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Friday, June 13, 2008

Getting renewed straight outta the urb

The kids at the Merc have an interesting story -- the force-out of Peterson's "newsstand" from the SmartPark garage building on Morrison Street in downtown Portland. The developer overlords who run the city have decided that there needs to be some sort of infernal tower on top of the perfectly good garage. I'm sure that the original idea was for condos, but the death of that market never stands in the way of these guys. Apartment tower, hotel tower, office tower -- it doesn't really matter what kind of tower, so long as it's tower, tower, tower, and more and more money in the developers' pockets. With plenty of local taxpayer subsidies, too -- always.

Anyway, even though there's no money to build any such thing at the moment, the city is apparently hot to get rid of Peterson's as soon as possible, which would probably suit the uptight Brooks Brothers store across the street just fine. It seems that with the arrival of the yuppie suspender merchants, the city has decided that it needs to clean up the block. The twisted logic appears to be that by getting rid of the newsstand, all the sleazy people who hang around the MAX line in the vicinity will magically disappear.

Of course, they've got to be kidding. The place is and always will be a light-rail stop, the last free one downtown to boot. Getting rid of Peterson's isn't going to decrease the population of sketchy types; indeed, it's likely to do just the opposite. With the store boarded up, there would be no one for blocks who could provide help if something ugly starts to happen at the train stop.

Granted, the place is rundown, but without a solid lease the owner can't take a financial risk to pretty it up, only to be evicted. He reportedly just dropped $50,000 to fix up his Fourth Avenue store. The rent there is apparently higher than the Morrison store now, and yet it appears to make only half the money. The Morrison store reportedly keeps his operation afloat.

They don't just cater to drunks and kids with pitbulls. Office workers, security guards, cabbies, tourists, and hotel visitors make up a lot of the store's night business. Sure, they get their share of crackheads and rowdy types. But the place has a group of dedicated employees who keep things inside the store under control.

If Peterson's goes, at least nine people will lose their jobs. Some of them could land another gig, but there are reportedly some employees that wouldn't have a chance elsewhere. The owner is known for taking chances hiring people that have trouble getting on elsewhere, sometimes at a greater expense than he should have to bear.

What does Peterson want? To be allowed to continue to do business there, at least until the city has a viable use for the site, rather than becoming just another shuttered business downtown. He has gone on record as saying he'd be willing to refurbish the site, but will need assurances that it won't be for naught.

If the city and the button-downs shut the place, food options in the vicinity after 10 p.m. will be limited to takeout at Dante's, or Voodoo Donuts. Need a bottle of water or some cigarettes that still cost less than at the bar? Or condoms? Second-shift workers, want a reasonably priced bottle of wine to take home? You'd have to make an extra stop, instead of dashing in before your bus or train comes.

Guys who want to do a legit business in a place like downtown Portland in the middle of the night ought to be given some of the gazillions that we shell out to the developer weasels at the drop of the hat. They surely deserve much better than an eviction notice.

Comments (20)

The part from the PDC letter (available on The Merc's site) that really burns? The assertion that Peterson and his employees have done nothing to mitigate the nonsense perpetuated by those who lurk around.

I know they've cultivated a cooperative relationship with Clean and Safe and the Portland Police, and aren't shy about calling when it's needed. I know they alert police to issues/trouble they may see happening out on the sidewalks, even when it's not at all related to their store. I know they card religiously, refuse to sell to drunk people, and won't even sell you alcohol if they suspect you're just going to go out and drink it in the street.

Peterson's known for a while that he's been in the crosshairs, so makes it clear to his staff that they need to go the extra mile. Hell, they even refused to sell those little roses in glass vials - or even brillo pads - when everyone other convenience store around town offered them up knowing they were being bought as cheap crack pipes instead.

PDC & the Mayor's Office are both trying to scapegoat Peterson's - but most people downtown know where the problems are, and they didn't *start* with downtown convenience stores.

Thanks for reading and linking to us, Jack. Also, I agree with everything you've said.

