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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

SoWhat "facts" don't sound right

A while back, the folks at Oregon Business magazine started sending me their magazine to see what I thought of it. Not every issue is a blockbuster, but the September edition just released has some interesting stuff in it.

One article is about the current status of Portland's South Waterfront (SoWhat) district. They don't exactly come out and pronounce it a failure, but they do allow as how fulfillment of the dreams and promises that were being thrown around down there four of five years ago is going to be deferred for a looooooooong time.

Included in the article are several assertions that seem highly suspicious. One has to wonder whether they have any fact-checkers at Oregon Business, and if so, what reliable support they have for these propositions, presented as facts by the article's author, Abraham Hyatt:

The promises were big: 5,000 jobs, thousands of residents, $1.9 billion worth of development.... One thousand jobs out of the promised 5,000 have materialized....

Condo sales in the past few years were booming and so tax revenue from South Waterfront has been strong — almost three times higher than what was expected....

Homer Williams, fellow South Waterfront developer Dike Dame — of Williams and Dame Development — and former PDC executive chairman Mark Rosenbaum are optimistic about what’s going to take place in that [five-year] time period. They embody the "South Waterfront is an investment that will take years to succeed" attitude that city leaders and developers have espoused from the beginning....

Really? A thousand new jobs (not ones that were already up on Pill Hill at OHSU), triple the projected tax revenues, and no one expected the cash flow to fund additional projects for nearly 10 years after construction started? None of that sounds right to me.

One thing Hyatt wrote that does ring true is that former Mayor Vera Katz refused to be interviewed for his story. I don't blame her. She and her then-chief of staff Sam Adams are more responsible for the financial mess down there than anyone else. When talk of SoWhat comes up, she should hang her head.

Comments (12)

Classic PDC propaganda.

And never ANY documentation accessable to back it up.
A thousand "new" jobs?
What a crock.

Triple the projected tax revenues?

That's hillarious given that the projected revenue was to have funded and completed ALL of the trasnportation improvements by FY 06-07.

They are at least $300 million short and will need another decade.

"no one expected the cash flow to fund additional projects for nearly 10 years after construction started?"

Blatant lying. The 1999 North Macadam Urban Renewal Plan had a 20 year budget and project plan that is now 100s of million upside down and many years behind schedule.

Sam Adams recently quietly aknowledged SoWa will need additional fees, new taxes and state and federal help in order to complete it.

Sad thing is we are going to throw more money at this project regardless of hwo much it sucks.

So instead of schools, road repairs, lowering water/sewer, we'l divert more to fix I-5 access ($200M), river front improvements ($120M) and justification for the streetcar and bridge(?)

Now that it seems like Sam/Randy are going to be calling the shots expect mroe of the same.

According to Portland Maps, there are fewer than 20 businesses in SoWa.

And, I recall that OHSU threatened that it was going to get rid of 200-300 employees because the tort cap got lifted.

The 1,000 jobs figure would be a more believable if the article at least identified the what some of those new jobs are and where they came from.

I was reading just that very article last night, and I found the blatant half-truths hard to swallow. A much sunnier view than the reality suggests. Of course, they failed to mention that OHSU pays no taxes other than on payroll taxes. And what about those thousands of biotech jobs that LIAR VERA promised?

"And what about those thousands of biotech jobs that LIAR VERA promised?"

Let's ask the LIARS expert, Tensky.

Yes, Sam and Vera got swept up by the hype surrounding the biotech industry. A lot of other civic leaders around the country did as well.

In order for Vera to be a liar, she would have had to have known that the jobs wouldn't materialize no matter what. I just don't think that this was the case. This is just the story of another economic fad and fizzle.

Yes, the South Waterfront area needs more public infrastructre investments. Roads, sewers and parkes are currently inadequate. How is this different than any other part of the Central City?

Most of the infrastructure improvements listed in the comments predate SOWA and would have had to be built even if the waterfront had stayed as gravel parking lots and junkyards. I-5 access in this area has always been the pitts, and the City has been looking at revamping the ramps in this area for over thirty years now.

OHSU may be a non-profit state corporation, but they are still an economic driver for the city. Given that most corporations in the state pay little or no income tax anyway due to our state's creative tax laws, how is having OHSU as the main tenent any different than if it were somebody else?

Coincidentally, I was down in SoWhat just yesterday when I decided to turn off I-5 to have a look around.

It's pretty desolate down there. Not much going on.

I noticed a Vietnamese restaurant with the name Bambuza. I don't know what the name means, but it seemed awfully close to Bamboozle, which seems appropriate for the whole district (not the restaurant).

There are too many dashes in that article. It makes the article read like a bunch of strung together twitter posts.

For the record, "Lance's" comment was posted from a City of Portland computer.

At least it was during lunch hour.

Among other confusion about SoWa you drop the ball big time with taxes and OHSU.

OHSU pays no property taxes or City Business taxes or TriMet taxes either.

Far different than if it were somebody else.

Vera did know the biotech expansion was a farce. It was pointed out to her in excruciating detail just like the convention center Hotel is today.
But the current officials ignore the evidence and their fiduciary responsibilities.
Many other fatal flaws were raised as Vera pushed through the SoWa plan.

Your spin on the infrastructure is so jumbled and wrong it's not worth responding to.

The misinformation and cover up at the PDC is worse than ever with OHSU playing all sorts of shifting schemes too.

10,000 jobs were promised by Vera Katz.

Not 5,000. Big difference.

PDC Lance, maybe you haven't worked with the city long enough to know the past and even recent history of numbers used by the Planning Bureau, City Council, Mayor Katz, Sam Adams and even the PDC.

According to the North Macadam District Framework Plan and subsequently used in most of city presentations and news media clips henceforth, the projected jobs to be generated were 10,000 with 5,000 people living in the district.

There is no factual basis to the 1000 jobs created. Are they including construction jobs, or the jobs transferred from Pill Hill to the new OHSU sports club? There has not been one bio-tech job generated.

Mayor Katz and many of the staff used the 10,000/5,0000 numbers numerous times. They were contested numerous times on those numbers. They were contested on the claim that only about three to four 250ft to 350ft buildings would be built in all of the three north, central, south districts.

Lying is a strong word, but since so many aspects of SoWhat were challenged and the challenges are proving to be substantially more right than Katz and Sam and the rest, then the word begins to have validity.

Oregon Business also didn't research very deep, the truth is near the surface.

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