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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 30, 2005 11:15 AM. The previous post in this blog was A kitty's best friend. The next post in this blog is Happy holidays, Lars!. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Another PDC deal craters

Lost in the turkey coma of holiday weekend news was word that developer Tom Kemper has pulled out of the proposed Killingsworth Station development along Interstate Avenue. And so another Portland Development Commission project for north and northeast Portland hits the skids, there to join Vanport Square and the agency's many other big-talk-no-action plans for the Idaho side of the river.

When it's time to slap up condo towers and "luxury apartment" bunkers on prime real estate, running roughshod over established neighborhoods in the process, there's no stopping the PDC. But when it's time to help sagging neighborhoods on the east side, these guys pull out their crying towels and whine about "how hard these deals are to do." They can't get anything going even when they're literally buying the property and giving it away. The best they can come up with is a handful of cats-and-dogs storefront rehabs, while the big bucks pile up (literally) in places like SoWhat and the Pearl.

For $200 million a year, and 19 cents of every dollar of property tax collected by the city, this is the best we can do?

Comments (25)

I thought the main reason MAX was constructed was to spur Transit Oriented Developments (since MAX does nothing to ease automobile traffic/conjestion, Metro et al had to come up with another reason for the boondoggle).

Now it looks like MAX is failing in the TOD regard as well. Not only do our taxes subsidies the construction and operation of MAX, but we have to subsidies development along the line too.

What a great idea this MAX is.

not sure what is driving development along Interstate and adjoining areas but it is surely happening with or w/o the PDC.

I don't know whether the MAX has spurred development along Interstate, but it sure as hell has increased housing prices in that area.

You really think that's MAX? Perhaps some, but you gotta give a good-sized amount of the credit to adidas.

I work in DT and take the Light Rail daily from the West Side and I have to say the trains are packed every day during commuting hours. The park and ride lots are chocky-jam full of cars and I see all kinds of condos being built near the lines and stations in Beaverton, Aloha and Hillsboro. Maybe there's something else going on here? For me the Light Rail makes living on the West Side much easier. I can get to work, cultural events, sporting events and the airport -- all without the hassle and cost of traffic and parking. In addition, I can live in a new home, near good schools and parks, and very little crime. The light rail alone isn't going to be a panacea - There are other factors that help it spur TOD and they need to be considered by the City of PDX.

If MAX isn't reducing traffic then where would all those people packed onto it be if it weren't there? walking?

On a bus.

All the people like Westsider above would be on buses riding on Highway 26? Even assuming that they all did switch to the bus wouldn't that in turn increase the traffic on 26?

MAX actually makes more sense on the west side than it does on the east side. The west side is hampered by a geographic barrier known as the Tualatin Hills (aka the West Hills), which restricts the development of sufficient road surface to adequately address the current and projected movement of people to and from Portland city center to the fastest growing suburban areas in the state. There are only three or four high-volume thoroughfares which serve the purpose. If we continued reliance upon auto traffic, particularly the one-person per auto kind of traffic, that will (if it has not already) create massive bottlenecks in surface transport.

East side Portland is not hampered with this kind of constraint, having numerous high-volume thoroughfares which transverse the east side. Plus, there is insufficient density to support MAX, or any other rail system, at this time. I doubt if there will be any time in the near future. Eastside MAX is a white elephant.

As to how efficient it is on the westside, I cannot say, as I do not have the figures. I do suspect though, that MAX requires subsidies on the west side as well as the east, but with much better rationale for the subsidy and a higher likelihood to develop sufficient density to justify it.

in NoPo, the prices were going up way before max was started. i believe housing price increase is just indicitive of the larger housing market in portland.

and i do give Adidas some credit too.

and new seasons, a great new store that just opened on N. Interstate and Portland.

i ride yellow max daily by the way and i walk home in the afternoon westside. try it.

A couple of points:

1. There are people who wouldn't ride a bus, but will ride light rail. You can't generalize that current light rail passengers would take the bus instead if the light rail line wasn't there.

2. Light rail drive investment in ways bus service doesn't. It's a major investment that won't likely go away quickly like bus service can. That makes investors more likely to develop along a corridor with light rail than one without.

Mr Bog - Wait until the next deal before you get worked up again. If you look at Commissioner Sam's calendar for 1 Dec he has a meeting with Homer Williams re: the Burnside couplet.

I have to give him credit, he is still posting his calendar unlike Mr Leonard.

Dan and others: Please note that almost all development-especially housing along mass transit lines-lightrail and trolly (TODs) have several kinds of tax subsidies that sponser their development. Even the zoning density is increased which helps the developers realize better return on their investments. Mass transit may be causing some the investments, but it's mostly the taxpayers pocketbook.

the Burnside couplet.

