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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 24, 2007 1:11 AM. The previous post in this blog was More bliss in the Pearl. The next post in this blog is Transit-oriented gangbanging?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Friday, August 24, 2007

Meet me at the wrecking ball

Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.

A lot can be said for improving North Interstate Avenue in Portland. Parts of it are way too funky, even with the Max line running through them. But the current plan to turn the street into a strip of "mixed use" buildings -- that's slick planner talk for tall condo bunkers with Subway sandwich shops, Cricket cell phone showrooms, Starbuckses, and Radio Shacks on the ground floor -- doesn't turn me on much.

Many of the people who live in normal houses near there aren't exactly thrilled about nine-story apartment towers being thrown up literally next door. Some of the grittier businesses that line the street now aren't happy, either, that they'll soon be out of place.

But the condo weasels are hovering, and the fix is in. The place is going to be rezoned, after a suitable period of fake public input now and through this fall. If all goes the way the Portland Development Commission and the city Planning Bureau want it, the place will be another Pearl District within a few years. It may not in fact go as planned, but the city's fervent hope is that in a little while you won't recognize the place.

The story's told pretty well in this morning's Trib.

One aspect of the article that catches my eye is how the changeover will supposedly help existing business:

Some business owners have been forced to spend thousands of dollars changing their zoning just to expand existing operations.

Developers planning the mixed-use buildings that the PDC now advocates also can’t move ahead without applying for zoning changes.

“We’re getting a lot of folks who want to locate their businesses here, but they’re not finding the zoning to open up their shops,” said Kevin Cronin, the PDC’s senior project coordinator for Interstate Avenue rezoning.

Really, Mr. Cronin? A lot of businesses want to locate on Interstate, but the zoning is blocking them? First of all, name one. Second of all, why doesn't the city just expedite zoning changes for the existing businesses? You, know, eliminate the "thousands of dollars" in expense.

Portland bureaucrats, make it easy for existing businesses? Ha! Ha!

This is all about the condos, people. That's Portland. If you like the feel of that neighborhood now, better head over there and spend the next few months taking it in. It will be gone soon.

Comments (39)

You'd think these guys would learn that the light rail just guts a place. Look at downtown and all the exciting development going on close to the light rail. Like what? Pioneer Place is flopping compared to WashSq, Clack and Bridgeport.

I realize you get the intial burst of activity like that expensive groceriy store on Interstate, but nothing lasting around light rail beisdes a bunch of apartments.

This is just another example of our elected city officials deciding what they believe is best for the city, NO matter what its residences want. Over the past three years developers have been buying old run down single family homes and replacing them with high end homes, which has been a boom to the area west of Interstate Ave. With this action $800,000 single family homes will have the privilege of having a nine story condo in their backyard, wow great. It would be very interesting to find out how many friends of our city officials own property on or along the Interstate Ave. corridor who stand to make thousands of dollars profit with this wonderful well thought out north Portland residence, screw the home owner again, agenda. What a awesome sight it will be when I-5 is backed up and traffic uses Interstate Ave, as they now do, gridlocks and rescue vehicles not able to move either. Oh yeah, NOT Interstate Ave, but rather "Cesar Chavez Blvd." as proposed by a group from North Portland, at a cost of $100,000 to do a major name change. Any developer who may wish to buy my single family home and property may contact me, it is now for sale, a 1/2 million will do just fine, time to get out of Portland completely.

High density housing on a rapid transit line. New single family houses within walking distance of schools, shopping and public transportation is much better than urban sprawl. The nearly empty schools will revive. This is a lot better than the crawling traffic on I-5

I wonder how the African-American community feels about all this change in what may be called their neighborhood?


Hey Vernon,

Tell the people who live in Vancouver not to do the I-5 crawl and use mass transit, which there is none except the C-trans bus that also does the I-5 crawl, and stay off Interstate (Cesar Chaves) Blvd.

i live in the neighborhood and i'd love to be able to walk to a more diverse commercial area rather than "strandz hair salon" and "the night hawk" and the fat cobra. I would love to walk to a place to hear music in my hood, or get a haircut in the hood, or go to an indian or good chinese restaurant. I'm all for creating higher density mixed use, might as well "max"imizing the light rail investment.
this is a no brainer.

i live in the neighborhood and i'd love to be able to walk to a more diverse commercial area rather than "strandz hair salon" and "the night hawk" and the fat cobra.

