I thought the city was broke
Over this blog's history, more than a few hits have come from readers who were searching for stories about the so-called North Macadam development project that's on the books for the area just south of downtown Portland. This is the $1.4 billion development that's supposed to keep the Oregon Health and Science University from packing up and moving to Hillsboro (as if that would ever happen). The key feature of the plan is a hideous aerial tram that would run from Pill Hill down to the toney new development so that the medical types wouldn't have to waste 10 extra minutes riding down there in something so pedestrian as a bus. (The privacy and wishes of middle-class homeowners along Gibbs Street be damned.) Behind it all is Homer Williams, the real mayor of Portland, who has cashed in on many a tax-advantaged and otherwise city-subsidized development in his illustrious career. (BTW, my past posts can be found here, here, and here. I won't repeat those rants, although I still stand behind all of them.) Homer's lobbyist on this one? Neil Goldschmidt.
A recent edition of the Portland Tribune included a fascinating story about how the cost estimates for North Macadam (which the bureaucrats now alternately refer to as South Waterfront) keep rising. Estimated costs of infrastructure development -- for streets, utilities, streetcar and the tram -- have jumped 55 percent. Now the price tag for those items is $372 million! And the number of jobs that the bioscience facility down there would create keeps dropping. Now it's down to 300, with 5,000 new jobs overall over a 15-year period. Let's see, $372 million to create 5,000 jobs? That's $74,400 per job, not counting OHSU's construction costs (it also being a public entity).
Commissioner Erik Sten was quoted last summer as saying the infrastructure improvements would cost $70 million. Guess he forgot the 300 part.
The streetcar that will run to this lovely new addition is now estimated to cost $11.5 million all by itself, and the tram, which was touted as a $10 million toy before the City Council approved it, is now up to $15.5 million. Apparently Williams and partners would pay 49 percent of that, and OHSU another 46 percent. But the city and the Portland Development Commission would be handed a bill for 3 percent. That's around $800,000, if they stay on budget. It's a good bet that the tram won't. And no one's talking about who will pay to operate the streetcar and tram, which are guaranteed to lose money year after year. I'm sure that will be the city, Tri-Met, or some other shell created by the city to suck taxes out of the city's taxpayers. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of public dollars to run a competition to see who can come up with the grooviest design for the tram, they ought to sponsor one to see who the heck around here can afford it.
But never fear, folks, according to the Trib story, "eventually" we'll get "two hotels, office-research buildings, health clubs and restaurants," 12 residential towers, a new Portland City Grill, and a Starbucks.
Gag me with a spoon.