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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When all else fails

The black comedy continues with the Portland Development Commission office move. Now there are 13 landlords vying to get the city agency as their tenant. Given the layoffs at the PDC, it's hard to see why they can't just stay put, or even downsize. Maybe their current host will cut them a deal.

But stepping back for a moment, isn't it remarkable that the city has failed so miserably in its economic development efforts that the economic development bureaucracy itself is the only big fish left in the pond to catch?

Comments (7)

Maybe that's the solution: Fill empty department stores downtown with city planning bureaucracies. We could take it past city-private partnerships, to city-civic partnerships.
Look, I don't want to pile on - the Saks thing is a drag for everybody. But did you see our beloved Mayor saying that the underlying fundamentals downtown - while fragile - are as good as most cities in America?
I was sort of saddened by how I automatically assumed it was B.S. because he said it.
Then you see these are the only 2 Saks stores in America being shut down at this time, and you wonder. I know, it's a question of when the leases come up and there could be more stores to follow.
But combining that information with Sam's assertion about how good things are downtown, made me think I had just been treated to another Sam Adams B.S. statement. There have been a few, you know.

Hi Jack:
"Maybe their current host will cut them a deal"..., duh! PDC owns the building they now occupy. They moved in after an "Arts" focus for the building failed for lack of interested paying artists. My guess is that there are plenty of starving artists in Portland who couldn't afford the rent? So, in a sign of "good" bureaucratic decision making, PDC moved into the building(which they bought) to save rent expenses elsewhere.

Bill makes an interesting point.

I find myself doing the same thing; that is, whenever the mayor, or a city commissioner, or city administrator says something, I assume they're trying to trick us into supporting another expensive and unnecessary project. Are they directing money to a friend, family member, political supporter, or future employer?

They remind me of little kids who refuse to eat their vegetables (the basics), but who will say anything to get dessert (the unnecessary projects).

It would be refreshing to feel like our representatives are responsible adults who work hard to provide the basics, spend money wisely, and negotiate hard for public interests. Maybe some day...

PDC did indeed move into their current location after the "arts" project didn't pan out (it opened just as the 2001 recession began). The building is owned by Kalberer Co. and leased by PDC under a ten year agreement, which expires in August 2011.

The Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association held a town hall meeting about this very topic last week at which the Mayor and PDC Commission Chair and Executive Director were present. I personally expressed my concern that the PDC lease was a pawn in the game of getting "Tall Buildings Built" - primarily Park Avenue West, the stalled office tower behind Nordstrom.

PDC confirmed that the decision rests with City Council, as they have budget authority, and could override PDC even if they renegotiated a new lease to stay in the current building. The Mayor made a commitment to keep "an equivalent sized agency in Old Town" but was noncommittal in every other regard, stressing his policy of searching for the "largest economic impact of a city agency lease as an anchor tenant" (paraphrasing mine).

OTCTNA is committed to keeping PDC in the neighborhood and to build on the progress made over the past decade, which has been substantial. But much work remains to keep the City of Portlands only historical districts alive and make them vibrant once again.

Personally I am as troubled by the spreading of urban renewal funds, and use of agency leases to get buildings built as most people on this blog. There is an important balance of public funds at play that unfortunately is being lost. Our neighborhood has been in a compromised position on many occasions when it comes to urban renewal, from the latest River District expansion, projects funded by it such as the Resource Access Center, to the neighborhoods and URAs bordering ours.

In the case of PDC, they have become an important part of our community. That will be lost in any move, and it would be a shame if it was railroaded into a anchor tenant lease for a stalled project. At some point communities need to be allowed to grow, URAs should be allowed to end, and neighborhoods should be allowed to take the step out of subsidized growth mode into maturity with their tenants.

I like progressive growth and shiny buildings as much as anyone. But the balanced approach to this growth is sorely missing.


Alexander Mace

Is Alexander Mace a name to remember in November? Hmmmm

duh! PDC owns the building they now occupy

Duh is right. PDC leases the space from an outfit called Kalberer. Thanks for an amusing comment, though.

Rumors in the City include Sam forcing Environmental Services to move into the building. Seriously.

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