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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pay-What-You-Can Panera in NE Portland?

Posted on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 5:14 PM


It sounds kind of wild, but the multi-billion dollar corporate franchise Panera Bread is turning some of their restaurants into pseudo-soup kitchens. It's an experiment and it's never been tested by any major restaurant chain before, but customers at "Panera Cares" cafés simply pay what they can, no questions asked.

Rumor has it that the Panera Bread location next to Trader Joe's in Hollywood will be converted to a Panera Cares café, featuring volunteer staff members, "suggested" prices, and a free meal for anyone who needs one.

The flagship Panera Cares café opened in St. Louis in May, with impressive results. The non-profit restaurant model is the brainchild of Panera's former CEO and current chairman Ronald Shaich, who says that most customers (60-70%) pay the full price of their meal, while about 15% pay more than the suggested price and about 15% pay less or nothing at all.

Success in St. Louis means more locations across the U.S., beginning with two new Panera Cares cafés in the next two months. Rumors put a café in Detroit, slated to open in December, and a café in Portland, slated to open in January 2011.

If the Hollywood Panera Bread converts to a Panera Cares, the major changes would be door greeters—who would stand at the entrance to explain the pay-what-you-can concept—and donation boxes instead of cash registers. Those who needed a free meal could volunteer for an hour and earn a meal voucher, but they could also simply order their food and move on.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hung Far Low Sign Will Be Re-Erected

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Nearly two years ago, the Mercury received a frantic dispatch that the revered Hung Far Low sign had been removed from the Old Town/Chinatown perch from which it had delighted Portlander’s for decades. It was soon discovered, sadly, warehoused in a Scappoose derelict sign yard.

Today the Portland Development Commission announced that on September 2nd the sign returns to the neighborhood, gift wrapped, for a special unveiling ceremony to take place at 7 pm.

The sign will be re-hung thanks in part to the staying power of a stimulated community effort, according to the PDC press release:

The sign was removed during the 2008-09 renovation of the Hung Far Low building, which now houses Ping Restaurant. Portland citizens rallied to restore the 2000-pound landmark, raising more than $8,600 through commemorative t-shirt sales, a website and special events. PDC closed the remaining gap with approximately $45,000 in grant funding. The total cost of the project — which includes removal of the sign, design and restoration work, and its re-attachment to the building, is estimated at $77,461.

The restoration work spoken of here is specifically related to fixing the sign's rusted out framework, a new hanging support structure, and a paint job meant to match original colors. Current plans are to have the sign lit by lights attached to the building, but the press release points out, “there is interest in someday restoring the neon lighting to the sign.”

The return of the Hung Far Low sign has been a long time coming. In fact, in June of 2009 Sarah Mirk reported the that the funds had been secured to tug the landmark out of the sign yard. But the sign's re-erection hasn't been a certainty until today.

Friday, July 9, 2010

There's a New Market in Town

Posted by Sarah Hardy on Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Portland's newest outdoor market will open next week in the Boise-Eliot neighborhood on a plot of land that's been a vacant eyesore for years.

The new Boise-Eliot market is the brainchild of stonemason Spencer Burton who ran for Dan Saltzman's seat for Portland city council in November. Though the bid for city council flopped, Burton and the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods did succeed in a different project: securing a plot of land for a farmer's market in his neck of the woods.

Five weeks ago, the owner of the vacant lot on the corner of North Williams and Fremont offered up his land for a twice-weekly neighborhood market that has about 30 businesses signed up to sell goods so far, including Martini Farms, Canby Asparagus Farm and Portland Organic Garden. Burton hopes to sign up 20 more businesses before the market opens next weekend, July 17.

This isn't one of the official city farmer's markets and it's been a little bumpy organizing a market from scratch, says Burton.

"People can't believe there's nothing there," Burton said about the area's empty lots, many of which are scars from the early 1970s when Emanuel hospital razed 20 businesses in the area to make way for an expansion (which then never materialized).

Opening a market will "help the area as a new commercial hub," Burton says. He hopes people who don't have enough money for a storefront for a business can sell their goods at the lot.

