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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A dirty dozen

Amazing story in today's O: The Port of Portland is seriously thinking about moving its 265 employees out of its Old Town corporate headquarters and selling or leasing the building. Where will they go? To a new building out at the airport, the lower part of which will be another parking garage, for 3,500 cars.

Whoa. This raises some questions:

1. Who would buy or lease the Port building, at 110,000 square feet? Who's ready to take on Old Town's problems? Isn't there too much office space in Portland already? Surely the city government wouldn't be interested -- would it?

2. Is another parking garage at the airport really necessary? The story says that this one would be for long-term and overnight parking -- are we really so short on that out at the airport?

3. This project would cost $160 million. If the Port has that sort of money lying around -- and the story says it has $105 million of it in the bank -- aren't there more important aspects of the Port district's economy that need attention, besides airport parking?

4. Why can't the Port just stop with the constant airport "improvements"? Given Portland's economy, the place is already overbuilt as it is. And is adding another 200-plus commuters' cars every morning to rush-hour airport traffic a good thing?

5. The decision to build the garage appears to be a done deal -- the only open question is whether the office space will be included. Where was the public input on the garage decision?

6. How long before the Portland Development Commission gets involved, and makes a bad deal for city taxpayers on either the Old Town building or the airport property?

7. Could you convert the existing Port building to condos? Could you make it a farmer's market? Can you fit a fire truck through the revolving doors?

8. Instead of putting all the Port employees out at the airport, how about an aerial tram [rim shot] from Old Town to PDX?

9. Will the last employer left in downtown Portland please turn off the lights as you leave?

10. Does Port Commissioner Imeson's consulting firm have ties to any of the companies that are bidding on the garage construction?

11. Is this a thinly-veiled attempt to jumpstart the long-stalled Cascade Station project out by the airport? Is Trammell Crow (which reportedly holds "development rights" on 100 acres out there) pushing for the Port to move out there? Whatever happened to the Ikea store?

12. Will Randy Gragg weigh in on this from Harvard?

Comments (33)

All good questions. It does seem that the Portland's priorities are misplaced. And if the Port has an extra $105 million dollars lying around, why don't they reduce the airport fees. I'm tired of paying $40 extra bucks for a flight. (obviously that's not all Port of Portland fees, but you get the idea).

The Port of Porkland has buildings crop full of Engineers and design folks that once kept themselves busy rebuilding the docks, who now must depend on a constant flow of airport projects in order to reach their goal of peaked PERS.

What, do you want all of them to sit around and do nothing? How about a subway from the South waterfront to the airport? That with the tram would bring the much needed diversity to their transportation wants and would keep the staff busy for years.

Parking is needed, I think, for the Max train drivers on the red line.

I suspect the Port is attempting to find operating capital. With this new project the Port can draw a management fee and use it to pay their bills.

With the shipyards liquidated,
three of four container shippers leaving,
landing fees waived for three airlines,
rail/road freight mobility choked,
goods and services in snarled traffic,
Airport Way Urban Renewal Area reaching its legal maximum indebtedness,
and no further additional indebtedness allowed,
the Port is likely in a weak and panicked mode attempting to delay further fiscal decay.

They can use the proceeds from selling their downtown office building for paying bills too.

I have heard that tomorrow an announcement will come that a big box has been selected for Cascade Station.
Big box? Airport Max better add some lumber racks or space for Costco shoppers.

Speaking of the Port, I read what was (to me) a much more interesting article in yesterday's paper...

The writer was telling us how, in a bid to recapture lost business, the Port was becoming more flexible in its dealings with shippers. How they would now consider long-term leases as opposed to the month-to-month leases that they insisted on before. Now I'm no sweaty, polyester-suited slumlord, but isn't the landlord usually the one that wants the long-term leases?

And what was especially troubling to me is that, according to the article, all the other ports offer this sort of deal, while Portland sat back and said "no, we want it done OUR way". And then we're surprised when we lose 2 of 3 of our major shippers?

How poorly run is a Port that actually loses customers when their major competitors can't keep up with their workload and shippers are actively LOOKING for other options? When trade between the West Coast and the Far East is doing nothing but increasing?

