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Friday, November 17, 2006

Maybe Battle Ground

The folks in the Portland parks bureau who want to turn part of Mount Tabor Park over to Warner Pacific College (and to who knows which developer mammals) are doubtlessly reconnoitering to formulate Plan B. Surely they'll have another route to get to the same basic result (no doubt a long-term lease -- a specialty of parks honcho Robin Grimwade). Meanwhile, the outraged neighbors of the park, and the rest of us, get a chance to look at the bigger picture.

It's pretty clear what's going on. WP is singing the same song that OHSU did before the city foolishly built them an aerial tram [rim shot]: "We need more land, and if we don't get it, we'll have to leave Portland." But instead of having Neil Goldschmidt to throw his considerable weight around on the subject, as OHSU did, WP has...

Jim Francesconi?

In the words of Steve Earle, "goodbye's all we got left to say."

This web page by WP, telling their side of the Mount Tabor Park story, is instructive. It's not just that they need a new gym -- they say they need to more than triple the size of their student body to stay afloat:

In order to maintain viability in today’s competitive private higher education market, WP must grow to a level of 1200 traditional 4-year undergraduate students. Current enrollment is around 350 students. Colleges need to enroll a critical mass of students to gain the advantage of economies of scale for the courses and services provided to students. The proposed addition to campus allows for more amenities that will attract today’s college-bound high school students. New facilities will enable recruitment and retention of students and student-athletes. Recreational and Athletic Facilities are among the top amenities considered when today’s health-conscious students are looking at colleges.
Even taking this position at face value, bringing in 850 more students to a campus that currently services only 350 is going to require a whole lot more than a new roller rink. And unless a large chunk of the surrounding land is somehow going to wind up in the college's hands, it's hard to see how such an expansion could hope to work. Hello, reality check! There isn't enough available land in that neighborhood to make WP more than three times the school it already is -- is there? If they're really serious about their expansion ambitions, looking seriously at moving to a new location has to be part of the process.

Not helping their cause much with their current neighbors is WP's thinly veiled threat to sell its campus to a condo developer:

If Warner Pacific is not able to expand its current campus, the college would likely try to relocate and would be forced to liquidate its current holdings in order to finance the move. WPC would have to sell its land for the highest and best use which could be residential development.
Now there's a bully line straight out of the Scone playbook. And here's where the city, as usual, has got it backward. Instead of selling them park and recreation land, the city ought to be looking into buying WP's property out for that very same purpose. Why not expand Mount Tabor Park, and let WP build itself a fine new campus out in the burbs somewhere? Nothing personal to the WP folks, but further constricting the park facilities and handing the college prime land for an artificial turf soccer field -- by sale or lease -- is exactly the wrong move.

Comments (27)

The City should tell WP & Francesconi to pound sand. It's a largely residential neighborhood...what's wrong with adding a new subdivision or multi-family housing?

Especially if the new buyer/builder could complete the project without any city subsidies or tax abatement.

Now for my more cynical side: if WP really wants to rattle the neighborhood, they ought to begin talking to a mental health care provider or drug treatment center: that will get the neighborhood elders bouncing off the walls! Plus, they can pitch this as the "sustainable" redevelopment solution: we get to keep all the buildings and dormitories intact...no construction debris headed for the landfill. Maybe the methadone clinic could add a bio-roof and some solar cells to boot.

The threat of "we'll move out" by OHSU begat the tram and the sowhat. Our leaders need to tell Warner Pacific to kiss our collective.....

"We need more land, and if we don't get it, we'll have to leave Portland."

Ok, bye.

When OHSU did that, they should have called their bluff. I seriously doubt OHSU would have given up all that real estate up on the hill...

And even if they would....so what. Let them leave. Their transportation problems would be solved with access right off HWY 26. Then they wouldnt need a tram [rimshot].

So lets see if I uderstand:

Warner Pacific (WP), a property tax exempt institution with a (relatively) large land holding immediately adjacent to a large park is threatening to up and leave the city unless the city supplies it, by some means, with a hunk of parkland. WP claims it needs more land upon which to expand its operation to stay economically viable, and can't continue to remain in business unless it expands.

Takinking WP at its word, it does not have the cash flow to keeep its current campus afloat and build a new one outside the city.

Thus, to leave, WP has to dispose of its current campus.

To dispose of its current campus, WP most likely will have to sell to a private party, which will pay real estate taxes on the land and any improvements.

Hmmmmm......more tax revenue, less land tax exempt, thus providing a biger revenue stream to supply necessary services.

OK WP, try not to let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Seriously, this is like a scene in some bad movie where some guy holds a gun to his own head and threatens to kill the "hostage" unless his demands are met.

One hopes the City Councl is not so dumb. Oh, wait, I did type "City Council" didn't I. Sorryif I again caused you to spew coffee on your keyboard and / or screen.

I think by now the city council, mayor, Metro, MultCo have regularly demonstrated that "...more tax revenue, less land tax exempt, thus providing a biger revenue stream to supply necessary services." is just not the way we do things around here. It's not part of the "plan".

Especially the part about "...suppl(ying) necessary services.". Hell, they can't even define "necessary".

I know, let's form a committee, appoint a "czar", create new positions, consult a oujia board, pray (in a secular way, of course) for a "vision" or,


...let's put on a SHOW!!!

"dumb" is a relative term.

I say give them the land and also pony up some cash for them to build the Eastside PHART to ferry students and faculty back and forth from the top of Mt. Tabor.