During the summer the market will run twice a week on Tuesdays from 3-7p.m. and Saturdays from 9-1p.m.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Unsafe" Buildings in Portland: the Map

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 9:29 AM

  • PF&R

We've gotten a list from Portland Fire & Rescue of all the buildings that have been marked "unsafe" for firefighting personnel to enter. Here's a handy map of all properties currently marked, or in the process of being marked, unsafe.

Click on properties to see details.

Here's the list. 6034 NE 6th has been de-listed.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plan Will Cut Two Traffic Lanes from Division

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Three years from now, Division Street is going to look a lot different.

City council approved a $7 million plan this morning to rebuild Division Street from 10th Ave to 39th Ave as a more pedestrian-friendly, sustainable, generally less crappy thoroughfare. About 15,000 cars travel along the stretch every day and Division needs to be repaved anyway, so the city will take the chance next year while it's being repaved to do what Portland does best: lay down the "green streets."

The city has been working for the last year on the plan (download the pdf here) and came up with a final "Division Streetscape and Street Reconstruction Project" which will make cut most of Division's busiest inner-SE stretch down from two lanes of traffic to one lane in each direction.

Continue reading »

Friday, June 18, 2010

Portland Neighborhoods Seek Nirvana through "Main Streets"

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 10:44 AM

So what has "four points," and "eight principles," and results in a better, more harmonious life? No, silly, it's not Buddhism—it's the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Streets program, which announced partnerships this morning to fix up the Alberta, Hillsdale and St. Johns neighborhoods according to said noble precepts.

To qualify, each neighborhood had to raise $30,000 in "community support" funding: begging for alms, if you will. Having passed that test, they'll now get "considerable financial and technical assistance and extensive training" to fix up their neighborhoods to conform to a utopian downtown ideal.

  • sam adams

Much of the money raised came from the City of Portland's General Fund, and the projects will contribute to the Portland Economic Development Strategy and the plan for "20-minute neighborhoods" that Mayor Sam Adams has been touting extensively.

Aside from the "four points" (organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring), the "Main Streets" program is strangely big-brothery. On this PDC page, the city refers to the program as "Main Street®," with the little "R" sign.

A closer look reveals that the National Trust has extensive guidelines for use of the "Main Street" term, and has in fact registered it as a trademark. Read their policy on the use of the name "Main Street" for more:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation owns the trademark for the phrase "Main Street" as it applies to the revitalization of traditional and historic commercial districts. The Trust allows local, regional, state, and citywide organizations involved in the revitalization of these commercial districts to use the name "Main Street" to describe their programs, according to the guidelines.

Congratulations and namaste to Alberta®, Hillsdale®, and St. Johns®.

Update 3:47 pm: More details on the program from Sam's office after the jump.

Continue reading »

Friday, May 28, 2010

News From Above—Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Burnside

Posted by Kiala Kazebee on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 2:04 PM

Look! It is Henrys! Something nefarious could happen here.
  • Look! It is Henry's! Something nefarious could happen here.

Gone fetal worrying about the dearth of condo owning gentrification news in the wake of Matt Davis' vacating Portland? Shaking a fist at the sky and shouting "UNJUST I SAY UNJUST" while popping lorazepams like candy? You are not alone, my friends. I, too, have been in a funk since Matt's departure but I might just have a solution to our depressing predicament.

I have recently moved from San Francisco (yay!) to the suburbs (OMG BOO) and finally downtown to a LEED certified building so smug in its smugness the elevators are powered by EFFING WINDMILLS. The building has 24 floors and I'm on one of the upper tiers. What I am saying is I can actually see your house from here. And I know what you're doing. And stop it because it's really freaking me out.

So, in lieu of leaving the house to do actual reporting (new media is all about aggregation anyway) I've given myself the "gentrification beat." If I can see it from my windows and it's vaguely newsworthy and/or gentrify-y I will know! And I could tell someone about it! Maybe even on Blogtown or the Twitters or at a bar! I am just spit balling here! There are no bad ideas! This is a safe space!

The point is I can see stuff from up here and it might be interesting. Mostly I like looking down on all of Portland. But you knew that already.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sunday Parkways Has $100,000 Budget Gap

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 3:40 PM

This is a map. And a bandana. And it will cost you $40.
  • This is a map. And a bandana. And it will cost you $40.
Sunday Parkways has turned from an experiment to a much-loved festival in Portland, but now it's facing a serious budget crunch along with the rest of the city. The event, first hosted in Portland three summer ago, shuts down a five mile loop between neighborhood parks for one Sunday, opening up the streets to cyclists, pedestrians, lemonade vendors—anyone but cars. Thanks to overwhelming popularity (who doesn't love playing in the street), Sunday Parkways sprawled from one Sunday in 2008 to an ambitious five slated for this summer.

But Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocate Gerik Kransky raised some alarm bells last week when he noted that the city budget for Sunday Parkways seemed to drop from $217,000 to $0.

Well, the truth is not that extreme. But the popular festival is still having trouble making ends meet. In the new draft of the budget, funding for Sunday Parkways moved from a line item to part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) "base budget" (which is why some people, like Kransky, thought it disappeared entirely) but does not meet the $474,000 that PBOT originally needed to host the five day-long events.

The city came up with $157,000 to put toward Sunday Parkways and health insurance company Kaiser kicked in a generous $100,000. Seeing that the numbers weren't going to pencil out, festival director Linda Ginenthal tightened the belt of Parkways by $80,000 (cutting mostly pre-event ads and fliers) and also dug up $35,000 from private donors (including $25,000 from Pearl District business and $1,000 from Milagros Boutique in NE).

All that leaves a $100,000 budget hole. The first Sunday Parkways, held in NE on May 16th, brought an estimated 15,000 Portlanders out onto the streets. Ginenthal's hoping the city can fundraise the $100K from mostly small, individual donors who want to see all five events take place. Some small bait to donate: Ginenthal just got in a box of Sunday Parkways 2010 commemorative bandanas, available for $40 a pop.

The mayor's office, at least, says its committed to making sure all five of the planned Sunday Parkways take place. "This is a huge benefit for the people who live in the neighborhood," says Mayor Adams spokesman Roy Kaufmann. "There’s a demand for even more of these."

Check Out Our Southeast Neighborhood Guide!

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 2:30 PM

If you picked up this week's paper, you may have been lucky enough to get a copy that includes our new Southeast Neighborhood Guide that's contained inside. (The papers distributed in Southeast Portland should have one in there, plus a couple bonus areas have 'em too.) We humbly believe this guide is zillions better than the previous neighborhood guides we've done—because instead of our usual, half-assed attempts at humorous info-tainment, this time we got an expert guide to introduce all the different sections in the booklet. She earned a bunch of merit badges on different fields of expertise of Southeast Portland. And these merit badges are, like, totally real and not at all fake or made up, okay?

Anyway—be sure to check out the Southeast Neighborhood Guide. It contains lots of places to eat and drink and buy stuff. It's like the phone book, but better, and with a trained guide to walk you through it. Not like that asshole Dex. (Big thanks to Nicole Lavelle, Elizabeth Jaeger, and Justin Flood for their help in putting it all together.)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

East Portland: Still Neglected?

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Oh snap. I love it when charismatic progressive Portland politicians disagree with one another. Mayor Sam Adams and East Portland Representative Jefferson Smith just got into a little fight here at city council.

The council was slogging through rounds of positive testimony from East Portland residents on the implementation of the East Portland Action Plan, a program city council adopted last year which prioritizes a list of long-overdue infrastructure and developments projects to receive money from the city ASAP.

Jefferson Smith: Pointing fingers at the adoption of the East Portland Action Plan last year.
  • Jefferson Smith: Pointing fingers at the adoption of the East Portland Action Plan last year.

Then up rolls Representative Jefferson Smith, who has no kind words for the council.

"Last year I came merely to say thank you. Now I am truly angry, " said Rep. Smith. He argued that the city has neglected and ignored the needs of East Portland. For example, the lands east of 82nd Avenue received only .7 percent of Portland stimulus money.

Mayor Adams was irate. "Frankly, Representative Smith, your testimony sets back the great work these people are trying to do," said Adams, referring to the dozen or so community leaders who had showed up to speak on behalf of the action plan. "We have funded this effort to create a positive change. I appreciate your frustrations, but I want to keep us on the path to improvement."

As Representative Smith left the council chambers, Commissioner Saltzman caught up with him in the mezzanine. "Good job," said Saltzman.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A High-Rise Vision for the Pearl

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Yesterday the Daily Journal of Commerce featured a proposal from PSU graduate architecture students to build some high-rise structures as a "Pearl District Gateway."

