SoWhat fantasies already starting to crumble
There's a hysterical piece on the Oregonian website (or whatever the heck it is) about Portland's SoWhat District. "Early growing pains" is what the spin doctors at the O are calling the emerging situation.
That's an interesting way to put it. Suddenly the gullible folks who decided to locate their businesses in SoWhat are discovering that there's nowhere for anybody to park, and that the street "system" is laughable compared to the traffic burden it's now being expected to bear. "Parking seems to have been an afterthought," the one retailer says. "That really surprised us."
Wrong, buddy. It was a non-thought. Everybody's supposed to "go by streetcar!" You must have missed that meeting.
Then one of the architecture dandies on the city Design Commission starts mouthing off about how the poodle poop park down there isn't being built fast enough:
Michael McCulloch, a member of the Portland Design Commission, which enforces city height regulations in the urban renewal area... thinks the Bureau of Parks & Recreation has waited too long to plan improvements for a two-acre grassy patch to be known as South Waterfront Neighborhood Park.Hey, Mikey, nice job on the "design" down there -- especially, great "enforcement" of those height restrictions. The "view corridors" are really something. The buildings turned out like the teeth of a fine-tooth comb, just like you promised. Reminds me of Vancouver, B.C. and Barcelona. They're absolute linchpins. Plus an aerial tram [rim shot].
But I digress. As for the timetable on the park, let's see... the city forked over $7 million in cold cash to condemn those two acres -- seven freakin' million. Then somebody had to pay to (a) get rid of the tenants who had storage lockers there; (b) knock down the storage facility; (c) clean up toxic waste in the ground, and (d) plant the grass that's currently there for the SoWhat hotties' lhasa apsos to relieve themselves on. Nobody's ever reported what all those additional, post-acquisition costs came to exactly, but let's be conservative and say $2 million.
That's $9 million of public money spent on that little neighborhood park, and counting. Of that, $1 million was raided on an emergency basis from the parks bureau's budget, and at last report there was another $800,000 slated to be steered away from the city's other worthy park projects for the SoWhat patch of green. If you and your pals have to wait a little while longer for us to burn another multi-million-dollar bundle so that you can turn that lot into another Randy Gragg fantasy moonscape, that's life. Pipe down about it.
Meanwhile, remember those hot condo sales? "We sold the whole tower out in a day!" yada yada. Well, that's all history now. Old Homer Williams was crying the blues about it in Tuesday's O, under some fake cheery headline or other:
Williams says they sold 30 to 50 condos a month when they started. "That wasn't sustainable," he says. "A lot of it was investors, speculators."I've been saying that for years, chief. Finally, we see eye to eye.
Now, Williams says they sell three to four a month. Given the slowdown, Williams says the next riverfront condo tower likely won't start construction until late 2008. Williams says he isn't worried about the slowdown. He expects the market inventory to level out in the next six months or so. But right now, Williams says of condos: "You wouldn't want any more."
SoWhat doesn't have "growing pains." SoWhat is a pain, you know where. And no surprise in these quarters, the pain is growing every day.