SoloPower's new plant -- only 112 parking spaces
SoloPower, the solar energy equipment manufacturing company that's supposed to be Portland's best hope for an economic boost, has finally announced where its manufacturing plant is going to be. According to published reports, it's this 225,000-square-foot industrial building on North Marine Drive, almost all the way out to Kelley Point:
The site abuts Bybee Lake, part of a wildlife area, on its south side, and it's just across the river from West Hayden Island, a large part of which the Port and the city have long been conspiring to pave over for a large shipping terminal. It will be fascinating to see (a) how environmentally friendly solar equipment manufacturing turns out to be, (b) how easy or hard a time the company will get from state and local regulators, and (c) whether and how the West Hayden Island pave-over plan might fit into SoloPower's business strategy for Portland.
SoloPower is leasing, not buying. And it's only part of the complex the company says it wants to establish in the area; reportedly, it is on the hunt for another lease in the vicinity. A split facility is probably less than ideal from the executives' standpoint, but the many tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies that have been lavished on them, from all levels of government, doubtlessly ease their pain. That includes a reported $15 million in local property tax abatements -- "green," indeed.
Most interesting of all, however, is that there's nowhere near enough parking at the Marine Drive site to satisfy the city's normal planning rules, and so SoloPower is asking the city for an "adjustment," whereby the number of required parking spaces would be cut down from 304 to 112:
The existing building at this site was constructed in 1996 as a warehouse with accessory office. At that time the Zoning Code required a minimum of 9 spaces for the accessory office (based on 4,096 square feet) and 67 spaces for the warehouse (based on 221,084 square feet); for a total of 76 required parking spaces. According to the applicant, the site was developed with 113 parking spaces.
The applicants propose to change the use of the building from warehouse, with accessory office to manufacturing and production, with accessory office. As a result, the required minimum parking spaces for the office space (4,096 square feet) will remain the same, but the required minimum for manufacturing and production (221,084 square feet) would increase to 295; for a total of 304 required parking spaces.
The tenant (Solopower) plans to provide 112 parking spaces (including 100 vehicle spaces, 5 carpool spaces accommodating 2 people per vehicle, 6 accessible spaces and 1 van accessible space). The facility will operate with two-12 hour shifts, with a maximum of 100 employees on site at one time, during two shift change periods each day.
Wait a minute. SoloPower says it's going to bring "nearly 500 full-time jobs and 250 construction jobs" to Portland. But it will need only 112 parking spaces at the larger of its two facilities? And even during shift changes, there'll never be more than 100 people there? Well, I'll be.
By our earlier calculations, state and local government was subsidizing SoloPower to the tune of $114,000 per job. Maybe that estimate's way too low.