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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 15, 2007 11:35 AM. The previous post in this blog was Small business tip of the day. The next post in this blog is Reader poll: Will Grampy stick around this time?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

PDC 86's public market bid for fed building

An alert reader who attended yesterday's PDC commissioners meeting sends along some interesting notes about the part of the meeting regarding the competing interests for that federal building on northeast Broadway over by the main post office. You'll recall that both the Portland public market project and Pacific Northwest College of Art are salivating over that building, which the feds are looking to unload.

Recently, the college scooped the public market folks by invoking a federal preference of some kind for educational facilities, and yesterday the PDCers were considering what to do about that. Our correspondent reports as follows -- note that the opinions expressed in his or her report are not necessarily mine:

The PDC Commission Meeting was a doozy and classic PDC at its best. The PPM basically got their a*ses kicked, and PDC sent a pretty backhanded message that they have no interest in helping (read paying for) the PPM to get the 511 building. While no vote by the PDC Commission was required, the PDC board unanimously agreed to support PNCA and to abort the RFP process unless the GSA does not chose PNCA.

In a nutshell this is what happened:

* PDC gave a presentation on their staff report explaining PNCA's desire to apply directly to the GSA for the 511 building and PDC's recommendation that given this new development to postpone their RFP process until the GSA decision has happened (which will take anywhere between 30 days and 2.5 months) and then only if the GSA has rejected PNCA.

* PDC emphasized that they have no control over the building as the GSA owns it, that the GSA already has their own public process for applications and decisions on who will get the building and that it makes no sense to spend public money and staff time on an RFP process if the GSA will be making a decision before the PDC RFP process can be complete.

* PDC also emphasized that PNCA has every right to apply directly to the GSA, as does anyone else.

* PDC emphasized that because PNCA is an educational facility, under GSA guidelines they are eligible for a reduction in the building purchase price up to 100% market value and that by PDC getting involved with PNCA for the application through an RFP process, PNCA might lose this discount thus raising the costs of the development.

* PDC also stated, in response to the question of one of the Commissioners, that if the PPM were to share space with PNCA in the building then PNCA would also lose this discount as GSA rules indicate 100% of the building must be used for educational purposes in order to get the discount.

* PDC also felt that continuing a public process at this point would not be fair to any interested parties and would be a waste of time.

* PDC also emphasized that any GSA stated qualifying group can apply directly to the GSA and so a PDC process is not really needed.

* PDC also felt that PNCA had a solid finance, acquisition, and use plan in place and that PNCA will probably require significantly less public money than other uses probably will, thus making PDC want to back PNCA.

* Finally, Ron Paul [the main moving force behind the public market] or Amelia Hard (can't remember which) have written to the GSA to protest this decision. In my opinion that was a stupid, stupid move as they have already alienated themselves once from the GSA by publicly announcing they already have the building. This latest move won't help them.

There was also a significant amount of public testimony. Highlights:

* PNCA's president and student body president spoke and did a fine job explaining how PNCA would benefit this building, how PNCA is the fastest growing arts school in the U.S., how PNCA helps meet city economic and planning goals and will act as a bridge between Old Town/China Town and the Pearl and how they benefit Portland's goals for a creative class economy. Members of the PNCA student council were also present and all the blue hair suits seemed charmed at their geeky art school presence. (it makes the boomers feel cool to support an arts school).

* Harsch Development also spoke and did a killer job in explaining the overall benefits to the PNCA development.

* Ron Paul rambled. He spoke a lot about the need for an open and fair process, but not once did he make a compelling case for the PPM. Frankly, he sounded stupid was not convincing, as he was basically ignoring the facts that the GSA already has their own public process in place and that PDC has no obligation or even control over the building. The room was silent after he spoke and the Commission had no questions or comments for him.

* Melvin Mark (the developer that previously announced he is interested in the building and having the PPM in it) also spoke and echoed Ron, but he too had no compelling reason for continuing the RFP other than an "open and fair public process."

* Amelia Hard from the PPM Board spoke and pretty much said the same thing as Ron and Melvin, although she was a bit more articulate.

* There were, however, a couple of surprising people that wanted continuation of the RFP such as Patricia Gardner from the Pearl Neighborhood Association and a cranky regular PDC critic...

On one hand, I can understand the disappointment of the PPM and Melvin Mark, and PDC did state that they were going to do an RFI so of course to switch it now is going to ruffle some feathers. However, the PNCA and PDC made a very solid and rational case for placing the RFP process on hold and I have to say I am with them. They actually did the right thing for once and took into account the balance between a competitive bid process and the use of public funds...Good for them.

