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Monday, August 18, 2008

Milepost 5 By The Numbers

Posted by Matt Davis on Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 4:55 PM

People. If there's a guaranteed way to get my attention, it's to quote something I said, and write about how right it was. Not only that, but also, DO THE RESEARCH TO PROVE IT. Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers over at Portland Gentrification did just that, referencing something vague and half-assed I shot off last week about Sam Adams' controversial Milepost 5 housing project, out in East Portland.

Screw you, Tom Wolfe: This is the new journalism in action.

First, PG quotes former Adams staffer Jesse Beason from Adams' blog, who wrote in November 2006 (remember, when the possibility that property could fall in value was just, well, ludicrous?!) that Milepost 5 will provide: "permanently affordable place for artists of all media to create their work, learn from each other, and focus on professional development." PG got into it with Beason on the blog, asking what mechanisms were in place to ensure that Milepost 5 will, indeed, be "permanently affordable." Or:

If someone like Beason is going to sling around lovely unicorn ponies like the phrase "permanently affordable," I think it's pretty much a travesty that nobody's talking about how that permanence is in fact structured. I asked Beason on the Adams blog about this and his response was unsatisfyingly vague.

PG goes on to question whether Milepost 5 is even an "artists colony," after all.

The fact is, though the project is described as though the whole idea is simply, space for artists, the total number of units is 54, and of that number, only the smallest 22 units are going under what is called the "Pay It Forward" program...Yes, most of the units are actually something quite other than, as Jesse Beason describes it, "the first of what we hope will be many places that offer affordable rental and ownership opportunities for artists." Truth is, the lion's share of this project is really not in fact "being turned into something of an artist incubator out on 82nd and Glisan."

And this is the meat of it:

Even if it's a little too generous to go around saying that "an old, abandoned nursing home in the Montavilla neighborhood could soon be a hip new live-work space for local artists." When you're actually talking about fewer than half the units, it's probably just realpolitik, Portland-Arts style.

He said "realpolitik!" About Sam Adams! And then, he got into square footage!

The reader is invited to check this math, but the way I see it, in terms of space rather than units, when all these folks from Adams and Beason on down are talking about Milepost 5, they're actually talking about something like 30% of Milepost 5. The other 70% of this Mp5 "entrepreneurially"-funded catastrophe will be, you guessed it, condominiums priced at something around $400/sq ft just like every other condo building in town.

PG goes on to compare Milepost 5 to more successful similar projects in Sacramento, and to slam an alleged Nike Developer who is "houseblogging" his housing experience at Milepost 5, to generate extra marketing cache for when he ultimately flogs the place. The blog concludes:

Matt Davis, and all of us, have plenty of reason to be a bit nauseated by Milepost 5's hype. Because we all know there are better ways to make community than via entrepreneurs doing what entrepreneurs do. We've seen, here and there, if briefly, what people can do when they need the real thing enough. Really, aren't we just about fed up with this kind of shit?

Why, yes, PG! Yes, we are! Now, if only a local reporter could be bothered to get out to Milepost 5 and research the shit out of the place, I'm sure there'd be more troubling, Adams-platitude-undermining realities to be found. Well, okay, then. Since you asked so nicely...

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