Well get ready for Subway, Great Clips, and Starbucks.

This is all about the condos, people. That's Portland.

And everywhere else. Every other city I've been to recently is going through the same transformations.

Cb and Vernon,

Please knock it off with the logic and hope. Limit your comments to whining about planning and pinning for Portland’s “glory” days of the 1970s and you will avoid nasty replies.

If you like the feel of that neighborhood now, better head over there and spend the next few months taking it in. It will be gone soon.

Ha! Clearly Jack has never lived in North Portland.

I've lived on Interstate Ave. in the early 90's and refer to it as my "Getto Experience" then moved to Knob Hill what a difference.
Now I live in a part of Southern New Jersey with no getto, no knob hill, and no MAX.
Oh how I long to live back at the Crown Motel on Interstate Ave.
However thats been sold and will be condo's within 3 years.
life ain't fair........

I live two blocks off N. Interstate.

First off, to M.W., N. Interstate is not a historically black area. It's a working class white neighborhood and has been for a very long time.

Those of us who lived here before MAX were very excited about the prospect of bringing in some new street-level amenities to the strip, and have been disappointed by the false starts.

Flea-bag motels dominate currently. Frankly, you could bulldoze every one of those and replace them with condo bunkers and Subways and "Starbuckses" and I don't think many neighbors would complain.

There's not a whole lot of business to displace that we would miss. Fat Cobra can kiss my ass. The Nite Hawk would survive nuclear holocaust and be open for business the next day. Swan Garden has got to be a front for something, because has anybody ever seen one person dining there? (Yet their expanding, sort of, or something....)

The strip needs to be rezoned and redeveloped. It's not going to be the Pearl, Jack, no chance, so just relax. If we get a couple chain stores in the process and displace a porn shop or roach motel, no tears will be shed in my neighborhood.

Did anyone think North Interstate wasn't going to change when the light rail line went in? I thought that was the whole idea.

As for poor 'Couv commuters, perhaps if Clark County got off their butt and paid to extend MAX over the river, those poor commuters would have a decent transit choice to downtown Portland.

The real story here is bureaucratic ineptitude. Portland should have rezoned the area when the light rail opened, not several years later. Especially after foisting Albina Community Plan zoning on the neighborhood 14 years ago that events overtook so quickly.

My home is about 1/2 mile east of Max just off Killingsworth. Bought a bit over 10 yrs ago at a bargain price. All I could think when Max came in, followed by Adidas 3 blocks from my place was 'Cha-Ching'. Right place, right time. IMO, there is no direction for development on Interstate to go but up--not just condo up. If this isn't be done correctly, the folks who oversee development would F-up a wet dream.

Jack, the convention hotel, and many other projects, are worthy of scorn and sarcasm. But do you really see a problem here or has it become an automatic response?

For the first time since the 1910s people seem to really want to move to this town in large numbers. Where do you want them to go? They could live on top of those annoying farms in Washington County. As that’s some of the finest farmland in the world (or only worthy of growing grass as some here believe) we may live to regret that. We’ll have to build a bunch of new freeways, but it’s not as if we don’t know how to do that – it’s normal after all and oil will never run out. We could stick them in that “gap” between Portland and Salem that so offends some here. Do you want to live in Salem?

Alternatively, we could revitalize a grotty area of town where there are hundreds of lots that people are willing to sell and where there seem to be developers willing to build (assuming the housing bubble implosion allows). There is also, as some have noted, a great big train running through it. Some here hate it but there are vastly more people who would love to live near it.

New single family houses within walking distance of schools, shopping and public transportation is much better than urban sprawl.

Yes, but on Interstate, there'll be no single-family homes. Indeed, the folks who live in the nearby single-family homes now will be negatively impacted.

Every other city I've been to recently is going through the same transformations.

And that makes it good?

Ha! Clearly Jack has never lived in North Portland.

I'm not sure what this comment is supposed to mean.