Comments (11)

Very interesting report. At first blush it sure seems like PNCA getting the building would be the best result for Portland as a whole--in that it would allow an increasingly successful and meaningful school to expand its operations, and public funds might not need to be spent on the acquisition or restoration of that fine building.

If the PDC isn't siding with Melvan Mark, one of its more "natural" constituents, then PNCA must be making a pretty compelling argument for its plan.

I don't think Harsch(nitzer) Investment (Don Mazziotti, "consultant") is exactly a new player on the scene.

I don't get why Harsch is even concerned about the use of the 511 building.

I think Harsch will be the acting developer for PNCA

"I don't think Harsch(nitzer) Investment (Don Mazziotti, "consultant") is exactly a new player on the scene."

I see your point--somehow I didn't note that there's also a major developer making a pitch for the PNCA side. So maybe the influential developers are cancelling each other out in the mind of PDC, allowing the agency to proceed according to the best interests of the city.

Anyway, I don't claim to have any special insight into this. It just seems like the building would make a great art school facility. But mainly I'm excited by the prospect of the building being restored and put to significant use.

"But mainly I'm excited by the prospect of the building being restored and put to significant use." Exactly, Richard. And for the credit of PDC so do they, but with the least amount of public money involved and I think it's quite fair to say that we all know the Portland Public Market will require quite a bit of public money.

In addition if the PPM really wants the building, why don't they just apply for it directly to the federal government as the post above states? I don't get that part.

****In addition if the PPM really wants the building, why don't they just apply for it directly to the federal government as the post above states? I don't get that part.*******

As a fan of Portland having a Public Market I have stayed close to this saga. I spoke to Ron Paul a couple of weeks ago and the bottom line is ...... He doesn't have the money to do a public market.

Basically even if the Melvin Mark plan got the building Paul indicated he would have to raise several million dollars to rehab the market area and make the market feasible financially. So PNCA has a use AND the money to do the building and Ron Paul doesn't.

By the way great building for a public market. Too bad but absent another PDC handout it ain't gonna happen.

Greg C

Maybe PDC is passe' on this project. PDC (public money) in the fastest growing art school in the country? Sounds like PNCA has it's own money tree and no need for urban renewal dollors. Urban is renewal is not needed on Oregon college campuses, the Pearl or Sowhat. Urband renewal should take place where urban renewal is needed not where developers dictatr. How about East Portland, east of 82. No another cent of public money should go to Groupo Homer.

Well, Ron has had 10 years to build a solid coalition of supporters and a strong funding base and non-profit including a foundation and/or solid funding stream for the development and ongoing management of a PPM. Yet the Portland Public Market has spent close to $100k in public money (including federal money) for nothing but feasibility studies.

Ten years is long enough. Sometimes you just have to say, enough is enough. You've had enough support and time and haven't produced much...moving on...

Also, you know, there are plenty of underutilized properties on the eastside just begging for a catalyst development and anchor type development that the PPM could bring. Malivin Mark and Ron; why not focus on those? And hey, why not focus on actually bringing the public into the process of a public market. I mean, the PPM didn't even announce on their website that they were speaking at PDC yesterday. That's not public, that's just exclusionary and just plain lame.

Finally PPM (and yes I am talking to you), rather than just blame PDC for taking a rational approach to balancing specialized interests with limited public funds, why not take a serious look at your organization and honestly look at what is working and not working (because clearly many things are not working) and address those from an organization standpoint? Do you think you are able and really ready to do this? Honestly, it is really needed.

I'm a big foodie, whereas I have to admit the aesthetics of most contemporary art escapes me. Nevertheless, I'll take the art college over the public market any day.

The future is all about knowledge, thus it behooves Portland to foster more and better institutions of higher learning.

On the other hand, we don't need another place to buy organic radicchio for $19 a pound. Which is what a Ron Paul public market promises to be--Whole Foods without walls. Especially we don't need another specialty food store in NW Portland.

Really, a public market should be on the inner east side, where all the old produce companies used to operate (and some still do). It should be ramshackle, not fancy, and have humble beginnings. I could see a little city seed money to help get it started, and then let it grow on it's own. There are old warehouses that could be converted in the area along lower Sandy, Stark, Morrison.

I'd personally like to see it near the Esplanade at Salmon, where there are a couple of huge parking lots. Then open the parking lots up to flea markets on weekends, with hardly any rules about what can be sold. There's a wonderful produce market and flea market in San Jose that has an incredible variety of ethnic foods and other products. Sure, some of it is cheesy, but other stuff would never make its way to a yuppie market. And it's something the average food shopper can afford.

I totally agree with some of these posts. The market could be great, but not with these folks running it. They have failed Portland 101: you got to make it a community effort. Ron Paul is a nice guy, but he needs to broaden his approach.


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