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.