It's a little too late to be modifying your lease terms now, Port of Portland. Yet, as we know, there will be no major ramifications for the folks that ran off all the shipping companies and thus are forcing all our farmers/producers to ship product to Washington state ports to get out of the country.

(BTW, for what it's worth, I think it makes sense for Oregon to develop a major port nearer the Coast, rather than having ships make the long cruise up the Columbia.)

(BTW, for what it's worth, I think it makes sense for Oregon to develop a major port nearer the Coast, rather than having ships make the long cruise up the Columbia.)

In a sense I agree, but then you just get a different problem: how to move all that freight from the Willamette Valley out to the coast. I mean, it's brutal enough driving a car with two kids out to Astoria--can you imagine hauling 18 wheelers out there week after week? Brutal.

As it relates to airport parking: I go out there fairly frequently, and I'd say perhaps 2% of the time do I have to do as much as drive to an additional level in the parking garages. 98% of the time there are spaces within 200 feet of whichever garage I enter. This hardly seems like an urgent requirement.

Dave wrote:
(In a sense I agree, but then you just get a different problem: how to move all that freight from the Willamette Valley out to the coast. I mean, it's brutal enough driving a car with two kids out to Astoria--can you imagine hauling 18 wheelers out there week after week? Brutal.)

Absolutely. The coast port would only make sense if we developed the appropriate infrastructure to get the freight there. But if we REALLY want to be in the import/export business, which I believe we should, then I think we need to stop half-stepping and step up to the plate. It would be expensive, but you could reallocate the money spent at the Portland Port and the money that will be spent to deepen the Columbia.

I learned all I needed to know about PERS, PDX and the Port of Portland when I clerked for a judge back in 1998. A case on our docket was what latter became OPERB v. PAMCORP (191 Or. App. 408). Basically, several developers convinced PoP that PDX needed a repair hanger large enough to accommodate commercial jets. They then successfully sought PERS for the venture capital. The theory was such a facility was needed before certain airlines would make Portland its Pacific Rim hub--a build it and they will come concept. Anyway, it flopped, PERS lost millions and the developers were found liable for fraud. Needless to say, I now look at any project by PoP, especially one at PDX, with "a jaundiced eye."

I talked to someone a bit of an authority on shipping ports and I suggested a container port at the coast instead of Portland. I learned more than I wanted but there is a reason why the Oregon coast does not have such a port already: geography. Our coast simply does not have a deep water bay large enough for ocean freighters, like Newport, San Fran, and Tacoma.

Portland is simply the best there is in Oregon.

Jack Bog,
I sense your slight dissatisfaction ;-)
I think that you're confusing, though, valid complaints with those that aren't so good. Everything you say about the wisdom of expenditures is spot-on, I think. For example, perhaps the Port could use its money on other Port projects besides a parking garage. But maybe the cost savings from the new location will give the Port more money to use in the future? In addition, why the argument from the Port that they'll build long-term parking, when the data in the article only cites short-term parking numbers?
On the other hand, why not build at the airport? It makes sense for the Port to consolidate its employees at its flagship port location. And, if you're going to get them all in one place, why not at a location which is directly on a Max line (thus countering your comment about increased traffic). And, I think that improvements in the airport are generally necessary. Granted, Portland's economy is arguably in the tank, but airport traveler traffic still went up 7% year-to-date, and Clark County isn't getting any smaller. When Clark County's population goes up another 40%, I'm guessing traffic at the airport won't get any lighter. Finally, the long-stalled CascadeStation seems like it's moving along better than the Tribune article would indicate (see also: Cascade Station due in '07, The Columbian, Thursday, September 29, 2005).

Just some thoughts.

Jud asks,
""""On the other hand, why not build at the airport? It makes sense for the Port to consolidate its employees at its flagship port location."""""

It makes sense?
I guess it didn't make sense when the Port built a seven-story headquarters, at 121 N.W. Everett St., in 1999 for $20 million.

The Port has a history of making incredibly poor decisions. If one is to assume, it should not be that the Port is now making sense.