I think there are quite a few people who live there and like it the way it is. Maybe I'm wrong. I have spent some time on Interstate Avenue. It wasn't bad. And it was real.

how I long to live back at the Crown Motel

Like I say, things could be better over there. But it's too bad that all the Portland "visionaries" can come up with is another soulless Pearl.

people seem to really want to move to this town in large numbers. Where do you want them to go? They could live on top of those annoying farms in Washington County.

Actually, I want them to stay away. If we stop building particle-board trash apartments for them, maybe they will.

And that makes it good?

Not necessarily, although it works for me better in *some* parts of cities better than others. I don't really mind the Pearl, I don't love it either.

It's certainly better than when they stick a condo up randomly in a single family house neighborhood, like the horrorshow on Belmont. But Interstate is not Belmont.

What's wrong with having million dollar condos in the neighborhood? We'll all benefit through higher property values, more amenities, and a more desirable area. What is it that we're losing...empty lots and delapitated drug houses. What a loss! Jack's big gripe is with chain businesses...I agree with that, so I don't frequent them, but they are generally necessary to have in the area to get revitalization to happen.

Oh, and guess what MW...the African-American community doesn't "own" the neighborhood, but they do want to have the same huge property value increase that we're all hoping for.

Jack's big gripe is with chain businesses...

And with the ridiculous heights. That street would be fine at a three-story maximum. That's dense enough to save the farms.

Obviously, some of you don't have occasion to tour Washington county, as well as other stretches of Portland's humongous suburban sprawl, on a daily basis, like I do. That rich farmland is being cleared and graded for gigantic apartment complexes like you wouldn't believe, as far as the eye can see. There was this really cool nursery out there, where ticky-tacky townhomes are now going to be plopped down within inches of each other.

Many years ago, I had an expatriate Brit for a next-door neighbor, Cameron. He seemed to be free of that smug, arrogant condescension that marks so many of his blue-blooded countrymen when dealing with their uppity white-trash cousins in the colonies here. I would often ask him about his thoughts regarding living in his former country, and ours. He would always talk about what an over-crowded cesspool Britain was, and how here in America, there was actually room to stretch your arms and breathe. We had a lot of bar-b-ques and parties in the huge back yard our little South Austin places shared, with their gardens...this was long before density and infill ruined that part of town forever.

He especially cherished the fact that he was now legally allowed the right and means to defend himself and his family from violent criminals in his own home, too.

"We had a lot of bar-b-ques and parties in the huge back yard our little South Austin places shared, with their gardens...this was long before density and infill ruined that part of town forever.

"He especially cherished the fact that he was now legally allowed the right and means to defend himself and his family from violent criminals in his own home, too."

Ahh, yes, the two things that made America the envy of the world: big back yards and lots of guns.


Not quite as far as they eye can see. That pathetically small difference is what makes Portland America’s finest city (Who’s with me on stealing that phrase from San Diego?). I am willing to join with you to bring the growth boundary in a bit. There’s clearly enough sprawl out there to satisfy growth for decades to come.

In paragraph two I’m sensing a convoluted but personal attack. Good work. Isn’t typing cathartic sometimes? I’m in favor of banning all guns that are intended for aiming at human beings. Having said that, in England I was surrounded by guns. We used to have a rookery in the field behind my house and allowed hunters to blast away at will. I also made good money beating for the local pheasant shoot. All a big leap away from the Charles Bronson fantasy land that some live in here.

And with the ridiculous heights. That street would be fine at a three-story maximum. That's dense enough to save the farms.

Sure, fine, but I still don't know anybody who lives over here who would have any problem if every roach motel were replaced with an 8 story condo bunker with a Starbucks and a Subway.

Seriously, you may think it's "real" to live near emergency DHS housing (that's where those motels get a lot of their business -- state vouchers) or a sex club (if you think Fat Cobra is just a porn shop, you've obviously never heard of a "glory hole"), but I'll take 8 stories of overpriced real estate any day.

Gee Sherwood, did it ever occur to you that people are moving to Oregon because it's NOT densely populated and there's a myriad of recreational options?

