While I was out
Lost in the haze of the gluttonous weekend just past were a couple of news stories that deserved blog attention, but didn't get it. (Perhaps you missed a few items, too?) I'm going to try to catch up on them starting now.
The big bombshell was dropped in the O on Wednesday, but didn't catch my eye until I piled up the papers for recycling tonight: Zupan's Markets is not going through with its plan to open a new store in the condo tower being built at NE 16th and Weidler. The developer and Zupan's are slinging major kim chee at each other in a lawsuit, and the lease for the ground floor of the property has been cancelled.
Long-time readers of this blog know that this is really significant. The specter of a new Zupan's at that location, just northeast of Lloyd Center, apparently contributed to the demise of the once-proud Irvington Market. Times got tough for the produce operator in that market, and when he pulled out, no one was fool enough to step in and take on the impending Zupan's. Soon, without the fresh produce as a magnet, the rest of the shops in the market -- a butcher, a fish market, a deli, and a juice bar -- fell like dominoes. Now the nearest decent fresh fish is a 10-minute drive through Pearlie Hell to the City Market on NW 21st.
But the folks in the neighborhood took heart. Soon we'd have our $24-a-pound Copper River salmon right at our doorsteps once again, when Mr. Zupan opened another enchanted forest of high-end groceries at the foot of the condo tower.
Who knows why this aspect of the project failed? Was the developer acting in bad faith, was Zupan's, or were they both acting up? I smell somebody running out of money.
Meanwhile, the condo tower continues its hideous skyward climb. It's a bulky box, to say the least, with sidewalks on Weidler Street that are grotesquely narrow compared to the size and height of the building. There's no setback at all. Even with a prime anchor tenant, it would have been way too much building. With a collection of gumball stores on the ground floor -- like the motley crew of nondescript mall food court castoffs that now occupy the old Irvington Market space -- it will be a downright ugly place to be.
And forget about the surrounding properties. The poor florist on Broadway who held onto his fraction of a block rather than sell out to the condo weasels will likely live to regret his decision. His little skylight looks ridiculous now, surrounded on the south and west by multiple stories of housing. His plants will literally never see the sun. Ditto for the west-facing lots across the street on NE 17th. There will never be anything there now but another condo tower or "Fast Noodles on a Carousel R Us."
And you folks who are paying upwards of $800,000 to live in an apartment building on the corner of NE 16th and Weidler, let me give you an important link: here.
Ironically, in the same pile of newspapers I came across an article about how the folks in the raped and pillaged Lair Hill neighborhood (where the Mrs. and I lived for several years) are hoping to get some funding to rip out some of the obscene highway ramps that have destroyed their community for many decades. Now that the OHSU Aerial Tram is under construction, they can resume talking about some day, maybe, if there's ever any money for it, considering starting to eventually take the bridge approaches and freeway ramps out. But the neighbors will have to have patience -- a virtue that's not required of the rich doctors who will literally look down their noses into these folks' backyards in a couple of years. No waiting for grants when it's time to put money into Homer Williams's pockets. Just start ripping.
One of the factors that is listed in the article as wrecking the old Lair Hill are the condo towers that were built in the nearby South Auditorium district:
"It would help weave together sections of that neighborhood that have been pretty badly cut up by past transportation projects," Doss says.It appears that building those towers is now acknowledged as some sort of mistake.
Projects from the 1950s
Those projects, which include Interstate 5, Naito Parkway and the Ross Island Bridge's western end, were built primarily in the 1950s during the urban renewal of south Portland. Once a vibrant community of immigrants, the area began to lose energy with the opening of the Ross Island Bridge in 1926 and the rise of the automobile, according to neighborhood historian Stephen Leflar, who is in the planning group.
During the urban renewal in the 1950s, buildings on several dozen blocks were bulldozed and the roads were put in along with condominium towers.
But if you're a developer on the City Council A List, 50 years later, you still get to make all the mistakes you want. No doubt the taxpayers will clean them up later.