Condos and cupcake bistros aren't the only victims of the economic downtown. As the Waterfront Urban Renewal Area's budget has shrunk, so have plans for the Uwajimaya downtown.
The massive, fantastic Asian grocery chain was hoping to turn the parking lot at the corner of NW 4th and Couch into a new food outlet plus 140-unit mixed income apartment complex. The Portland Development Commission jumped at the chance to offer $10 million in funding for the project, seeing it as not just a way to enliven one of Old Town's many life-sucking surface parking lots but as a way to put something Chinese back in Chinatown, too.
But now $2 million of that $10 million in funding has fallen through and the PDC is scrambling to find a way to fill the gap so Uwajimaya's backers can sign a lease by the end of the year. The Daily Journal of Commerce reports that the PDC has a unique scheme: sell properties it has had trouble developing (including the Police Block at SW 3rd and Oak Street) to get enough money to buy the current parking lot that will hopefully be home to Uwajimaya. Peter Englander, manager of the Waterfront URA tells the Daily Journal that the PDC rarely sells or swaps property to pay for new projects, “but we need to find alternatives so we can meet the budget.”
So this could be a great idea and, hey, I love fresh octopus and spring rolls as much as the next girl, but "creative financing" plans always set off some alarm bells. It seems troubling that the PDC would pull out of a project it had trouble developing downtown to invest in a new project that's already having trouble developing downtown.
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