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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 30, 2010 7:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was Seven more years of recession?. The next post in this blog is Another Euro "green" company gets a PDC handout. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Just what the Portland real estate market needs right now

Fifty-seven more condo units! Who's crazy enough to blow money to build condos in the midst of the worst real estate trough of our lifetimes? You guessed it -- the Portland Development Commission. They've got $11 million into this turkey, including $3 million they coughed up just this past Friday. The deal has been staggering along for nearly four years.

When Fireman Randy asks you in November for money for his new firehouse and trucks, you could suggest that he should have used this money instead.

Comments (23)

This is just wonderful for my friend who has been trying to build a 12 unit condo project, but can't get the financing. PDC has given to Portland unfair business and competition practices.

Associations that represent all kinds of businesses, like the MultiFamily Housing Council of Oregon needs to speak up. Apartment owners have an unfair advantage competing with PDC's "affordable housing" give-aways and the subsequent tax subsidies.

Not too bad, only $200K/unit and they haven't even broken ground. By the time the doors open it'll be 2x-3x that number.

lw - Winkler is another guy that knows how to work the system. Your friend really needs to find some way to humiliate himself with PDC by sticking green/sustainable/renewable or something like that over all the units.

PDC has buckets of money, even if Randy's dropped his attempts to tap into it.

They can't even keep it straight that Killingsworth is a street ... not an avenue.

Just when you think they couldn't design an uglier building they pull it off. Lets start following the creed of Frank Lloyd Wright and insist on "Less is More."

Only three two-bedroom units? Great. So much for encouraging middle-class families to stay in the city. If they wanted to stay in this building, they would have to sleep tenement-style in the single bedrooms.

And how much do you want to bet the few two-bedroom units are bought by DINKS who use one as an office or retirees who save the extra bedroom for their college kid who visits once in a blue moon?

Tom, you are so right: Portland has quickly become a city without buildings to admire. Perhaps it will top the list of Cities That Have Surrendered Their Character to Ugly Buildings.

Remember, for example, how grand the view used to be looking east from the Art Museum on a clear February evening? Vertical space has been expropriated by extraordinarily mundane glass towers driven like murderous spikes into the city's prostrate body whored out by its myopic elected officials and its insatiably greedy cabal of "developers."

The recent condo atrocities along Division, Belmont, and SE 28th, for instance, are breathtaking in their inappropriateness. Most remain unoccupied. Could it be that people do not want to reside in an ugly building?

"Ugly. Uglier. Ugliest." Perhaps, in the Portland fashion of futility, we need a commission to assign recent construction to its proper category. And perhaps Portland can market its penchant for ugliness.

The real sign of the scam was that we were pouring money into condos when the market was red hot. I could see city government having to make a deal to get jobs here because that's a fiercely competitive situation. That's a crater.
But why were we throwing money at a bubble?

I'm sure that lots and lots of people are clamoring to buy some cramped real estate at the corner of Killingsworth and Interstate.

By the way, in ten years time, this project will be held up as proof that light rail lines are "catalysts" for creating density. There will be no word of the heaping public subsidies, or the fact that the building was never financially feasible without them.

Establishing objective criteria for comparative ugliness is hardly a straightforward endeavor: ugly, like beautiful, may indeed be entirely in the eye of the beholder.

If the roof of a condo does not leak and the plumbing functions properly, then the structure might be considered suitable for a home. Nevertheless, there are buildings recently erected in this city that proffer not much more than an aesthetic challenge. Consider, for example, the SunRose Condominiums on the SE corner of Burnside and 28th:
http://wweek.com/editorial/3625/13964/#comments_add

You get the feeling that the PDC is trying to justify its existence.

The last thing Portland needs is more condos.

The only positive is that it will employ folks in the construction industry which has been badly badly hurt by this economy.

Comedy gold, brought to you by the kids who walk to dilapidated schools without the benefit of sidewalks. Volunteers do the landscaping, music and arts cost extra, the PTA buys classroom supplies, and they can't figure out why enrollment is declining.

Oh well, at least The Nines will have gold plated bathroom fixtures for whoever buys them out of bankruptcy.

"But why were we throwing money at a bubble?"

Why are we throwing money at sinkhole with as many condos on the market as there are now?

Best thing is - No Parking if it follows PDC form. So the retail part is screwed besides the tenants.

Want proof - Look at PDCs other field of dreams, NE MLK. All that brand new retail space with beauty supply stores, pizza joints and coffee houses and no parking.

These idiots really need to learn new tricks instead of re-cycling the same threadbare concepts.

Why learn new tricks when re-cycling of old ideas keeps getting you re-elected?

Darrin: Did the Portland voters reelect the PDC?

I've said it here many times before, and I'll say it again. PDC needs to be abolished. The fact that we have a public agency that is in the real estate development business simply defies logic by standards of every other city in the country.

Most cities attain their planning goals through zoning code (and yes, as bad as they are) through urban renewal districts. But to go as far as acquiring some properties (Bridgehead among them)and heavily subsidizing others...and losing money on every transaction? I know I'm preaching to the choir, but there is simply no excuse for this waste. They can package it in whatever they want..."green", "transit-oriented"...whatever. It is and will always be a waste of public money with no benefit...ever.

If Portland voters only understood this maybe they'd get pissed off enough to vote differently next time. Seriously...underfunded schools AND speculative real estate deals? There simply is no excuse for that.

