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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bailing on downtown Portland

The owners of Flowers by Dorcas said the plan reaffirms their decision to relocate to the Hollywood District.

"As a matter of fact one of the reasons we are moving is our customers complain with the lack of parking, the gridlock, and the construction. They don’t come downtown anymore," said co-owner Gerhard Watzig.

Found here, in a story about more bike lanes.

Comments (22)

I'm a car-free cyclist and love being able to ride with my family relatively safely downtown. But they have effectively made getting around downtown in a car almost impossible. As an example, try getting to SW Portland, particularly to Barbur Blvd, from downtown. Broadway has lost a car lane. 5th is a nightmare what with fighting buses, lightrail, cyclists and other cars for room. 3rd ends and you have to bail onto Naito. Oh, and so Naito is your only option, which, God help you if anyone else is going in that same direction.

All this does is build resentment toward cyclists and make every driver pissed at me when I get on the road.

If we had some actual leadership, people in office who thought about building long-term infrastructure as opposed to catering to target audiences in order to get elected, maybe something would get done.

I'm just waiting for the apologists to start whimpering "But...but...they can take the train or the bus from wherever they're coming from!"

Seriously, Jack, this hits on a major issue that most cities don't consider when they start renovations on downtown areas. If the renovation isn't done and over quickly, as within weeks or maybe a couple of months, any gain by the improvements is mitigated by the memories of visitors (both from outside the city and from the suburbs) who just remember the horror of getting around while the construction is going on. Sixteen years ago, Dallas blew a ridiculous amount of money on upgrading many of the streets in downtown, with whole blocks left completely impassable. Worse, the repairs went on for years, so after a casual shopper decided that getting covered with mud when trying to reach a downtown business with a foot-wide access path wasn't worth it, s/he was joined by hundreds and thousands of others who figured "Sod this. I'll just go to the mall." Nearly twenty years later, and downtown Dallas is still completely screwed, and nobody's moving into the long-empty storefronts other than liquor stores and cafes for the office lunch crowd.

Oh, and if you want a great comparison to Portland's current situation, when the first phase of the upgrade was finished, Steve Bartlett, the mayor at the time, hosted a parade. Let us never mind that the whole area finished was one block long, and that nobody could see said parade because most of the adjoining streets were still blocked off. It was still a grand ten minutes to march from one end to the other and tell everyone that this was a noble project. I'm waiting for Adams to study Mayors Bartlett or Annette Strauss (a woman so incredibly stupid that when she died of a brain tumor, the universal response in Dallas was "How? Isn't that like Bartlett dying of an ovarian cyst?") to get ideas for the future.

That business has been downtown forever.

I ride my bike to work but wouldn't if I worked downtown - too busy, not safe even w/ bike lanes.

25% of downtown workers commuting on bikes? Seems like a pretty lofty goal. Are 25% of the city's employees going to ride bikes to work, too? Will the mayor?

I ride my bike downtown, but only very early in the morning, on weekends. Never when I have to get somewhere for business. The problem is that everything is changing all the time. Today there's a bike lane here, tomorrow, maybe not. Today this block has no parking. Next week, maybe it will...probably it won't. Today I can't turn left onto this street because of construction. Next week...who knows. It is a real mess, and I say this as an advocate of downtown, and as someone who thinks a healthy downtown is truly vital to every healthy city.

It's not just biz leaving downtown, it's all the biz never going there in the first place. A friend of mine from AZ wanted to open an office in downtown. He flew up and spent several days touring office space.

Then he remembered I lived in Oregon and gave me a call. By the end of the conversation, his plans changed to Beaverton.

To Adams and much of local government, "downtown" *is* Portland. It's neat, compact, and provides a backdrop for, say, video interviews with authors of books about transportation.

Uncomfortably, the vast majority of Portland not only don't live or work downtown, they don't even live in the near east side. The "lifestyle" (remember when it was just "life", and not a life "style"?) proposed by a heavily bicycle-oriented transport system doesn't really work for Portland. Bicycles don't really do much for pollution and climate change, really--but they feel good.

And Mayor Facebook is about feel good.

"Will the Mayor?" (ride a bike to work)

Sure he will, but only when there is a photo-op arranged in advance. Otherwise look for him parking one of his two vehicles downtown daily.

TWO vehicles? remember he totaled one of them in a recent escapade about which there are still several unanswered questions...

The always great Sam Smith . . . the Bojack of DC for decades . . . has a great piece on how the elites like to screw up their cities in the name of "improvement":


Sam Smith

One of the most common - and costly - myths is that urban economies are improved by things like stadiums - especially for the Olympics. For example, I watched my own home town,. Washington, spend several billions for stadiums, convention centers, faux urban renewal and a a new subway system, and still end up with fewer jobs for local residents.

Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist estimated the benefits of a new sports franchise to be roughly the same as opening a branch of Macy's. Potential benefits are often dissipated by wrong location, excessive city subsidy, cost overruns, faulty projections and just plain corruption.

