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 stupidwas 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.