Whatever happened to the Burnside Bridgehead project?
Remember the Burnside Bridgehead scam? This is the plan to turn the east side of the Burnside Bridge in Portland into another soulless condo tower, supposedly with retail attached. Two years ago, it was all the big news from the Portland Development Commission. First they said they were going to put a Home Depot on that location, which freaked out the neighbors and existing businesses nearby on MLK and Grand. The PDC bigwigs at the time, all Goldschmidt lieutenants, eventually backed off that wicked idea. But then they manipulated the developer selection process and awarded the project to Opus Northwest (of Bridgeport Village fame, as I recall), when the superior design had come from an outfit called Beam Development, which was the clear public favorite for the project.
By this time Tom Potter had become mayor, and although it took him a while to clean out the PDC facecards, he immediately jawboned that agency into letting Beam have a piece of the project, along with Opus. Beam reportedly dropped the legal appeal it had filed, which I'm sure was a relief to the city, because it sure did appear to have merit.
The incident was telling, because it showed how precious little the PDC management cared about public input, and how nasty they could be. PDC chair Matt Hennessee (before his little girl problem was made public) and executive director Don Mazziotti (now off in Schnitzerland) were unabashed in flipping the bird to the many members of the community who had spent thousands of hours trying to get the urban renewal agency to do the right thing. In the end, under intense pressure, they reluctantly agreed to do about one quarter of a right thing. Meanwhile, a blogger by the name of The One True b!X had given months of his life to covering the PDC shenanigans with a straight face, showing the emerging power of the internet in local political matters. All the O could give us was Randy Gragg, who as usual did his best to obfuscate the scam, but even he had to admit in the end that Beam had been had.
The bulldozers came and knocked down the old Baloney Joe's building, a derelict structure in more ways than one, in the spring of 2005. They put up a fence and established a vacant lot, which seems to be the hallmark of PDC achievement on the east side.
Fast forward two years. The empty lot is still there. Not a shovel of dirt has been turned. No condos. No retail. Crickets chirping.
After all that, what the heck happened? Is the project dead? Did Opus and Beam find it impossible to work together? Did they run out of money? Have they chickened out of the shaky condo market?
Or are they hanging around waiting for a better deal from the PDC? Does it have to do with the impending Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" scam? Do the developers have their eyes on some of that fat, juicy federal pork that Earl the Pearl is delivering to make a one-way street out of the widest and busiest street anywhere around?
And now that we're two more years down the path, shouldn't a new look be taken at what's best for that site? All the public process rigamarole that we watched back in the Bad Old Days of the PDC -- how long is the outcome good for? Was there a contract with a deadline for commencement of construction? What was (or is) the deadline?
I doubt that these questions are enough to get b!X back as a full-time blog journalist, but perhaps the folks in the MSM could take a shot at this when they've got some time on their hands.