Monday, June 2, 2014

New Northgate Study Risks Study Churn, Neglecting Portland Road

Tired of downtown controversy?  Yeah, me too.

Downtown's super-duper important, but as others have said, it's probably time for a "time-out."

Portland Road at the RR tracks, circa 1920
Salem Library Historic Photos
(same view today via Streetview)
Looking northwards, on Thursday the 5th, the North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board meets and it might not be surprising that some $22 million in urban renewal funds are being looked at with beady eyes.

The area has a long-standing proposal for Portland Road, but the available funds are not sufficient to complete it, so rather than doing part of it, there seems to be a movement afoot to redirect the funding substantially. (See previous discussion here.)

Intro to draft scope for new study
A study to write a new "strategic action plan" is just now in motion, and its principals look to be starting over in some significant ways. (Meeting packet here.) You'll notice in the "scope" that Portland Road and transportation doesn't really figure until the sixth task:

Scope Elements
  • Task 1 - Summarize existing conditions and prior plans/studies - Several important plans and studies have been completed, including related to Portland Road, that can be drawn upon to review and evaluate Action Plan priorities.
  • Task 2 - Develop and implement a community outreach strategy – Develop and implement a comprehensive outreach strategy for the Action Plan, including ongoing communication with the NGRAB, Agency Board, neighborhood, business groups, and other key stakeholders.
  • Task 3 - Market analysis and opportunities/needs analysis - Analyze market conditions, opportunities, and needs in the NGURA, including for new housing, commercial and retail development, industrial uses, and other creative development opportunities. The market analysis will be informed by interviews, surveys, and other outreach.
  • Task 4 - Industrial business opportunities and constraints analysis – This task will be supported by information from interviews with existing industrial businesses, brokers, and other area stakeholders. This task includes evaluation of industrial buildings in the area and an analysis of rail spurs.
  • Task 5 - Identify opportunity sites, possible partners, and catalytic development concepts - Recommend opportunity sites where purchase/assembly by the Agency or private developer may trigger catalytic projects and identify any NGURA funding or support, partners, and development concepts that could be utilized.
  • Task 6 – Prioritize Transportation Infrastructure Issues – Much of the area has limited connectivity due to the rail line, limited access to Salem Parkway, and limited bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This task will identify opportunities to improve transportation connectivity in the area and address other transportation issues in the NGURA, including by reviewing priorities identified in the adopted Transportation System Plan and in the NGURA Plan. Evaluation of transportation priorities will be informed by input received through outreach with the neighborhood, businesses, and other area stakeholders. Transportation issues will be prioritized based on how they address market challenges, needs, and opportunities and provide multiple economic and community benefits. Review of modified improvements to Portland Road, north of Pine Street, is included in this task. (Note: as previously discussed the Portland Road railroad underpass is not included in this analysis.)
  • Task 7 - Recommend financial incentives and other creative funding strategies to encourage redevelopment - Recommend financial incentives that can be developed within the URA to address needs/opportunities identified through the Action Plan and to spur redevelopment.
  • Task 8 – Prepare Action Plan Recommendations and Report – Prepare a draft and final report that summarizes the above tasks and findings, along with key recommendations, cost estimates, and phasing for URA (and other) investments, over the near, mid, and long term. Report will identify the anticipated economic impact and return on investment of each of the recommendations.
The neighborhood association looks to be a least a little concerned about this, and in the meeting packet there is a resolution calling on the agency to stick with the plan for Portland Road:
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Northgate Neighborhood Association supports investing the funds available for the NGURA on improving quality of life, economic opportunity and aesthetics along unimproved areas of Portland Road within area boundaries.
Is this your neighborhood? Why or why not is a new study an appropriate action? Is this a sensible reassessment of limited funds? Or is this a potential grab for "big box" (those "opportunity sites") redevelopment? Or just a futile instance of feel-good "study churn"?

The North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board meets Thursday the 5th at 8:00 AM in the Center 50+, Classroom A, 2615 Portland Road NE.


Anonymous said...

Worth noting: This has all been done in council work sessions. So these talks have not been on TV, nor has there been any opportunity for public comment.

Anonymous said...

I think the City needs to keep it's promise and spend the money on Portland Road. It is a gateway into the city, and it is in desperate need of improvement. And if the city is going to do something else with the money, they need to do it out in the open and allow the public to weigh in.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

There is just about enough money in the fund to build a new police facility on Portland Road.

Private discussions and work sessions is the norm for the City. I hope people protest this continued 'dark government.'