their huge projects on its own, the slower traffic speeds on Multnomah Street — caused not by any changes to the speed limit but by narrowing the lanes and adding parking — fit perfectly into creating a more walkable, comfortable and ultimately valuable commercial district. [italics added]And we have seen how - and this is really relevant for an urban renewal district that relies on tax-increment financing! - small-grained, streetcar-scaled development is amazingly more efficient at generating private wealth and public tax dollars than big box sprawl.
|Mid-rise downtown development generates 10x|
property tax/acre over suburban big box sprawl
(see this post for full notes on image credit)
Now, obviously we need to dial back things a bit. Portland Road here isn't downtown, so the benefits of streetcar scaled development will be on the lower side of the estimate ranges. Maybe just one-story storefronts...
|But even Jimmy's Pizza generates value|
more efficiently than Walmart!
Strong Towns Blog
(Finally, this is not a part of town I visit often, and the issue is a new one to me, so the arm-chair quarterbacking is especially chair-ful here. As far as opinions here go, these are regrettably on the uninformed side. If you have local knowledge, please chime in!)
* The actual web tab for the North Gateway URA is not linkable! - City Web Fail! Here's a link to all the URAs.
** The page on the Portland Road projects is also difficult to understand. Its timeline tails off in 2004 and the nature of "phase 2" is not at all clear. Obviously the page hasn't been updated recently, since it refers to phase 2 as starting in "FY 2012-13." And there's not a good before/after summary, with pictures and diagrams, of the work done so far.
These are perhaps good examples of the way the City does post information - it is "out there" publicly - but yet does so in such a way that only dedicated and persistent civic sleuths can figure it out. Crucially, the information requires sleuthing. It's not easy to figure stuff out. Curious citizens have to invest too much energy and time. As an economist would say, there are significant barriers to entry!
It is on this basis that several of us deny claims that the City likes to operate in secrecy, but yet might agree that the City isn't as public-minded and transparent as it could be. That is, at any rate, the position here.