Another newsflash: Multnomah county is the slowest growing county out of the big three. Hell, most of Oregon's growth is in Deschutes county -- however I'd be surprised if you've even been there to find out.

The idea your 'smart' growth, light rail and density is what's attracting the hordes is an illusion.

Sherwood, "where would I like them to go". ANYWHERE BUT OREGON!

Thanks for asking


As I and others have mentioned time and time and time again, nobody is going to make you move to a condo. The people in the Pearl, and other places around town, are not being held prisoner against their will. They like it. If they wanted to live on a few acres in the high desert that would be their choice. If it’s an illusion that people like walkable vibrant cities, and that white flight is being reversed, the buildings will not be built and the hookers and drug dealers will keep their little slice of paradise.

Phil and Jack. I hope nothing I’ve written here makes you think I want one more person to move to Portland. I’ve pulled up the drawbridge and make it a point to tell everyone I meet that it rains 30 hours a day 393 days a year. I don’t want it to get any harder to get a tee time. Having said that, until the New York Times (and 95% of other periodicals) finds a new “best place” to harp on about, we have some choices to make.

"For the first time since the 1910s people seem to really want to move to this town in large numbers."


What I mean is that if you had lived near Interstate, you would know that it used to be one of the most dangerous streets in Portland. And that only in the last decade or so has it really started to clean up. And new development has played a key role in that cleanup.

I also take issue with you consistently ripping on Subway Franchise shops. My parents own a Subway store, and they work really hard to support my siblings. We can't all be Tax Law Professors who work in the Hills.


"If it’s an illusion that people like walkable vibrant cities, and that white flight is being reversed, the buildings will not be built ..."

What the he** are you talking about? Your 'walkable, vibrant' city wouldn't happen without massive subsidies. If your Euro-utopia was so desirable, it wouldn't require such massive handouts by the public.

It's as if you've never read this blog before.

Please you will cease and desist, you idiot white people who call my neighborhood "the ghetto," (alternately, "the getto" ???), "the hood" or whatever other term you feel like flipping around to sound "hep."

ie -- "We moved to 'the hood!' then we had to get a big Rottweiler, and a GUN! cuz it's so tuff over here... over here in 'the hood'! With all the crack ho's!"

The Overlook neighborhood is to the south of N. Ainsworth Street and Interstate Avenue; Arbor Lodge is to the north; Kenton a little farther north; Piedmont due east.

Thank you.

I remember N. Interstate Ave. as a funkie place to live.
Always the crackle of gunfire. living on Interstate I learned the difference in sound from the blast of a 12 gauge usually ment the 'Bloods' were in play and when I heard the report of a .45 auto it also ment the 'Crips' were also on the war path!
An a calm hot summer night at times one could hear a distant AK-47 sing it's tune as the Korean grocers were protecting their stores. This is what N. Interstate Ave. is all about. Vaules!
I see no need to change the hood at this or any time!
What we need is a theme, like a good wholesome adult entertainment zone.
More book stores Cindys #2 and #3, more sex clubs, and for Gods sake, bring back poker rooms like the ones in Vancouver from the 1980's.
Now would be growth.

"Vaules!" Yes, I'm all about that, bring 'em on.

Ronnie, I think you've got Interstate Ave. mixed up with a Spike Lee movie.

its almost like HEIGHT is the only value that is important with neighborhoods.

so if you replace a 1/2 boarded up 2 story motels full of meth labs with a 6 story building the neighbors would NEGATIVELY IMPACTED?

i think many neighbors would disagree.

and why 3 stories as the limit? it sounds so arbitrary...

Wacky Mom;
Don't you know Interstate Ave. Will be the title of the NEXT Spike Lee movie.
Now back to watching the early morning hookers working the corner of Going and Interstate, I see three this morning.
Must be servicing the shipyard workers.

I drove around looking for 9 story buildings and apart from downtown and NW Portland I didn't see any. I live a block off interstate in Kenton and have put alot of money into my property. I am really afraid this could drive property values way down. Who are these high rises
going to be marketed to? I don't think a family with children are going to be interested unless we are talking about very cheap rent. I don't see Interstate turning into the Pearl what is the vision?


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Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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