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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 15, 2011 8:48 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland school boundary changes, version 18.12. The next post in this blog is Where to go to find sneaky City of Portland loan deals. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

That old black magic

Here's a howler from Homer Williams, the real estate developer whose South Waterfront District in Portland is one of the most spectacular failures in the city's history, both for private investors and for taxpayers. Nowadays old Homer's selling his shinola in the pristine suburb of Lake Oswego, and his schtick hasn't changed a bit:

This month, a city-commissioned financial feasibility study performed by ECONorthwest provided news that could be good for both the streetcar and Foothills projects. With the use of a new recommended urban renewal area, the city would have tax-increment financing and system development charges totaling $56.2 million that could be spent on public infrastructure improvements, including the streetcar.

Also, the study upheld the framework plan’s estimates that development of the district would generate up to $1.6 billion of new real market value in the district, resulting in assessed value as great as $881.1 million. That new value would be the tax base to generate money for a new urban renewal area.

The Foothills development is uniquely suited for TIF and SDC funding mechanisms, Williams said, because of what exists in the area now.

"The current value of the properties down there is so low and potential for higher-value development so great, that through tax-increment financing and SDCs we could obtain, it would essentially fund itself," Williams said.

When this guy starts talking "it will pay for itself," well, you know what they say: Do not leave valuables unattended.

Comments (24)

Yes, google, bing, etc exist, but thought I'd ask others to do the work... er, if it's already been done to share the knowledge.

Is there a web page or three that describes the finances of South Waterfront, what the 'vision' was, who paid what, current state of play, etc?

I lack background on Mr. Williams' wild ride(s).

Homer Williams or Brant Williams?

Black magic or neo-con magic?

Paul Wolfowitz talking about Iraq: ""There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." ---Congressional Testimony, March 27, 2003

Homer Williams or Brant Williams?

Homer I guess. Who's Brant? An evil twin?

Trying to think through the need for the streetcar for this project in a dispassionate way, I just don't see the logic. Is it so Foothills residents would be able to head into Portland to partake of its shopping and cultural attractions? Well, LO has shopping, boutiques, a library, not to mention a walkable downtown and grocery stores. If there's something that only Portland can offer, however, are folks willing to make an hour-and-a-half round-trip on the streetcar, which even then will limit their options to the West Side and the inner East Side? Add more time for a bus transfer if they want to go to Mississippi, Alberta, or Hawthorne. At that point, might as well drive.

Going the other direction, are Portlanders going to find anything in LO they aren't going to find in Portland, other than a private lake they can look at but not touch?

The only people I can see really benefiting from the streetcar would be retirees who want Clackamas County tax rates and safe, convenient access to OHSU in case their driving skills are fading. Maybe some families would choose to live in the Foothills for the LO schools, but condo life is not for everyone and it's very hard for families to not have a car (sure, some make it work, but would there be enough of these hardy folks to fill up the Foothills and justify the streetcar?)

As most Portland-area transit-oriented developments go, this one is really more about developer-oriented transit. The money would be better spent on converting the streetcar ROW to a bike path that terminates in LO at a nice new public beach park on the Willamette, as well as improved bus service (including expresses) between LO and Portland.

I imagine Homer Williams as Dr. Evil and ECONorthwest as his band of Mini-Mes screaming ONE B-I-L-L-I-O-N DOLLARS!

"The current value of the properties down there is so low and potential for higher-value development so great"

Then just build it, Homer. Why do you need tens of millions in public money?

Does Homer own a home in Portland? I wonder how many tents his yard might accomodate? 2 birds/1 stone.

Eric, that is good analysis. I think for the developers, streetcar is a good "value add" as long as they aren't paying for it. But they really want the direct subsidies to their projects from urban renewal and transit-oriented programs.

For the "smart planning" braintrust, rail is no longer questioned and therefore doesn't need to be justified. "Rail is good because rail is good."

Or, more accurately, "rail is good because cars are bad."

It's not black magic. More like a modern version of thimbelrig.

Illustration --

"The Conjurer," painted by Hieronymus Bosch. The painting accurately displays a performer doing the cups and balls routine, which has been practiced since Egyptian times. The shell game does have some origins in this old trick. The real trick of this painting is the pickpocket who is working for the conjurer. The pickpocket is robbing the spectator who is bent over.

All aboard!

Mojo: to look at it another way, "it will pay for itself" is DeveloperSpeak for "Yew shore got a purty mouth."

Rail is good for the developers!

Lake Oswego learn from Portland mistakes!
Don't let them in.

I would venture to guess that some newcomers into LO are pushing for this, along with others who have been strategically placed there in decision making capacities.
I commented before, if you don't like LO the way is and want more glitzy, move to those vacant ones in SoWhat!

I believe Abe Farkas at Econw was development manager at PDC when the South Waterfront was negotiated. They are also providing support for The Don in Beaverton.

Why doesn't this group just move on to greener pastures? Our "green" is running out and has been fairly well pdx anyway. One would think they would do better in another state where people might be more enamored. Maybe they aren't that well received in other areas, and why Hales wants back in here.

Am really surprised why Beaverton would fall for this URA!
Maybe Hales should have gone to Beaverton instead!

Homer's already tried L.A. -- as I understand it, that did not go well. There's also action by Portland weasels currently under way in San Diego.

They've picked the City of Portland clean, but there's still plenty of property tax to be looted in Clackamas and Washington Counties. These birds won't quit until they've gotten it all.

Vultures! Or perhaps the Kia Parrots of New Zealand.
These parrots are protected and there are signs everywhere saying so.
They are very smart birds and they know they are safe. They go after everything including the rubber around car doors, and wind shield wipers, dismantling and destroying everything they can get their beaks on.

In another era developers like Gerding-Edlen or Williams would have to hire private security full time or suffer a blownout knee and a warning that the next visit wouldn't go so well...

Homer, Dike, and now Christie are dealing drugs. Every small town politician got a whiff of the Pearl and is chasing that original high and ignoring the sickness and dependence that follows. Even if you don't need it, WDW is selling it.

Now, now people. These are our esteemed associates hand picked for us by our elected officials to help save the planet. You know, the famous "public-private partnership" thing.

Katz liked to use that term "public-private partnership" with enthusiasm!

In another era developers like Gerding-Edlen or Williams would have to hire private security full time or suffer a blownout knee and a warning that the next visit wouldn't go so well...

Posted by Dave A. | November 15, 2011 12:37 PM

Now GED is doing the kneecapping

Eric, didn't you know? LO is a "food desert", that is why they need UR.

Jack, besides Homer and Edlen's failures in LA, Homer is still having troubles in Tucson.

The Rio Nuevo $290 Million URA in Tucson has been a total failure with criminal investigations, corruption flying every which way. It's success, if ever, is tied in with a new trolley line out to UofA. Our local one-car trolley manufacturer in Clackamas has its hands in that promotion. And that includes our favorite son Charlie Hales and his company trying to sell trolleys to Tucson.

The recent mayor's race had Rio Nuevo as a major topic determining the race. Maybe Portland should be considered as a leader in Corruption and Influence. They even have conferences/seminars paying Portland's local Green/Trolley/Lightrail Mafia to speak.

I believe Abe Farkas at Econw was development manager at PDC when the South Waterfront was negotiated. They are also providing support for The Don in Beaverton.

I'm starting to think the PDC has more revolving doors than PDX airport.

Another PDC alum is Kenny Asher, Community Development Director at Milwaukie, and pusher of the City's Urban Renewal scheme.


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