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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Outrageous prices, upstairs and down

Got a postcard yesterday trying to sell me a unit in the condo monstrosity now defiling the corner of 43rd and Sandy here in Portland. Good luck with that, folks.

They're still showing a Whole Foods store in the come-on. Do you think that store will actually go in there? Or will it be like the Zupan's that was supposed to go into the apartment bunker at NE 16th and Broadway? When these ghastly structures are on the drawing boards, the neighbors trade off light and air for hotsy-totsy groceries, but the brie doesn't always show up.

Comments (28)

the used car dealerships are such better eye candy...

I, and many of my neighbors in the Hollywood/Rose City area welcome Whole Foods with great anticipation, and think the building fits in and looks fine.

I hope Whole Foods shows up. Careful they don't rip you off.

That thing is ugly.

I was the neighbour of the debacle that was/is the Zupans that was supposed to go in the 1620. Our restaurant was next door and that mess went on 8 months longer in the building phase and the place is still sitting empty. This was one of the projects that took Swinerton down and the developer (Alan something, can't remember his name anymore) split town and headed to Arizona. I highly doubt Whole Foods will go in here, if any retailer under this current climate will go in at all.

A fine building in these, the United States of Generica!

Jack..u are de maan.

Unless I'm mistaken that "vibrant neighborhood picture" you show is taken just down the road from a whole row of rejuvenated Hollywood district shopfronts.

Mr Formal on corner Sandy/NE 42nd..gone...Piano shop on corner Sandy/NE 42nd..gone...Trader joes on corner Sandy/ NE 42nd..gone...Mark Lindsays Rocknroll cafe on corner Sandy /NE 42nd ..gone.....WAMU...dont ask !!

But there is a great street run off "herb garden" around NE 40th..just by the NE Sandy branch of B of A who would have gone bust if it hadn't been for ....see p 95


The $cent of home!

I loves it!!!

There is nothing like a nice ride with a Justice center dichargee on the MAX.

Keep your powder dry!

Not to diminish the critique of the condos (how can different architects all come up with the same look?) or of Whole Foods, but the previous post on empty retail stores is a bit off. Trader Joe's moved into a larger space two blocks away, WAMU is still there. And the RocknRoll Cafe was a ludicrous concept that was fraught with mismanagement and a nasty split between the Yaws and Lindsay.

WAMU is still there...

Want to buy the 100 shares I'm holding in my brokerage acccount? I'll strike a bargain for you.

Chase supposedly hates WaMu's "Occasio" design for branches like the one at 43rd & Sandy.

I have a feeling the green eye-shade types will figure it's cheaper to pull the plug on the branch rather than remodel. That's my bold prediction ...

Terrible timing on the condos and you couldn't pick two worse tenants. Having said that, it's a great scale building in a good location. If the Whole Paycheck CEO can keep his trap shut for five minutes I predict it will open and the two former Wild Oats will close two days later.

"If the Whole Paycheck CEO can keep his trap shut for five minutes"

And besides there are dozens of investors desperate to throw money at a luxury food purveyor in the midst of the worst economic slow down in 50 years.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

It would not surprise me to see New Seasons and Whole Foods close a few stores. The creative class might have to shop at Safeway!

Quelle Horreur!

I truly miss the beautiful, award wining, mid-century modern building that stood at this location. With its floor to ceiling windows, "floating walkways" and fountains it was a great asset to the neighborhood, but was demolished for this monstrosity. I'm just one more lifelong resident that's beginning to hate this place.

Perhaps "cafe unknown's" Dan H. can find a photo of it in remembrance.

Regarding the Whole Foods store in the ad, this space does not have what grocery stores look for when they pick a location. The store floor might fit in that space, but where do you put the warehouse and cold storage space? Where are the delivery trucks going to unload? Where will customers park? That space would be a great spot for something, but not a grocery store. Now think of that ad with Fantasy Video in there. Probably would sell more condos.

Jim -
I worked on this building as it was being constructed. There were some ... ahem, structural issues which proved to be a ... 'challenge'. Which is not to say that they weren't addressed and fixed, but it was ... interesting. However to address a couple of your comments - the building does have a couple of floors of inside parking, there is another floor that is about half parking. Besides, everyone is suppose to ride the bus or take the toy train so parking isn't a concern (you betcha). The deliveries will be on the side where some room was made and other times the street just won't be very vehicle friendly. The cold storage can easily be installed inside. That said, I wouldn't move there; but that's no surprise because I don't like any condos and I dislike this mixed use nonsense.

David Bragdon was quoted recently saying that the urban growth boundary would not expand. If the region doesn't grow, I guess nothing will change.

But if the population increases, we need additional residential units. And if Metro doesn't want to expand the UGB, then they're going to have to go into existing neighborhoods, commercial areas, or industrial areas. So what do you propose?