There is nothing at the long-stalled Cascade Station (although Max stops there for no reason.)
That's hardly "moving along". Movement has to start before it "moves along".

There is something else at play here pushing this parking garage and possible offices project.

Unfortunately as with most of the boondoggles and misappropriations around here much of the busy work pushing it forward happens without public participation or awareness.

IMO this new project is part of a revenue shifting scheme to accomplish something other than the publicly stated objective.

I meant "makes sense" as a logistical matter. If you'd like to argue financial sense, that's fine, but it still makes sense. Suppose they bought the building for $20 million and paid cash. They could rent it out now and make pure profit, which is money they could use for other projects. Assume they have a mortgage, perhaps they could rent it out for total rents higher than their mortgage payments. Again, money they can use for some other project. Does the Port have a moral obligation to stay in their Old Town building? Hardly.
As to CascadeStation, certainly it's true there's nothing there now, but it doesn't appear it's going to stay that way. There wasn't "anything there" in all kinds of places before development occurred; by your logic, one could never build anything in anticipation of future circumstances.
As I said before, though you apparently skipped that part, I wasn't quibbling with Jack's apprehension of the financial aspects of the move, I merely noted that some of his "aesthetic" objections to the move were possibly without merit and were at least arguable.

They could rent it out now and make pure profit

That remains to be seen. Look for a city taxpayer bailout via the PDC.

No doubt. You ought to come up with a re-naming of the PDC that reflects this tax-redirection strategy. My brain's not on the ball right now, but I'm thinking of something like Pleasing Developers Commission. Same idea but snarkier, would be better. Perhaps a front-page contest for your blog?

I think it should have the same letters but with a whiff of criminality and price fixing. How about PDC: The Portland Development Cartel?

Question 12: after the ribbon cutting, will the folks be down with this? Such an impractical move for Port employees, follow my case as follows: (1) no more walks straight over to reasonable Chinatown lunches or limitless fareless square shopping or e-z access to City Grill (2)seeing the ships come in early June is so "Portland" especially when it is 2 blocks from work (3) parking at work (free) after hours when hitting a Blazer game during the winter or for the Bite in July is bragging material regardless of your salary (4) closest thing to $1 lunches out PDX way is Burger King up by the Shilo Inn. Where's the not-found-anywhere-else "world class city" culture on parade with that?

Dunno, Jack, this news'll hit the rank 'n file hard. Riddle me this: how is there more culture at Cascade Station that Chinatown?

Jud said,
"""Suppose they bought the building for $20 million and paid cash. They could rent it out now and make pure profit""""

So the Port, who pays no property taxes, should get into the landlord business and compete with those who do?

I think not.

I'll stick to my well informed contention that the Port management makes no sense.

The examples, circumstances details are many.

Just as the PDC operates, the Port is equally conflicted, misguided and shameless as they spend and devour public assets and resources.

There is something with a stench behind this latest folly, and the source of that stench will not appear until after another reckless decision is made and more public money is committed to waste.

Why don't they reduce some of the leasing prices? My company, The Standard, is moving some departments from downtown out to the Tannasborne(sp?) office because we are growing to big for our downtown buildings and leasing prices are too high. Standard has also hired extra security for around their buildings due to the harrassment from the homeless. Sad.

Biz Journal just posted this article re: the Ikea at "Cascade Station".


I'll let all you conspiracy minded folks make comments about the timing of this article...

From the Biz Journal
"The store will sit on 19 acres in the development and will feature 1,200 parking spaces. One of Cascade Station's selling points also is its access to light rail."

Now that's funny. A completely car-oriented big box with 1200 parking spaces is coming because light rail was a selling point?

"Ikea, which bills itself as not just a store but as a destination site for families, will include a children's play area and restaurant in the Portland store."

And families will be riding light rail to it?

My immediate and skeptical query is what did the Port and PDC promise Ikea to offset their company policy of owning the land their stores sit on.

Since the property must remain in Port hands, according to fed airport requirements, what is the lease and property tax arrangement?
Or should I say "no" property tax arrangement.
City planners have been so desperate to plop something down at Cascade Station I'm sure they "invested" heavily.