Hey PD - Want to spearhead a ballot initiative to dissolve the PDC and stop the CoP from ever trying anything similar? I'll be your first signer.

Tom and Menefree, yes, visual "ugliness" is subjective in these condo towers, themselves.

But another kind of ugliness is how, in planning and building these towers, the process itself can create measurable ugliness. It was argued by the John Ross designers, like Bob Thompson, that to create a "signature" tower that the recently adopted SoWhat maximum footprint size needed to be increased 25%, plus two other design Standards needed to be ignored that affected the bulkiness, spacing of towers.They claimed that a larger square foot building was needed to pay for the "signature" tower.

The same CoP Planners that helped formulate these three Standards, after years of review, including adoption by the Planning Commission, Design Commission and the City Council, then asked on behalf of the developers and architects to throw out the Standards. Now that is ugly.

And look at what we get as we drive along Terwilliger Blvd., Barbur, Corbett, Front Ave, Macadam, I-5-a wall of buildings with no visual, solar permeability. All contrary to what the thrown-out Standards were attempting to do. Now, this is really UGLY.

Yes it is almost like the wild west - anything goes as long as the special interests make money. Who cares if Mt. Hood is no longer visible in its glory from so many parts of the city now? Who cares if the good planning we used to have doesn't apply anymore? A designer told me he worked on plans years ago for the buildings to be scaled down in height as sited closer to the waterfront? Certainly those good plans didn't "apply" anymore to SoWhat that sticks out as a mistake. I saw the "hole" downtown today and really missed the character of that block that had the Virginia Cafe and Zells.

Yes, where were the greenies, environmentalists, and the good planners when SoWhat's zoning was being increased from 3 to 1 FAR to 12 to 1, then allowing up to 325 ft buildings?

The SoWhat area has been in the statewide and city Greenway zone since it's inception in 1976. Greenway Regulations require heights of buildings to step down in height as they approach the river and to be "similar in scale to their surroundings". In the whole state there was/is not one building that is more than five stories in height in the distance that the Atwater and John Ross buildings are from the river. The nearest building which is over 9 blocks away is the RiverForum building, and it is 5 stories high.

Back in the days when CoP Planners respected the Greenway Zone, they helped insure the stepped down buildings west of Naito Parkway along McCall Riverfront Park in downtown. That is why the PGE World Trade complex has its highest building on the west side of its three block complex; and that building is over 900 ft. from the seawall. Oh, how the Planners of CoP are prostitutes.

Where are the experts, the concerned souls concerning our green agenda? Not one showed up, except neighborhood associations that asked these kinds of questions and were totally ignored.

lw: . . .Where are the experts, the concerned souls concerning our green agenda? Not one showed up, except neighborhood associations that asked these kinds of questions and were totally ignored.

Have also wondered lw, about where all these concerned planning and environmental souls are? I have observed also that in some matters as you said not one showed up.

What about that Coalition for a Livable Future? That seems to be a huge group.
and Sierra, and and ??
They seem to be relatively silent on critical issues? Also, I have noticed that some of these groups are focused on areas outside of Portland, save this or save that and Amazon Rain forests, etc. Not that those places don't need attention, but why the silence on so many issues right here in our community? It does seem like we have in our community "selective environmentalists" not really willing to get too much into the political scene here.

Clinamen, I've asked environmentalist, like Mike Houck who was with the Audubon Society at the earlier hearings/reviews of SoWhat and now Director of his Urban Greenspaces Institute here in Portland why no comments about the density, heights, concrete jungle of SoWhat. Answers have usually been that they want density here, not there, wherever that may be. If you mention that the area is in a wetland, flood zone or on a earthquake fault they shrug. If you discuss the carbon footprint of a 30 story building in comparison to three 10 story buildings maybe built in Kruse Way and how it is less, they don't know. If you discuss the impact of 30 stories on the Greenway Path, the river edge and river, or on Ross Island, they ignore the question. If you discuss the solar and wind impact of the density/height, they don't know what you are talking about. If you mention that transit trips into SoWhat isn't anymore than Kruse Way they just respond that "we are looking at the future".

What it boils down to is that they really haven't measured the environmental impact of their silence; they make assumptions, they are on a mission, they are righteous.

lw,
Thank you for the conversation and input on your experience.

I think too that this mission has taken over so that nothing else matters except that they want the density here period. Nothing else to be said or looked at I guess after that decision was made.
Which leads me to ask the question has Portland then essentially been written off as a kind of "sacrifice zone" so only to save areas outside of here?

Doesn't make sense to me to not be pro-active about the places within our city where we actually do live. With the cost of gasoline, and other changes in the way we might need to live, we may not have the same kinds of opportunity to even get out to these "other saved places" as we do today or to "escape" from the city tensions and then we will regret this Metro plan of extreme density. Just continuing to cover up our best fertile land with more housing developments when we may need that land right within our UGB for growing food. Then having to pay extra for food imported from other areas and even coming in from China makes my head spin. Plus they keep expanding the UGB and it is looking like sprawl anyway with step and repeat strip malls, etc. so nothing new there. I have lots of thoughts about all this perhaps for later.

"we are looking at the future"

that's the buzzword today. Of course, they never have to take a stand because then the future becomes now.

Tomorrow never comes.


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