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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meier & Frank rehab: another "urban renewal" bust

If we can just hold on for a couple of more years until the waves of soccer tourists arrive, everything will be fine. Otherwise, taxpayers, we own a white elephant hotel. To go with the other one that Mayor Creepy's going to build.

Comments (19)

Didn't we upgrade all the bathroom fixtures to avoid this risk?

You have to look on the bright side: this is why Randy is asking for a personal guarantee from LLP.

"task force chairman Mark Edlen"

'nuff said.

When will they ever get normal disinterested people on these task forces?

Is that"personal guarantee from LLP."For ** Randy one of those under-the-table perks?

Wow, where do I sign up for a loan that can be deferred with such nebulous and subjective terms as "until my cash flow picks up"?

"The PDC board of commissioners affirmed its commitment to the project, as Commissioner Bertha Ferran said, 'We will continue to support you.'"

I think she misspoke: she means "subsidize" not "support."

A few months ago I attended a dinner with a group of architects at the Nines. For $65.00 we were served what looked a lot like pot roast resplendent on a lump of mashed potatoes and wilted lettuce. We sat for hours listening to the proud representatives of Hoffman Construction tell us how hard it was to build a Hotel in the historic Meier and Frank Building. This boutique hotel might have had a chance in a good economy if it were in New York,Paris, or Tokyo. Not a chance in Portland. It is an architectural fish gasping for air on the banks of thw Willamete. Guess we will have to pay for this one too!

The PDC, and it's supporters, always seem to put energy into the wrong end of the commerce equation. Figuratively speaking, they need to get off their dead butt and sell tourists on a reason to come here. Behind every successful “build it and they will come” proposal is an active merchandising effort. Currently Portland’s "development community" is just waiting for the phone to ring.

I first got it at a tram meeting where one of the officials said she had been going to other meetings about the project for _ years. I think it was 7, but my mind doesn't want to believe that.

Anyway, we've been looking at these projects as things that get built and that's all wrong. This is not about creating - it's about feeding. What we have here is a Project Beast that must be fed.

That's why we're doing things like PGE stadium again and talking about a convention hotel even as this hotel's tanking.

The key thing to remember in understanding the city of Portland is that a Project Beast walks these streets and the Beast must eat.

Once you get that, seemingly irrational behavior can be easily explained. The Project Beast eats land, the Project Beast eats revenue, it eats time, and it eats people. People die because we spend our resources feeding it, rather than caring for the needy. And ultimately the Beast will eat Portland.

But wait - it gets better: The problem is the more the Beast eats, the bigger it gets, and the more it wants. At this point new projects show up almost daily.
The moment the soccer thing had been announced, it was onto the Sandy intersection building. Then it was back to the convention center hotel, where Sam had pulled a Dick Cheney and ordered another study with "fresh eyes" until someone gave him the report he wanted to get.

Sam understands the Project Beast. Feeding it is why he's in office.

And it's out there right now, roaming the streets looking for new prey. The Project Beast may stop to burp, or scratch itself, but it's never long 'til it's hungry again.

Couldn't we have had some of that pot roast and mashed potatoes to fill potholes on 23rd?

Unless I'm mistaken, I recall having read that Breedlove was Adams' date for the Nines' grand opening party.

So, how do we starve "The Beast"?

Anyway, we've been looking at these projects as things that get built and that's all wrong. This is not about creating - it's about feeding. What we have here is a Project Beast that must be fed.

exactly, Bill.

I'm often baffled at why people, idealist or otherwise, don't understand this fundamental concept.

Since this is true, are they going to be giving out discounts on their amazingly overpriced Urban Farmer (a name that makes me want to laugh and/or cry whenever I hear it) meals and lodgings to us, the people who are actually paying for them to have a living.

Nah. Didn't think so.

"how do we starve "The Beast"?"

You don't want to know - probably by default on some CoP bonds.

Don't forget that Macy's sales at the downtown store haven't been very good and it looks like they might retrench a bit in the weeks ahead. Also, unless they're locked in a long term lease; I wouldn't be surprised to see them fold up shop downtown within 18-24 months.

The Project Beast must eat. Ha, ha, ha! That's a good one, Bill. So true.

It's not necesssarily that projects are wrong, it is that the planners want cosmopolitan uppity places like The Nines and Macy's. The Pearl is about as much "urban sophistication" that this town can handle. Otherwise, the places in PDX that do well are either edgy and quirky such as the Ace Hotel and the Doug Fir.


No one has suggested that building a luxury hotel, a new AAA ballpark, or a soccer specific stadium are "wrong". If private developers choose to put private capital risk, so be it.

The question isn't whether or not the projects are worthy projects, the question is whether or not they are worthy of public subsidies. If so, how much public subsidy is warranted, and what public benefit should we expect in return.

When a public subsidy is granted, it puts the City Council in the position of promoting certain enterprises at the expense of others. Rooms that are booked at The Nines would have been booked at other hotels (if it didn't exist). Those other hotels must pay their creditors on a timely basis or face the very real threat of insolvency or a forced sale.

Why should the taxpayers of Portland subsidize any of these ventures without providing a direct public benefit to ALL CITIZENS in return?

What if another boutique hotel (with less forgiving creditors) is forced to close their door during this recession? Would that have happened if The Nines had been compelled to honor their contract with the PDC?

What do you think the PDC and City Council is doing to promote The Nines that they aren't doing for competitors?

Would you expect the PDC and the City Council to be even more aggressive in expressing their lodging preference when vendors/contractors/unions are bringing guests to town? How about when they have even more money at stake in a publicly financed Convention Center hotel?

Spent a night at The Nines over the weekend. Lots of hipster pretension, and not a lot of comfort - for the price. Bed was not very comfortable, nor the pillow. Climate control vacillated between way too hot or way too cold, with nothing in between. I guess if you get off on naked mannequins scattered all over the lobby, you might enjoy yourself there. As for me, next time I'm staying elsewhere.


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