The 280,000 square-foot store will be the first development in Cascade Station near Portland International Airport (PDX). The 120-acre site will offer shopping, hotels, restaurants, and offices in a pedestrian- and MAX-friendly environment between I-205 and PDX

At the risk of violating bog's rules, one more post.
Bechtel and/or Trammel Crow controls the site this new store will be on.
They acquired a 100 lease ($1 or $10 ??? per acre for 120 acres) in exchange for their participation/contribution in the Airport MAX construction. With a "No Bid" contract as well.
(after voters rejected more light rail)
So the Ikea store will be coming and that's great.
But this spin to tout MAX and justify it and it's cost as if drew Ikea here is a joke by the clowns doing the spinning.
In reality this is yet another stark demonstration (possibly the best yet) of MAX and Transit Oriented Development failing miserably and wasting countless millions in public monies.
Much of which was skimmed from property taxes headed towards basic services (including schools) via Urban Renewal abuse.
All that aside I say welcome to Ikea, their merchandise and their parking lot.

My sincere hope is that POP and PDC finally realized that the restrictions they were placing on IKEA (I recall an important one being that IKEA wanted to be visible from I-205) were counterproductive, and that Cascade Station was a big flop.

IKEA is *perfect* for that space. No one will ride Max to IKEA, of course--it's a destination for UHauls and Vans and etc.

Where Max will come into play is if (when?) Cascade Station grows into a Bridgeport type mall with destination stores and restaurants. There is no reason it should not, given the location. Something has held this back, and what I know abotu IKEA makes me think it's foolish restrictions on development.

I'm absolutely thrilled about Ikea coming to town. I've been driving far too many hours to do my Ikea shopping! As mentioned before, it's absolutely ridiculous to believe that anyone would take light rail to do their furniture shopping, even if most everything does come in boxes. Also, while Ikea does have a play area and a restaurant, they're not "destinations" that would lure visitors separately.

"""Where Max will come into play is if (when?) Cascade Station grows into a Bridgeport type mall with destination stores and restaurants."""

No, it will NOT. That is a myth, a farce, a bad joke, propaganda, fantasy ????????

Shoppers drive to those type of places, just like Gresham Station, because they come from their homes. Nearly all of which are no where near any MAX and never will be. And when people leave shopping with bags they want to go to their car, not a MAX train.
MAX is a flop, the original plan for Cascade Station is a flop and so is the TOD program.
All of which cost huge sums now gone forever.

MAX or bike to a home furnshings store on Airport way?
Fred you are unethical.


“The transit infrastructure will play a key role in this area,” said Fred Hansen, TriMet General Manager. “With IKEA offering home delivery, shoppers can travel to the area on the MAX red line that serves the area every 15 minutes from Beaverton to Cascade Station without a transfer.” The store will also have bike racks for riders utilizing the new bike lanes in the area.

The only people who will take advantage of IKEA's home delivery are people who don't have vehicles large enough to accommodate the furniture boxes - it has nothing to do with proximity to light rail.

Created: May 1986
Total Acres: 2,780
Expires: May 2011

The 120 acres of Cascade Station effectively belongs to Bechtel/Trammel Crow.
How does the Airport Way Urban Renewal debt get paid by any development at Casacde station including Ikea?

Many other questions regarding the 2780 UR acres and increment spending for all of these years.

Ikea will have 1200 parking spaces for a reason. Light rail is useless for their business.

This is a story of CoP, PDC, PoP, Metro and TriMet failure from every single angle.

The store is great and will be welcomed by it's many employees and customers.

But the cabal of dishonesty, misappropriation and misrepresentation with urban renewal and light rail had NOTHING to do with it's arrival.

In reality the arrival could have been sooner
had the convoluted zoning not limited buildings to 60,000 sq ft.


Are you saying that Ikea's management did not consider the Max stop at all when evaluating alternate sites? That would be the natural conclusion to your assertion that lightrail is useless to Ikea customers.