If these condo projects aren't put in Portland, it will go to Beaverton (where The Round has already failed miserably), Hillsboro, Gresham etc. Or we can have a UGB expansion that gives people choices (homes on acreage, homes on 1/4 acre lots, homes on 1/2 acre lots, condos, rowhouses etc.).

I don't care if people want to live in condos - if they do, great. But at the same time, we should also make land available for larger lot single family residences, with yards. Some people like that kind of living as well. That, however, will likely require a UGB expansion.

If you want to stop these kinds of projects, you need to vote for people who also want to stop these kinds of projects. As long as you keep voting for the left planning mafia for Metro, COP, etc., this is what you'll get.

"I truly miss the beautiful, award wining, mid-century modern building that stood at this location."
That's the first time I've ever heard a defense of that building. My neighbors and I always viewed it as something that had probably won an award when it was built and then sat there as a hated monstrosity ever since. I much prefer the new one, although a credit union and a New Seasons would have been better.

I have to agree with Sherwood regarding the old building. Too much asphalt surrounding a building too small for that size block. Having said that, I think this new building doesn't fit the neighborhood or perhaps the neighborhood doesn't fit it (yet). The rest of Sandy in that area is hardly an attraction.

Living out here in the hinterlands, when I read this:

I don't care if people want to live in condos - if they do, great. But at the same time, we should also make land available for larger lot single family residences, with yards. Some people like that kind of living as well. That, however, will likely require a UGB expansion.

I wonder where this land is to come from, if not from EFU land?

People need food a lot more than they need the suburban dream lawn. There are a ton of large lot single-family homes already in Oregon and the Metro region -- you want one, there's a glut on the market right now. Buy several.

But, meanwhile, stop pushing the fantasy of a million more people here or suggesting that we need to turn more UFE land into ranchettes. There's nothing inevitable about population growth--it's the result of conscious decisions, usually by those who stand to profit from "development," which is actually conducted like a bankruptcy liquidation (the conversion of priceless assets into cheap goods for the well-connected).

But if the population increases, we need additional residential units.

The population of the City of Portland is increasing by about 5500 people a year. Surely there are enough vacant condos now that we don't need to be building any more for a long time.

Who's pushing a fantasy? If the population doesn't grow or there is already enough existing housing in the UGB to satisfy demand, then the UGB won't expand. OK.

But if the population does grow, and the housing is insufficient to meet demand, then you have three choices - expand the UGB and don't alter existing neighborhoods, alter existing neighborhoods and don't expand the UGB, or something in the middle. I choose the middle, but so often on this blog, we hear complaints (which I agree with) about bad condo projects with no recognition that there are trade offs for prohibiting these types of projects.

And sorry George, if we're going to expand the UGB, it's likely to occur on EFU land, since EFU and forest land comprise 97% of all privately owned land outside of UGB's. But take a trip around the area and you'll find plenty of "farmland" zoned EFU that isn't suitable for farming and would be fine for UGB expansion (e.g. the Stafford Triangle), if that is the chosen option. It's just zoned EFU to stop people from doing anything with it.

"and the housing is insufficient to meet demand"

given the current surplus in inventory -- by your inane logic we should shrink the ugb.

It is not my logic that is "inane" if that is your position - it is state law that mandates an adequate supply of residential housing stock. I don't find it "inane" to plan for growth based on current population trends, but if others do, so be it. And if the current housing supply is sufficient, then there is no need to consider doing anything to the UGB. That's fine. If growth trends show a declining population (think Detroit), then it might be correct to contract the UGB. There is nothing "inane" about that.

But assuming growth continues (and all population forecasts and current trending support that assumption), at some point we will need additional housing. The current logic of the planning community is that we won't be expanding the UGB to accomodate that additional housing. OK. But that means that the same condo buildings that you find so offensive will become necessary. So it becomes a question of tradeoffs.

Why do you think the current zoning of the properties in these neighborhoods allows these types of condo units? Because the planners tell us that we need to increase density to minimize (now prevent) a UGB expansion.

My point is simple, and conveniently ignored by the subsequent comments - if you're going to complain (legitimately or otherwise, depending upon one's viewpoint) about the condo's being crammed into established neighborhoods, you're going to have to accept growth somewhere else in the region, unless you can come up with some way to stop people from moving here and having kids. The only time that's worked is during the recession of the early 80's. If that happens in today's economy, can all of the "creative class" be the first to go, and leave the state for those of us that were here when things were better?

The recession of the 80s you refer to is likely to seem mild by comparison for the next 6-10 years. So, yes, the planners' "20 year inventory" rule needs to be revisited to account for the fact that Oregon's economy is about to hit the skids and stay there for a long time, and, yes, shrinking the UGBs is a good idea too.

