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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 14, 2007 1:55 PM. The previous post in this blog was Mystery mail. The next post in this blog is You shouldn't laugh.... Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

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.

Comments (12)

yep, i was at several of those meetings too.

the project is still rumbling along.

this PDF tells you the latest--there was a meeting a few weeks ago.

and remember, PDC "values your comments." i'll let you determine what that value is...

Most recent thing I see on PDC site is the winter '07 status update (pdf).

Among other things it has this (in theory) for the 2007-on schedule:

Redevelopment
o Complete Due Diligence - Spring 2007
o Complete Program Development - Fall 2007
o Begin Project Design - Fall 2007
o Property Sale to Developer - Spring 2008
o Complete Demolition - Spring 2008
o Begin Construction - Summer 2008
o Complete Construction - Summer 2010

I think this awaiting Sam's makeover of Burnside for $85M. If Mr Adams sneaks this in, there will be a real catfight over that piece of land.

I am sure the two projects are related so we can pour 100M+ into fixing up 1.5 miles of Burnside meanwhile the potholes grow - Sam's true legacy.

I do believe the Burnside eastside couplet has already been approved, no?

I'm a tenant of Convention Plaza, at 123 NE Couch and we've been told the building will be emptied out by December of this year.

It will then sit empty for years to come.

"I do believe the Burnside eastside couplet has already been approved, no? "

What exactly has been approved?

Maybe instead of blogging at your CoP job you can go find out what is going on from the inside. You seem to have a lot of time on your hands, may as well be productive.

I think I heard they're planning to put a Larry Bird museum in it.

I'm on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the project, representing our HAND neighborhood association. There's not been a lot going on, aside from getting the Convention Plaza tenants out. And, yes, the East Side couplet's already been approved, though I don't believe fully funded yet. In the meantime we've been shown a couple of design concepts, but nothing's close to definite yet.

An interesting development, though. I noted on the PDCs agenda that they're moving the food wholesaler out from its perch west of the project area, over to Airport Way (if I remember right).

What consequences this may have, I haven't a clue, but it's hard to believe it's just a coincidence.

If we could spin this into a social engineering issue we could get the MSM to cover it.

Steve, don't be such a nut, I am not a government employee, nor do I know anybody that works with the city or runs any of Portland's many layers of government. I enjoy blogging and am intrigued (sometimes good and sometime bad) by the goings on in Portland. Simply stating what I believe is approved doesn't make me a city of Portland apologist or in agreement with or even against the couplet. Try to stick to the topic, I do think the PDC has money set aside in their 07-08 budget to get the city to start the eastside couplet. If you are actually against the couplet, I would assume you'd take that information, verify it, and try and begin a campaign to stop the project before it goes further.

Attacking me, while it makes me feel more important than I really am, doesn't really get you any further than attacking a mid-20 year old, trying to get his life together, college kid.

Did anyone notice that BEAM got a quiet nod to be the developer of the old school on SE 12th and Belmont? It sure looks like PDC "gave" that to them as a consolation prize. I wonder how tax payer much money was left on the table by the process...

Found this on the Opus website:

http://www.opuscorp.com/-ProjectDetail/index.html?id=2420

Doesn't say a lot you don't know, but there is a contact number there....


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