For the last two days, city planners from the Mayor's office and PDC have been locked in a conference room with Trailblazers and Beavers representatives, developers, stadium designers and Portland neighborhood leaders, hashing out a new vision for redeveloping the Rose Quarter.
That vision emerged today at a packed late-afternoon press conference. Memorial Coliseum? Gone. AAA baseball stadium? Right next to the Rose Garden. The Rose Quarter itself? It'll be made... Live!
When Cordish Company and the Blazers first presented their idea to transform the Rose Quarter into a 24 Hour LIVE! entertainment district (actual slogan: "Water is Magic!") local architecture critics slammed the gaudy big box mentality of Cordish's other projects. But Blazer's vp of business affairs Jay Isaac spoke forcefully today about how the retail and restaurant project in the Rose Quarter would be distinctly "Portland." Isaac and the Cordish reps said the plan for Portland would resemble the plans for the recently revamped Kansas City "Power and Light District." There, Cordish built a stretch of "destination restaurants and clubs" that draw in 8 million people a year, 25 percent of them from over 100 miles away. The family-friendly district offers 150 nights of free music a year in an outdoor, covered pavilion. Seventy percent of the stores in the development are "entertainment retail." If the redevelopment goes according to plan, that's what the Rose Quarter will look like in about 10 years. We're not in Kansas anymore!
"We pride ourselves on redevelopment. We're new urbanists," explained the Cordish rep. I was going to ask him how Portland would be different from other "new urbanist" developments like Disney-sponsored Celebration, Florida, but he ran out of the meeting to catch a plane.
Mayor Sam Adams' office is leading the redevelopment plan and Adams is obviously anxious to break ground. "There have been many plans for this district, but little action. This is both a compressed process and 30 years of waiting. Now is the time for action," says Adams, who says he will manage a "prudent, inclusive" process while sticking to an "aggressive" timeline.
Portland Development Commission Central City director Lew Bowers laid out the main goals of the major redevelopment:
- Bring mixed use development to the Rose Quarter
- Activate lower Broadway
- "Be the most sustainable entertainment district in the country."
The PDC and Adams office currently have no financing plan for the project. Nor have they done an economic impact study for the project, to see whether the investment in the new stadium and Live! retail will actually be profitable. Adams explained that his office is convinced the project will be economically viable based on the previous success of the Blazers, Portland's current AAA stadium and Cordish's previous redevelopments.
When asked whether the Live Block entertainment-themed redevelopment would draw big box stores and national chains to the Rose Quarter, Adams replied that local businesses are an essential part of Portland's "flavor." "Obviously, my passion is for local, independent retailers," says Adams.
More on Memorial Coliseum + pictures of the redesign below the cut!
Bowers of the PDC had a similar commitment to local businesses in the new Rose Quarter. "We've had that discussion regularly, we've told them we don't want it to be just ESPN Zone," says Bowers. "For that district to work, it's got to have a distinct Portland flavor. It's a concept of having an outdoor covered music venue. If it works, it'll be like no venue Portland already has."
Since they don't stick to the current footprints on the spaces, the plans all assume that the Paulsons, the Blazers and the City are going to keep working together. In the end, explains Bowers, the city will own the land but the Blazers and Paulsons will have some sort of long-term lease on the stadiums.
As for the nearly-historic Memorial Coliseum, it's being scrapped to make room for the new ballpark and Live! block. Adams and the city planners say they have been meeting with veterans and promise to build a new veteran's memorial elsewhere in town.
The plans are still rough works in progress. In fact, they're still just hand drawn maps with the new developments sketched in. Check them out below - click on the maps for a bigger picture.
If you've got opinions on the redevelopment, work 'em out in the comments and then head over to Leftbank deom 6-8PM Tuesday April 14th for a public meeting on the project.
In closing, now is the only possibly appropriate time to ever reference my favorite quote from former president Calvin Coolidge: "Soon Shanghai will rise up, up, ever up until it is just like Kansas City!"
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