Storied past, uncertain future
I see that they've got a "stop and talk" event (scroll way down) scheduled for this Saturday at the Portland Saturday Market. You're supposed to stop and talk to people from the Portland Parks Bureau and the Portland Development Commission about the impending move of the popular hippie market from its current, ancestral home under the Burnside Bridge to a new spot in Waterfront Park across Front Avenue.
The poor Saturday Market -- a Portland institution forced out of its home to make way for the Almighty Development, and now being tag-teamed by Parks and the PDC. Those two agencies are notoriously unfriendly to real people, and when they hold a "stop and talk," you have to wonder if any part of it involves them listening.
Everything's moving fast on this now -- and of course, that's when the smell of rat starts to become noticeable. It's being presented as a given that this is Saturday Market's last year under the Burnside Bridge. Between the nearby University of Oregon development and the nearby Mercy Corps development (neither of which will likely pay property taxes, interestingly enough), Saturday Market's got to move no later than when it opens next spring.
There are lots of problems with that timetable, however -- perhaps the largest being that there's still no final plan for what the new home in the park will look like. At last report, there were still three design options being considered. Here's a slick presentation on the three alternatives -- see if you can make heads or tails out of it. I couldn't.
According to the PDC website, there's going to be an open house next Wednesday, the 13th, "to comment on and provide input to Portland Parks Bureau and Portland Development Commission representatives regarding the final design option." Then another "advisory group" meeting is set for the 20th. But back in April, at a Parks Board meeting, it was stated that construction would have to begin in late spring or early summer, and that time is already upon us.
However the patchouli stands are laid out, and whenever they start digging up parkland to make way for them, there are some serious long-term questions about Saturday Market in Waterfront Park that haven't been answered. First and foremost, the Market will have to pay rent to the Parks Bureau, and at last report the terms of that rental agreement were not at all settled. Moreover, the Parks Board minutes reflect these additional issues:
Some issues in the relocation are conflicts with existing events, access to the park, aesthetics and cost to the Bureau. Also to be sorted out is the issue of taxes – since Saturday Market is income-generating and a commercial use, they’d have to pay taxes on revenues. Because of zoning, Parks can not site the market in the park permanently. Joe believes that any agreement between Parks and the market should be for a period of no longer than three years and the agreement must have a termination clause.While they're rushing to get Saturday Market out of its home, it seems that there's still an awful lot still up in the air. And all of that spells trouble for the marketeers and their customers, if you ask me.
Do Parks or the PDC really care if the Saturday Market survives? I doubt it. Obviously, they'd prefer a chi-chi Public Market suitable for a glossy layout in the Portland Monthly. The original plan was to bounce Saturday Market and put the chi-chi market -- with a condo tower attached, of course -- in its place. That failed shortly after people caught on. Now Saturday Market's being handed an uncertain future, and if you thought the city did not have that institution's best interests at heart, I couldn't swear to you that you're wrong. The leadership at Parks is all West Hills money nowadays, and if something doesn't appeal to the Bluehour tastes of the people at the Arlington Club, it's just in their way.