  • PSU

The complex would go in between Burnside and Davis, and 13th and 14th Avenues. The designers are suggesting some national chains, like Best Buy and Apple, as anchor tenants. Quoth Jonathan Malsin of Beam Development:

"Having national chains close-in would be great because we know people will go to them. At Burnside Bridgehead there was a lot of resistance to big box stores. But the Pearl is a retail-specific area that already has several national chains. People value authenticity here, so you do risk backlash."

The students pitched their idea to developer Harsch Investment Properties yesterday morning. So long, South Waterfront! Hello, Pearl!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Sign Shall Remain

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Commissioner Randy Leonard, lover of all things neon, has a new blog post up announcing a deal to save the iconic "Made in Oregon" sign atop the White Stag building.

The sign, which most recently advertised the Made in Oregon retail outfit, has taken on many guises over the years:


In 2009, the University of Oregon (the building's anchor tenant) applied to the landmarks commission to change the sign to read "University of Oregon." Randy vehemently opposed this deal.

Now the sign's owner, Ramsay Signs, has agreed to donate it to the city. Here's a rather anemic rendering of what it will look like:


Not a bad compromise. I hope they bold up the type a bit, though.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What's That Buzzing Sound?

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Now that Clear is rapidly pursuing its dream to bring plodding, intermittent wireless internet into thousands of Portland homes, its transmission equipment is popping up across the city. Not everyone's happy about the idea.

Or, NIMBY for short.
  • Or, "NIMBY" for short.
Neighbors in Beaumont-Wilshire passed a resolution at their meeting in January "by overwhelming vote" to tell Clear not to install antennas at NE 37th and Fremont.

Now neighbors around the site are putting up signs on their lawns, like the one pictured here.

Health risks from radiation aren't the only concern: the Beaumont-Wilshire neighbors say city code requires the company to look for less populated sites first, and that the equipment makes too much noise.

Clear wants to mount its antenna on an existing utility pole outside the Wilshire Market. It previously wanted to put it in a school, but Portland Public schools agreed to stop installing antennas on its property after a public outcry over health concerns last year.

Last spring, the City of Portland, led by Amanda Fritz, asked the Federal government to do more studies on the effects of wireless signals on public health.

Speaking of antennas and schools, a couple weeks ago Jack Bog's blog pointed out this little farce out in Gresham. Log on, kids!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Laurelhurst Strip Club Plans Roll Forward

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 4:54 PM

The controversial strip club planned for NE 33rd and Sandy is rolling forward after the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) approved its license with some restrictions yesterday in a 4-1 vote.

Neighbors and the Portland Police, you may recall, were hoping the OLCC would reject the application to establish Mynt Gentleman's Club on the edge of the Laurelhurst neighborhood due to problems in past clubs managed or owned by Mynt applicant Tracy Doss. The police complained that under Doss's management, Fusion nightclub in Old Town saw six fights or assaults in two months in 2008. The violence dropped off after Doss turned Fusion into Spyce Gentleman's Club. The guy's got a thing for y's, apparently.

During the OLCC review process, Neighborhood Association Chair Eric Fruits dug up some more tantalizing dirt on Doss: he was cited in Ohio for allowing brutal man vs. bear wrestling at a bar he owned in Columbus.

The neighbors snagged big-name local lawyer Jim Francesconi to defend their objections to the OLCC, but Fruits says he's not surprised the board swung in favor of the restricted license. "They’re fairly stringent restrictions. The next step is how does the OLCC actually enforce those restrictions," says Fruits. The list of restrictions include having four security personnel on-site after 9 PM Thursday through Saturday and patrolling their parking lot every 30 minutes. The restrictions make no mention of bears, wrestling or bear wrestling.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Clowns, Crowds, Cash and Chaos: Alberta Neighbors Sound Off on Future of Last Thursday

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 10:30 AM

It’s not often that the line to enter a public meeting looks like the line outside an exclusive bar. But as over 400 people squeezed into the Acadian ballroom last night for a public meeting about the future of Last Thursday, the crowd spilled out the door and stretched up NE Alberta. A girl in striped tights with bright red hair and bells around her ankles joined the end of the line just as the sun was setting. “Is this the place?” she asked. Of course.