This was probably a condo scam right from the beginning.

Does anyone know where Homer Williams hails from?

Can we vote him off the island any time soon?

I will say this about eastside MAX:

I'm glad it's there, because if it weren't, my house would be looking down into the eastbound lane of a freeway.

Here is the rub: One of the factors that makes Portland such a pleasant city is the prevalence of short blocks (200 feet long in most central areas). Short blocks create more retail corners and frontages and make walking around more interesting.

Alas, MAX trains have to be shorter than the 200-foot blocks, or else when stopped, they will block intersections. That leads to diminished capacity. It is very likely even more people would take the MAX at peak times if they could be more comfortable on the trains.

Eastside MAX may end up being a bust, but I kind of doubt it. And while Jack hates the idea, I envision, rows and rows of Condos all along Interstate with mixed retail below it. This allows for Portland's population to increase, while the effect on traffic hopefully remains negligible.

That said: We have 100's of cities in the US that are sprawling out of control. Why not have 1 or 2 cities try a different approach. Maybe it won't work out, but at least it's something different. And isn't that our motto: Keep Portland Different.

I just wanted to mention that Jack's "On the bus" comment is off the mark, though some already have.
Buses have the same problem that cars do: traffic. I've got an express bus option, and a train option, for my daily commute. I always take the train, though it takes a little bit longer (the difference is about 10 minutes), because trains don't get stuck in traffic jams. My train commute is always the same, within a minute or two (barring some unforeseen train malfunction), while my bus commute would often vary by as much as 45 minutes, depending on how bad traffic got. That's crazy.

No way the people on the train (from way out West Side) would rather be on a bus. Maybe out of necessity (if there was no train), but given the choice, the train always wins.

And also, though Westsider speaks only to a jammed train at rush hours, it's getting to the point where the Red Line train is jam-packed at rush hour and still more than half full even at 9:00 at night (when I go home). The more full the freeways get, the more full those trains will get.

How this thread got to be about West Side MAX is beyond me. I'll tell you this -- there was, and is, a perfectly good bus that runs the length of Interstate Avenue.

Justin wrote
""""Maybe it won't work out, but at least it's something different. And isn't that our motto: Keep Portland Different."""""

"Maybe"?
There is no "maybe" about it. We have a 20 year eyewitness history of it not working out.

With $ billions gone (including countless millions in UR spent trying to do what MAX did not) and little to show for it but inefficient light rail, higher density without any plans for it's effects and no exit strategy to save the city from the planners, we got something different all right.
I thinks it's "Keep Portland Weird" though and we got that too. Unfortunately the "weird" is dysfunction, waste and planning run amok.
With all the flops and boondoggles and still people clinging to the "plans"
the motto should be "Portland, Where nothing matters"

""""" I envision, rows and rows of Condos all along Interstate with mixed retail below it.""""""""

Sure why not. Just double the current 3744 acres of the North Interstate Urban
Renewal District to take even more of the property taxes (which should be going to basic services) and help pay for the condos.

And since nothing matters, continue not reporting the impacts to city coffers, enjoy being weird and smile a lot.

After all there is plenty of money in all the city budgets.

Don't worry Jack, I'll try to bring the thread back on "track." :-)

The point everyone's missing is the fact that MAX is a money loser. A big money loser. If TriMet were to charge riders a break even rate, it would cost $9 per rider per trip. MAX is seriously subsidized.

And to further subsidize development along the line is lunacy. I'm completely perplexed by those who defend this idea. If privately funded development was flocking to areas around MAX lines, then I'd support MAX. But, we all know this is not the case. The Round in Beaverton, Steele Park in Hills, Orenco Station, Cascade Station, North Interstate -- all these areas were (and still are) bad investments that pay no property taxes and consequently suck money out of the general fund.

Why else would the PDC spend our tax dollars trying to spur development there?

Justin says: "We have 100's of cities in the US that are sprawling out of control. Why not have 1 or 2 cities try a different approach. Maybe it won't work out, but at least it's something different."

Light rail and TOD is not different. Nearly EVERY city over 500K population is building light rail lines and changing zoning to 'encourage' TOD. Most cities are doing it in the face of voter opposition, on those occasions when voters get the chance to have a say.

mac says: "Light rail and TOD is not different. Nearly EVERY city over 500K population is building light rail lines and changing zoning to 'encourage' TOD."

Fair enough. But Portland has by far more miles of lightrail per capita than any other city in the US. We are the leader in light rail development and other cities are following us.

That's why I say PDX should plug ahead. Until it's definately proven a bust, let's give it a shot.

Corinna here from KATU. Working on a story about development at North Killingsworth and Interstate. Hoping to contact some of the home/business owners who were displaced. Please call the station at (503) 231-3520.


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