I meant "ouija" board.

although maybe correct spelling is too "confining" and may lower my self-esteem.


Isn't there a big chunk of land sitting vacant in Linton. How about WP, you can build yourselves a nice shiny campus on the river with viws of the St Johns Bridge.

Seriously though, Jack is right if WP wants to triple in size they need to move, no way that can happen in their present neighborhood.

And I second the first comment, a residential neighborhood adjacent to a park is the ideal location for multifamily housing. Replacing a college campus with some low rise condos and maybe some retail (say a coffee shop, a couple restaurants) isn't going to significantly alter the character of the neighorhood. WP should net a nice chunk of change and the city gains tax paying units. Win win all around.

(By the way, since there's a tram mention above: "Pill Hill Aerial Rapid Transit" appears in today's Phil Stanford column.)

Not only does Warner Pacific lack Neil Goldschmidt to throw his weight around - it lacks the political context that made OHSU's threats seem credible: Columbia Sportswear's then recent decision to move to Washington County.
Expanding Mt. Tabor Park by taking over part of the Warner Pacific campus is a great idea. That would partially make up for the appallingly bad decision to sell off part of the park in the 1980's. The acquisition could be funded by the increase to the tax base which would result when the remainder of the Warner Pacific campus is converted to residential housing.

I love the bit about the "health-conscious" high school seniors. Yeah, sure.

Perhaps Metro could use some of that shiny new tax levy to acquire the obsolete campus.

I thought that after WP bought that property that they sold it to some large corporation which then leased it back to them. If that is the case then WP probably doesn't have the option of just selling it off.

Just looking for a chance...

Warner Pacific has been characterized as having been on a secret missions to sweep public land out from under the good people of Portland's feet. This couldn't be further from the truth. WP has been connected to the neighborhood and the purposed gym and athletic fields would be open for public use. Consider
1. Recently Tom Potter said of WP "These are the type of Institutions we want in Portland. It's a great campus"
2. Friends of Mt. Tabor honored WP as one of the most important groups to the life of the park for 2005. A plaque for the involvement in the parks hangs in the entry way of the administration building. The Parks have also said that WP's work on the hill has saved them $20,000 each of the last two years.
3. The public already uses WP's gym for 25 hours a week.

WP should have a chance to put out their proposal. This is not an adversarial situation. I understand that people are uncertain about selling public lands for private use. However, the people of the Tabor area will get a lot of use out of the land when there are fields for their kids to play on. Currently the Maintenance Facility is in serious disrepair. It does not even come close to meeting city codes for health and safety.
Warner is engaged in the life of the community (ask Atkinson Elementary or the Pioneer School before sending them to Battle Ground). The community will also benefit from the proposal. They need to be heard. Give them a chance to talk and try to be a little more open minded.

Give them a chance to talk and try to be a little more open minded.

You mean as opposed to the way the college was being underhanded and secretive?

I understand that people are uncertain about selling public lands for private use.

Why? Then there are taxes being paid.

People should be more concerned about public agencies buying up private land.

But hey, voters gave Metro more money to do just that.

By the way, I assume that's the same Jess Bielman who is on Google as "Director of Campus Ministries" for Warner Pacific. Just in case someone thinks that comment above was just some random Portlander offering an opinion.

Which is not to discount the opinion. But if people from the college are going to weigh in on this, I think they need to ID themselves.

I like Jack's idea the best. WP should sell their campus to the city and the city should annex the land to Mt. Tabor Park. At a minimum the maintenance yard structures should be torn down, and the land should be added as open park space or athletic fields. The city owes it to the community after selling off the lower resevoir to a private developer in a back door deal several years ago.

The idea that people from the area south of WP will use the campus facilities to any extent is far fetched. Crossing Division Street there is a physical hazard.

But if people from the college are going to weigh in on this, I think they need to ID themselves.

Now b!x, that's full disclosure and anathema to this discussion.

I thought that after WP bought that property that they sold it to some large corporation which then leased it back to them. If that is the case then WP probably doesn't have the option of just selling it off.

They have paid that debt off. BTW, a sale-leaseback's much like a mortgage -- it's just a financing tool.

This is not an adversarial situation.

Once you hire the Scone, it always is. His people skills leave something to be desired. And now that he's started his backroom-and-bully cr*p, WP will have to live with the backlash.

Considering they got the land for a song to begin with, why don't we just give them what they paid back then, plus interest, and let them walk away from it? That land would be a nice addition to Mt. Tabor Park. They could offer all sorts of classes and host all kinds of community meetings. I think that would be real "public spirited" of all involved.

For a song...from a public agency, Multnomah County, from what I understand.

Warner Pacific is not the only college wanting to expand, but I don't see the same problem here when the college buys the land fairly and doesn't try to get public land at a bargain price. If it is true they only paid $100 for the Multnomah County Land, why did the public finance this religious college and not Concordia.


I'm serious. Why doesn't CoP Planning work with WP to "densify" their campus? Colleges can go vertical.

Consider putting four levels of parking underneath a new sports center; then on top place four levels of classrooms. Then, for a new student commons, again place parking underneath, with student/faculity offices on top. For housing, go vertical, with student social spaces on the ground floor and parking below; that is what all the "densifyers" want.

WP lands are adequate to form a new type of college for Portland's upward mobility. Look at Hofstra University in NYC. We are big time, and height and density should be shared by all our neighborhoods.

Maybe a tram between the top floor of the high rise dorm and the meal hall?

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