The spirit of Last Thursday
  • Zervas
  • The spirit of Last Thursday
Commissioners Sam Adams and Amanda Fritz did not set out to officially decide anything at the meeting (“We’re here just to air things out,” Adams told the crowd) but one thing was made overwhelmingly clear: there is massive community and business support for Last Thursday, despite the cost.

Adams and Fritz called the neighborhood meeting to discuss the impact of the art event that has grown over the past 13 years from a few fringe artists and ne’er-do-well clowns to a defining aspect of a neighborhood in transition. Over the past year, the city has shelled out $11,000-12,000 a month from May to October to keep Last Thursday clean and car-free. Now it’s up for debate whether the city should continue to foot the bill.

With 10,000 people heading to NE Alberta every last Thursday for five months out of the year, it seems like there would be a way to dig up money to pay for trash cans, portapotties and police. “Unlike every other arts festival in town, nobody runs Last Thursday,” noted city crime prevention coordinator Stephanie Reynolds. “This makes things a little bit complicated because there’s no one person to go to and say, ‘Hey! You! Fix this.’”

Continue reading »

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BREAKING: Last Days for Last Thursday?

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 9:40 AM

At the beginning of the week the nonprofit group Art on Alberta posted an event invitation on Facebook that signaled, to many, the potential demise of Last Thursday as we know it.

Illustration by Jonathan Sperry
  • Illustration by Jonathan Sperry

The event is billed simply as a "community meeting about Last Thursday on Alberta," and will be hosted by Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Amanda Fritz. They'll be taking public testimony from "stakeholders" (always an ominous term, in my opinion) about their options, including:

• Continue the event as is
• Continue the event with significant changes
• End Last Thursday on Alberta

The Last Thursday event has grown a great deal in recent years. What started in 1997 as Northeast Portland's version of a gallery walk has grown into a phantasmagoria of artists, pedestrians, yuppie parents, poi spinners and free-spending drunks. Not to mention the tidal wave of income that hits the street's businesses once per summer month.

The Mercury's Sarah Mirk has covered the event's growing pains: In 2008, the event's organizers convinced the city to close the street during the fair. The semi-official status led to concerns over the G-word. And last summer there were rumbles about "mounting tensions" during the event. Apparently the people who actually live there have had problems with abusive people pissing on their lawns.

Calls are out to Adams and Fritz about what they may be planning. Meanwhile, Facebook and Couchsurfing are abuzz with the seeds of resistance. What say you, Blogtownies? What's Last Thursday to you?

Last Thursday:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Muddy Waters Cafe Needs $10,000 to Stay Open

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Eleven months after it went "anti-profit", Muddy Waters coffeeshop on SE Belmont says it will have to close its doors unless it can raise $10,000 by the end of the week.

Four co-owners/baristas took over the shop last February (more on that here), aiming to turn the sofa-laden cafe into a community center run on an "anti-profit" model that would pour any income other than their own four salaries back into good causes. In the last year, the cafe's calendar has been packed with open mic nights, movie nights and open jam sessions.

But things haven't gone according to the financial plan. Co-owner Sarah Dread says the cafe owners have been working for free since opening last February, supporting themselves with second jobs. "For the last few months, we've gotten to the point where we're losing money every day we're open. Business has been slowly declining," says Dread. The cafe has failed to claim 501(c)3 non-profit status as it originally planned.

Though Dread says Muddy Waters' landlords have been very accommodating, the building owners as well as the cafe co-owners have reached a breaking point. "It's been a long time coming. We're almost always out of at least some things because we can't afford to buy it," says Dread. The cafe is hosting fundraiser events daily through Sunday at the shop (2908 SE Belmont), including a pancake brunch this Saturday at 11 am.

Update 1/7: Muddy Waters says it will now be open 24/7 until Sunday and, as of Wednesday night, they've raised $1,800.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lents Park Snags $100,000 for Master Plan

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Protestor at a Beavers in Lents meeting last spring.
  • Protestor at a Beavers in Lents meeting last spring.
Remember the heady times of last spring, when the city and Merritt Paulson proposed building the new Beaver's stadium with urban renewal money in Lents Park?

The deal fell through in part because keeping the 38-acre park as open space had a lot of support among neighbors, who complained loudly that the city Parks Department had neglected their beloved park.