I note that none of the people complaining about condos live in one, and that's fine. But to suggest that we stop building up and continue building out is nuts -- so whether it's condos or apartments or coops it doesn't really matter. The thing is that we've got to come to grips with the reality that not everyone can or should "own" their home and that trying to build an economy around home-ownership is nothing but a recipe for sprawl and real estate bubbles (alternating with more sprawl and real estate collapses) forever.

James H. Kunstler has a nice weekly blog post that bears on this issue:

The government will not have to do a thing to bring down the chain-stores. History and inertia is already on that case, with the easy credit racket terminated and new frictions arising over global trade, and even Peak Oil waiting to work its hoodoo behind the scrim of deceptively temporarily low pump prices. The larger question for President Obama is: how can we collectively promote the reconstruction of Main Street, including all the fine-grained layers of retail and wholesale trade. High tech "solutions" are not likely to avail in this. In fact, techno-grandiosity and techno-triumphalism must be be sedulously monitored and guarded-against. They jointly amount to the great mass psychosis of our time and culture. This array of traps -- from proposed flying cars to "renewable" motor fuels -- is the ultimate Faustian "bargain." It will be at the heart of any campaign to sustain the unsustainable, sucking us ever more deeply into the diminishing returns of over-investments in complexity. Hence, the last thing this nation needs now is a stimulus plan aimed at the development of non-gasoline-powered automobiles -- married with extensive rehabilitation of the highway system. What I incessantly refer to as the Happy Motoring fiesta is drawing to a close as we have known it, whether we like it or not. Cars will be around for a while, of course, but as an increasingly elite activity. The owners of cars will be increasingly beset by grievance and resentment on the part of those foreclosed from the Happy Motoring life -- and it could easily degenerate to vandalism and violence, since the "right" to endless motoring was surreptitiously made an entitlement somewhere around 1957. The "change" we face in agriculture dwarfs even the death throes of Happy Motoring (and is not unrelated to it either). A lot of people are likely to starve in America if we don't get our act together pronto in terms of how we produce the food we eat. Petro-agribusiness faces a set of disturbances that are certain to induce food shortages. Again, the Peak Oil specter looms in the background, for soil "inputs" and diesel power to run that system. But all of a sudden even that problem appears a lesser danger than the gross failure of capital finance now underway -- and petro-agriculture's chief external input is credit. Credit may be in extremely short supply this year, and hence crops may be in short supply as we turn the corner into spring and summer. Just as in the case of WalMart versus Main Street, the reform of farming in America is one of those "changes" much larger than most of us imagine. I'd go so far to say that a large proportion of young people now in college will find themselves not working in office cubicles, but in some way or other in farming or the "value-added" activities connected to it. I don't see how America can confront the "change" represented by the stark fact that suburbia-is-toast. It is the sorest spot of all in the corpus of a culture beset by disease and debility. The salient manifestation of suburbia's demise is the remorseless drop of housing values in the places most representative of that development pattern. The worst thing the Obama team could do about this would be to attempt to prevent the fall of inflated house prices. Their real value needs to be clearly established before a picture emerges of which places have a plausible future, and which places are destined to be mere ruins or salvage yards. Americans will have to live somewhere, of course, but the terrain of North America faces a very comprehensive reformation. The biggest cities will contract; the small cities and small towns will be reactivated, the agricultural landscape will be inhabited differently, and the suburbs will undergo an agonizing decades-long work-out of bad debt and true asset re-valuation. Since the loss of so much vested "wealth" is implied by the crash of suburbia, this may be a source of revolutionary political violence moving deeper into the Obama administration.

Jack, I do not know how busy you are but I hope you can investigate something for me. The Congress for the New Urbanism (I am sure you know those smartgrowthers) is stuffing the new economic stimulus bill with a bunch of street connectivity garbage/pork. I just noticed it at a site called Creative Tampa Bay. In case you can't find it I will get better info about it posted here. The C.N.U. document is titled "Connected Network Designations for the Economic Stimulus Package". I will be back in case you have time to check it out.

Here is the link: www.creativetampabay.com/archives/463
hope you can check it out

I'm not suggesting we should keep building out and not up, and nowhere in my post did I make that suggestion. At the same time, I think it is irrational that we should follow Metro's lead, and only build up, not out. Planning in Oregon is characterized by extremes, with too few willing to settle for something in the middle, which is where I suspect most of the public would be comfortable. Since less than 2% of Oregon is developed, I don't think it would be asking too much to require an adequate supply of all types of residential housing, assuming that it's demonstrated that there is a need for additional units. If no additional units are needed, not a problem.

I agree with you that not everyone should be buying a home - that's what got us in this mortgage mess to begin with.

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