The Portland Plan process continues. Of most interest to Eliot is the Central City Plan process embedded within the larger process. It will evaluate and potentially change zoning among other things. The current focus is the NE quadrant of the central city that includes the Rose Quarter, Lloyd District, Lower Albina, and portions of Eliot along Broadway and between Williams and I-5. The process has two parts. The first is planning revisions to I-5 between I-84 and the Fremont Bridge. The second is the usual review of land use and zoning. There is a citizens advisory panel assisting with the process. Many on the panel believe the process is dominated by interests who want to widen I-5 without considering neighborhood impacts. They are warily watching transportation interests to blunt that threat, however, there are serious issues with this section of the freeway that will complicate future development in the Rose Quarter and the Broadway corridor associated with the new streetcar line. Not much has happened after three advisory panel meetings but the next meeting in January is expected to begin the review of freeway options where things should get more substantive AND interesting.
Rose Quarter Plans
The long awaited plan for the Rose Quarter is still pending. A few details have emerged from the process. A key one is that the plan area has expanded to include areas across Broadway to the north and southeast of the Quarter to the Steel Bridgehead. The vision for those areas being articulated by the Mayor includes office and residential uses. However, the Blazers are still driving the process with their plans and it is unclear how their plans will relate to or impact the expanded area outside the Quarter.
High Speed Rail
One of the most contentious issues in the Central City Planning discussions has been planning for high speed rail. Railroad alignments on both sides of the Willamette complicate planning for high speed rail because the alignment to and across the Steel Bridge that carries rail traffic to Union Station cannot accommodate high speed rail. That makes the area around the Rose Quarter the most likely location for a future high speed rail station. Advocates want that prospect included in the new Central City Plan however transportation interests fear it will distract from their goal of improving the freeway for autos and freight. Also missing in the planning debate is the role freight rail should play in the future to remove trucks from the freeway. This echoes the plans for a new bridge across the Columbia that is also blind to all future transportation options other than continued single vehicle autos and increased trucking. Since both of these processes are dominated by State transportation bureaus it raises serious questions in my mind about their leadership. Although Oregon’s new governor supports a new bridge, hopefully he will be more open mined than the current one, who is overly influenced by the trucking and heavy construction industries and their unions.
Although new construction is down, there are two new projects being planned in Eliot. The old Cox and Cox funeral home property is being split. The parking lot is proposed to host six new rowhouses. They will be developed as two, three unit projects one facing Rodney and the other Graham. The design shared with the land use committee was neo-Victorian so it should blend in to the neighborhood. The original funeral home building recently sold to an out of town investor. Their plans are unknown, although the building was marketed as a mixed-use project with commercial use on the first floor and residential above. It isn’t clear what commercial uses would be allowed since the lot is zoned residential. The committee also received a proposal for a multistory apartment complex on MLK near Morris. Finally, plans are moving forward to develop over 20 units of housing on the Grant Warehouse site at MLK and Ivy (just south of Fremont). The proposal will have multiple structures on the property although those along MLK will look as if they are connected presenting a more uniform look. The development is subsidized by PDC but the developer will have to provide construction financing. They are confident they can do so and will begin construction next year.
As you are surely aware, construction of the new streetcar line is proceeding. Faster than I expected, but the opening date is still expected to be in the Fall of 2012. Construction has interfered with traffic to and from the Broadway Bridge and will continue to do so through mid-Summer. The route takes the streetcar east from the bridge to Seventh, where it turns to pass the Lloyd Center, returns to MLK along Oregon Street and south to OMSI and across the Willamette to tie into the system downtown. The westbound route follows the same path but up Grand to Broadway. You may have noticed the change in traffic lanes west bound on Broadway. Best as I can determine, those are to accustom drivers to the changes that will occur once the streetcar loop opens. The other project that may impact neighborhood drivers is the plan for repaving of the Fremont Bridge. That will occur this summer, so details will be provided in the Spring issue of the News.
Reading the news about housing markets leaves the reader with the impression house values have fallen significantly in all neighborhoods. However, there are pockets within the Portland market where the decline is much less. Eliot is one of these. Detailed statistical data indicate home values have declined about 10% from their peak, although the prices for poorly maintained properties have fallen further. As some of the previous stories indicate, there is strong developer interest in new residential construction in Eliot despite the difficulty finding financing, and financing restrictions don’t seem to be slowing small in-fill projects of two to four units. As banks and other lenders loosen their purse strings I expect to see many more medium size project proposals.