Last night Parks Department Commissioner Nick Fish announced a major boon to little Lents: $100,000 for master planning the park, much of which will come from urban renewal funds. As the neighborhood association's press release notes, the last master plan for Lents Park was drafted in 1981, right at the time that that construction of Interstate 205 cut through the heart of the neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Laurelhurst Strip Club Moves Toward OK

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 2:06 PM

The Portland Police recommended against approving a liquor license for the planned Mynt Gentleman's Club on NE 33rd and Sandy.

The neighborhood association recommended against approving the liquor license.

And yet, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) staff report released today recommends approving the license for the controversial site.

The owners of Mynt originally planned to open a bar called Fat Jacks on the site of the old La Fortuna Mexican restaurant and bar. But (as I reported here) after neighbors protested that the bar would lead to violence and noise and the police noted the sketchy history of co-owner Tracy Doss's other bar, Fusion nightclub downtown, the developers changed Fat Jacks bar to Mynt Gentleman's Club.

Like this, but sexxxy.
  • Like this, but sexxxy.
Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association Eric Fruits posted the OLCC staff recommendation online this afternoon.

The report spells out that because Mynt co-owner Tracy Doss was just a manager of Fusion, not an official liquor license holder, the multiple assaults that went down at Fusion shouldn't be held against him. The OLCC staff also addressed Laurelhurst neighbors' concerns that La Fortuna had been a problem area for violence. "Although the five incidents in 22 months, with four serious incidents including a homicide, are a cause for concern, the problems do not appear to rise to the level of problems that the Commission has determined are serious and persistent in other cases," reads the report, begging the question what is more "serious and persistent" than a homicide and three assaults.

"It seems to say to me, as long as you don't own the license, you can do whatever you want and get a free pass," says Fruits. "I hope that's not true, though the Commissioner will have the final vote." The OLCC commissioners are slated to vote on the license this Thursday the 17th.


Monday, December 14, 2009

NE Building Collapses, as Predicted By the Mayans

Posted by Dave Bow on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Could a repeat of last year's snowpocalypse be right around the corner? The streets may be drivable, but that hasn't stopped the cold from leaving a trail of destruction, this time right down the block from the Mercury offices!

The O reported that an industrial building collapsed in Northeast Portland, so I walked over to check it out. The fire department officials on the scene said that a pipe burst, waterlogging the empty building until the floor gave way (that's the floor in the photo below, sticking out of the structure like a tongue). Nobody was hurt, but given that the dissolving building is perched right over the MAX Blue and Green lines and I-84, if the soil keeps eroding there could be reason to worry. Similarly, the building is right next to the foundations of the bridge that carries NE 21st across the freeway, so here's to hoping this gets cleaned up quick.


More photos after the jump.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Portland Plan: Pins and Polite Public Process... and What Homeless People?

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 2:07 PM

First of all, we need to establish a club called “Pounding Pints of IPA to Prepare for Public Portland Plan Presentations.” We will drink. Then we will attend public meetings. We will find the city’s Powerpoint presentations not only tolerable but highly amusing.

It might have been the pint of something Belgian I had before the first official public input session on the Portland Plan last night at Beaumont Middle School, but the two and a half hour meeting felt, well, good. It mostly felt very, very, very Portland. Like this sugary-smug National Geographic article about how everything in Portland is friendly, sustainable and “fashionably eclectic”. It felt like that. Only in real life. It was a bizarrely polite and upbeat 2.5 hour discussion about the steep challenges our city will face over the next 25 years, hosted in a way that would have made National Geographic’s Intelligent Traveler blush with joy.

Exhibit A: The sign outside the door.


Exhibit B:

The free buttons. Portlanders love buttons. Especially graphically-simple ones that look like maybe they’re for bands or good causes. City planners have us pinned. Ha. I took three.

Exhibit C:
We love public process, especially if it can involve our iPhones.

“This is about ‘groundtruthing’ and ‘crowdsourcing’,” said Mayor Adams, listing the Twitter and Facebook pages where the public could get involved and then doing his trademark “Mayor Sam wades into the crowd and takes citizen comments” move.

