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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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.

Comments (11)

Last time I looked this area was poorly served by Trimet which I think is interesting since someone will be braying about bringing green jobs to the city. The lack of transportation also does little to help the residents of the low income neighborhoods in that area to get work there. Time to end Trimet's monopoly. Time to get some elected officials who can think!

It is for the children.
It is for the jobs.

"how environmentally friendly solar equipment manufacturing turns out to be"

This goes to how poorly defined "green jobs" are. My understanding is that solar manufacturing isn't particularly green. It uses a lot of energy for instance.

So in this case, it is "green" because the end-product is considered green. Not because the plant is green.

No problem, just more money needed for light rail,
with mixed use housing
and bike paths to SoloPower!

IMO, since this is a "green" industry here in Portland, there should be an iron-clad committment that 100% of its workers MUST commute either by walking, biking, TriMet bus, or carpool in a "green" vehicle such as a hybrid with a minimum of four passengers each day (in other words every seat must be used).

And, the employees must live within Portland city limits.

It's the Portland way!

(Of course, City Hall ought to implement those rules, but City Hall knows it can't. The City's own vehicle pool is hardly green - its fleet of Jeep Grand Cherokees have a lower "environmental score" than even a Hummer H2.)

Let's look at the possibilities...

Employees will bike there after Portland builds a custom sustainable village in St. Johns.
Employees will kayak there from Vancouver.
They'll get their own MAX line and station.
Portland will build them a tram from downtown to Kelly Point.
There ain't no 500 jobs.

This building isn't very far from the Expo Center light rail stop. Maybe a company shuttle, plus subsidized bus passes, would be helpful (if there really are more employees than parking spots).

There aren't going to be more employees than parking spots. There are going to be fewer -- and far, far fewer than promised when the handouts were announced.

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?

That must be one hell of an economic multiplier...

Maybe they work 3 shifts?

Silly Jack, nobody believes company press releases anymore. Except the Oregonian.

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