Why accept blame for the light rail transit crime problem when you can blame someone else?

Last FREE stop? One of your best jokes ever!

Yes, clearly the way to clean up the downtown core is to remove those who have a vested interest in making it a nicer place to do business. I hope these PDC types didn't major in logic.

Ah, yes, the old "We need to clean up the neighborhood so that the sensibilities of the greedheads don't get offended." How much do you want to bet that the space will remain an empty eyesore for years before someone else takes a chance on renting it, say, to put in a convenience store?

what's up with this. screw brooks brothers. can't they open a place in lake oswego.

food options in the vicinity after 10 p.m. will be limited to takeout at Dante's, or Voodoo Donuts.

Well, there's also the Roxie, the Kingston, Clyde Common (*shudder*), Henry's Tavern (*shudder* again) and a few other places in that area of downtown that stay open late. At one time at least, you could still land a meal at Sho's Bush Garden after 10 PM.

I completely agree with you about Peterson's though. Shabbiness aside, it's come through for me in a pinch several times over the years and it's a shame to see it go. It has served more of a purpose and has served more people on that block than this new bow tie shop ever will.

What a shame. Peterson's saved my bacon plenty of times when I worked downtown. Quickie snack before a meeting? Petersons. Lost pen or notebook(it happens more than you think)? Petersons. Quick hit of caffeine late at night? Petersons. Magazine to read on the way home on Max? Petersons. I could go on and on. That little store is a virtual downtown oasis of convenience.

Sure, the location is kind of grungy, but it's because of the MAX line. Everyone knows this. Everyone. But hey, a handy store like Petersons is a virtual requirement in that part of town.

Anyone want to make a bet that Brooks Brothers will move to greener pastures eventually anyway, Petersons or no Petersons?

PDC's Bruce Warner pulls down a hefty $180K and I'll bet there's at least 50 PDC employees making a $100k or more.

Obvioulsy they must be smarter than most people,,,,, who don't understand what they do.

That's too bad. I went in there and bought sodas and water plenty of times after work when I used to have a job in the area. Still do occasionally when I have to be down there for a meeting or whatever.

Not only that, but during times when I felt a little uneasy with some of those hanging around the platform, I felt much better when I could hang out where the clerk could easily see me.

How do you have a vibrant downtown when you run out all the stores?


Brooks Brothers didn't do their research when choosing to locate at a MAX stop. Definitely not their target market.

But I wouldn't have thought Portland could support another Suit Merchant anyway, based on the fashion aesthetic of most Portlanders.

This is outrageous. Unlike Brooks Brothers, Peterson's is actually useful.

Screw the PDC. I don't share their "vision" for downtown Portland.

Considering that any store that sets up shop in the Galleria ends up closing months later, Brooks Brothers will end up hightailing it out to Bridgeport or Washington Square anyway, with Michael Allen(s) following suit.

All of you don't seem to understand - the people of Portland WANT this. Just keep looking at who they vote for. This is just another checkmark on the list, when Sam-the-scam gets to REALLY drive the train (no pun intended) this town will accelerate like never before into the abyss of debt and darkness. I'm sorry, the folks voted these pinheads in, they get EXACTLY what they deserve. I just wish there was someway that I could live in Washington or Clackamas county and divorce myself from Metro. Alas, back to looking for a new state.

I'm not surprised voters elect the Sam Adams' over and over again.

With multiple public agencies and every news outlet continually telling the public what wonderous policymakers they are and how much better things are done around here why would voters NOT elect them?
Add in the aura over gay rights and sustainable living and many voters simply refuse to accept or aknowledge any possibility that those they elect are among the worst leaders possible.

Ah, Peterson's. That paragon of retail virtue. What a tragedy. Where will we get our porn magazines now?

Spoken like a true Brooks Brothers twit.

If they sell Playboy, the only serious readers are prolly brooks brother suit types. Hell, the only reason I'd call Playboy pornographic over say, Cosmo is that the chicks in Cosmo still have a few threads on.

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