Sadly, iconic liberals - those who think a tall building or a black president is the answer to all our problems - are among the biggest boosters of edifice economics, so it was not surprising to find Rachel Maddow joining the Olympic funeral choir. Cartoonist Mike Flugennock reacted this way in a note he sent me:

[] It wasn't just the bare-assed naked sense of entitlement on display on Maddow's program this evening that burnt my toast, it was the thinly-veiled suggestion that not only rooting against Chicago in the Olympic voting was somehow unpatriotic, but that somehow only the Teabaggers and other right wingnuts were glad to see Chicago lose out.

Her seeming willful ignorance of the fact that there were substantial numbers of people on the left -- workers' rights advocates, anti-gentrification activists and others -- who, for the right reasons, were also cheering Chicago's losing out on the chance to host the gentrifiers' land grab, the corporatization of public space and the financial debacle known as the Olympic Games.

I can still remember that day here in DC, back in '02, when I was in the meeting room at the District Building, covering the Olympic host-city voting announcement for the DC Indymedia Center, photographing with barely concealed glee the cheers and applause erupting from a contingent of housing activists in the room when it was announced that Washington, DC's bid to host the 2012 Games had gone down in flames.

Thinking back on that day here in DC reminds me what really made me feel slapped in the face tonight -- that Rachel Maddow would play that shopworn old vast right-wing conspiracy card, and totally ignore the widespread anti-Olympic-hosting sentiment on the left in Chicago. []

But that's where we are and it's not a new phenomenon. As Tom Frank wrote in the Chicago Reader more than a decade ago: "The time is not far distant when indoor stadiums will be filled entirely with millionaires not watching as other millionaires cavort on the artificial turf below." In fact by the beginning of this decade over 300 cities had built convention centers to compete with other cities that had built convention centers. And every one of them world class.

The idea, Richard Sennett has written, goes back to the 1860s design for Paris by Baron Haussmann. Haussmann, Sennett suggests, bequeathed us the notion that we could alter social patterns by changing the physical landscape. This notion was not about urban amenities such as park benches and gas lighting or technological improvements such as indoor plumbing but about what G. K. Chesterton called the huge modern heresy of "altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul."

Eventually this idea would produce waves of urban renewal, freeways, convention centers, stadiums, subways, pedestrian malls, aquariums, waterfront developments, casinos and riverboat gambling -- all in the name of urban progress and a happier tax base. But as one city's weekly paper asked of a planned aquarium, "How many big fish can the American public be expected to look at?" Few of these schemes would ever come close to realizing the claims made on their behalf. Few were little more than a false front on a city's declining core and fraying soul.

So don't shed any tears for Chicago. It came out ahead as a city and, if it has the soul, it can use some of the money it saved for all those of its citizens who can't afford buy a ticket to a baseball game, let alone the Olympics.

It is moronic decisions by like this that will kill what is left of downtown Portland within the next couple of years. I'm closing my business after 21 years in Portland and leaving the state within the next 30 days. Interestingly, I've discovered at least six others business owners have the same idea.

George, brilliant. thanks for posting that piece.

I'm about as sympathetic to the merchants who bail on Portland as I am toward the Ridgley/Bidwell types who "move" across the Columbia to escape Oregon capital gains tax. Stick around. Make them make it work for you.

Jake, thanks for understanding the problem. I admire people who bike all the time. I wish I were that healthy, but we can't lose sight of the fact taht some 85% to 90% still drive. Or they ride the bus, which use the same lanes as cars.

Allan: "Make them make it work for you."

After electing them and paying them (way too much), we then have to browbeat them to "make them work for us"?

You don't have to love people who bail on Portland, but you do need to recognize a bellweather when you see one.

I'm about as sympathetic to the merchants who bail on Portland as I am toward the Ridgley/Bidwell types who "move" across the Columbia to escape Oregon capital gains tax. Stick around. Make them make it work for you.

For once I'd love to see one of these alleged business owners identify his or her business. (I mean, they're closing it, right? What's the harm?) I admit to sometimes wondering if it's all fictional, designed to score cheap internet points.

After electing them and paying them (way too much), we then have to browbeat them to "make them work for us"?

Of course not. Just vote them in, give them a credit card and let them go at it.

Where have you been, Dave J.? Remember Columbia Sportswear, Albina Fuel, Freightliner, Peter's Office Supply.......the list goes on. Many of the smaller businesses that have left and will don't want the bad publicity that may be thrown their way like what you might throw.

Business is Bad, Green is Good.

If they intended to discourage people from driving into downtown, they've succeeded.

Interesting list, lw. For example, Columbia Sportswear -- was never downtown. Freightliner -- isn't downtown and hasn't left.

Alan L.
I can tell that you have never run a business. You think that companies moving out of town are traitors or something? You really think these businesses are just moving out to make a statement? Well, you try making payroll and paying taxes when no one comes into your store to buy anything


I think the plan is to let businesses continue leaving downtown until the only ones left are the ones whose employees bike to work. Then they might reach 25%. In other words, work on the denominator, not the numerator.

Alan L., Columbia begged for three years and worked with the city to try to consolidate their offices from North Portland and throughout the city to one main headquarters adjacent to OMSI. Most people consider OMSI, the near eastside as Central City Portland. But you want to dice the words. Keep dicing as you work for the city on our taxpayer dimes.

Alan L., additionally Freightliner is only 1/4 of what it was just a few years ago. You're right, they haven't totally left, yet. I suppose you know that they will be here in three years?

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