Max may not have been the principal reason for Ikea's decision, and you are correct that most "purchasers" will drive to IKEA. Yet, I would bet that when Ikea scouted out positions, the Max was duely noted if for no other reason than retailers do not want their employees taking up parking even if they have 1500 spaces.

Regardless, IKEA is the great white of retail shopping and it will attract quite a few remora fish retailers that will position themselves also at Cascade Station in order to suck off of Ikea's customer base. Landing an Ikea at Cascade station is a positive development and MAX will service the remora customers and those who just want a close look at the Shark.

Whoever landed the Ikea at Cascade Station earned my Kudos.

Since the property must remain in Port hands, according to fed airport requirements, what is the lease and property tax arrangement?
Or should I say "no" property tax arrangement.

According to today's Oregonian article, they got a 92-year lease and "no tax incentives or abatements were offered to Ikea."

Ikea is great but in no way, shape or form did the city need to spend 200 million in Urban renewal and MAX to get them here.

In fact the ciy under the Charlie Hales and Neil Goldschmidt banter during Cascade Station planning it was "NO BIG BOX and large parking lots would be allowed"
That's why the 60,000 sq ft limit was in place.

Now the powers that be are spinning that around as they try to posture this Ikea event as evidence of UR, MAX and Cascade Station success.

This is total and complete false reporting by our government agencies.

Ikea wanted a parcel next to the freeway.
They also wanted to own the land they build upon.

Whatever they got to compensate for not owning the land is unknown at this point.
Why don't one of you curious folks demand to know?

If it's a low-balled sub-lease (the 120 acres is already leased to Bechtel & Trammel Crow)it's the same as an "incentive or abatement". Only covert.

The public fiscal stench from Airport Way Urban Renewal District should be near suffocating to those with any fiscal sense.


I get your drift, it's clear, but man sometimes it clouds your vision. You say places like Bridgeport Station are "NEVER" built close to the Max.

But my point was what would happen if Cascade Station DID become a place like Bridgeport Station?

Look, getting to Washington Square Mall or Bridgeport Station is a pain in the ass for many downtown and SE/NE dwellers. I think Cascade Station could work if it could attract destination retailers like at BS.

Of course many if not most will drive. But I think many would take light rail also.

You are all over the place.

First off I never said anything about "places like Bridgeport Station are "NEVER" built close to the Max"
I said MAX was irrelevant to Ikea.

Second, if a mall works at Cascade Station fine. But that won't be the vision or the justification for spending the $200 plus million on infrastructure and MAX.

I mean come on, the PDC can't claim success of the investment no matter what ends up there.

If it is a mall of sorts it will certainly be as auto oriented as any other mall including Bridgeport Village or even Lloyd Center which has MAX nearby.

"What would happen if Cascade Station DID become a place like Bridgeport Station?"

Happen? It would be a total failure of the vision and the investment. Unless you think the public should be funding the creation of shopping malls. And on Airport property which is leased to a private company then subleased to the Mall tenants, with all sorts of convoluted giveaways and the no property taxes problems to boot.

You said
"""""Look, getting to Washington Square Mall or Bridgeport Station is a pain in the ass for many downtown and SE/NE dwellers.""""

That's why they shop at Lloyd Center, downtown or Clackamas Town Center.
And it's tough "getting" anywhere for anything nowadays. Because of misappropriation such as MAX and Cascade Station.

You """"think Cascade Station could work if it could attract destination retailers like at BS."""

What does "work" mean?

What you are describing would be a total punt by the planners who pushed the whole Cascade Station concept/vision passed city officials.

You think """many would take light rail also."""

Unfortunately if 'any' take it the planners call it "many". The numbers of course will be so low it will be meaningless and further demonstrate the uselessness of MAX in attracting businesses and shoppers.

Ikea will have a bike rack and MAX.

If one bike is parked there and some store employees ride MAX for free, as do other Airport employees planners will again lie by mischaracterizing the usage.

Bottom line is the whole Cascade Station plan cannot be thrown away and still be called "working" or a success.
Or worth the public cost.

Everything about your site reeks of Italian influence. Are you affiliated with organized crime and can you tell me what crime family controls the Oregonian? Thanks. :>)

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