Commissioner Fish was also on hand tell the standing-room only crowd "it's all about you." Fish framed the plan as a completely bottom-up vision for the city, as opposed to the current Portland Plan, which was written exclusively by city bureaus back in 1980. “The Portland Plan and the process we are launching tonight is not about Sam Adams’ vision, it is about your vision. This process has been structured to be about you,” said Fish.

Exhibit D: Overlooking the homeless. The comment of the night goes to the young guy who noted that the word “homelessness” is almost entirely absent from the Portland Plan. He’s right. Though the plan discusses things that contribute to homelessness, like lack of affordable housing and economic development, the word “homeless” appears exactly twice: the very bottom of page 16 calls out the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness under “Related Reports” and then on page 24, there’s a link to that plan.

But shouldn’t dealing with homelessness be an integral part of a comprehensive plan for city in the state that ranks #1 for homelessness per capita in the nation?

This woman, N. Scrantz Lersch, is not on the city payroll. Shes an illustrator who just turned up to draw the meeting.
  • This woman, N. Scrantz Lersch, is not on the city payroll. She's an illustrator who just turned up to draw the meeting.

Exhibits E through H below the cut.

Continue reading »

Friday, October 16, 2009

City Debates Gutting Vacant Washington High

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 2:07 PM

  • Jeff Yarbrough

For more than 30 years, inner Southeast Portland residents have agitated for a community center in their part of town. Ever since Portland Public Schools moved out of Washington High School on SE 15th and Stark six years ago, neighbors have eyed the plum piece of property and historic school that has sat vacant. At a public meeting last night, the Portland Parks Department and SERA Architects publicly presented two plans for finally building a community center at Washington High School. But neither plan is perfect: one involves buying Washington High from Portland Public Schools (PPS) and demolishing the interior to build a community center inside, the second plan would build on the grassy acres next to the high school building, leaving the decaying school in the hands of PPS.

Two WaHi options: click to enlarge!
  • Two WaHi options: click to enlarge!


And either option brings a hefty price tag—$49.5 million to build a community center on the adjacent lot and $59.4 million to build it inside the high school, plus the cost of buying the building from PPS. The citizen advisory committee is rushing ("working fast and furious" in the words of Parks Director Zari Santner) to choose a final plan. The neighborhood needs to decide on a set plan by the end of this month to have it included in the bond measure Parks plans to put in front of voters in 2010. If that funding falls through, the community center idea could be stalled for who knows how many more years.

For the children! Cute signs at last nights meeting.
  • For the children! Cute signs at last night's meeting.

Opinion at the meeting last night was divided on the idea of "gutting and stuffing" Washington High, which is up for Historic Landmark designation this month (and, by the way, if the school gets it, the gutting plan is off). The Buckman neighborhood association voted to support the gutting option because putting the community center within the walls of the old building will save land, "reduce neighborhood impact" and reuse a beautiful but neglected building. Also, as advisory committee chair Susan Lindsay put it, if Parks does not buy the school from PPS, there's the distinct possibility it will molder vacant for another decade. “I’m fearful that the building will be razed, or sit there for ten years in disrepair," said Lindsay last night, bluntly adding that PPS "has sat on properties" rather than turn them over to cities or neighborhoods.

After the meeting wrapped up, Kerns resident Mary Francillon filled out the community opinion survey as other residents looked over plans and asked questions. On the survey section asking which plan she supports, Francillon had crossed out the middle option, "Either one is great!" and scrawled in, "Neither one is good enough!" "I think the building should be saved," explained Francillon, "But I'm afraid to see it sit there for decades."

More on this story below the cut! PLUS: Should Portland Public Schools hand over Washington High to the city for free so it can become a community center?

Continue reading »

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

City Axes Kenton Trees, Plants More "Business-Friendly" Species

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 4:26 PM

Historic lumberjack, brand new stump.
  • Sean Breslin
  • Historic lumberjack, brand new stump.

An upset reader named Nick called in yesterday from the streets of Kenton, where he watched city-contracted lumberjacks cut down trees near the neighborhood's statue of Paul Bunyan. "They're littering the streets with huge branches!" he cried.

Turns out the city is axing 21 trees from the neighborhood as part of the redevelopment of Kenton's main street, North Denver. The old, leafy trees will be replaced with 49 new ones that are of more "business friendly" varieties.

The citizen advisory committee to the Portland Development Commission's Downtown Kenton Redevelopment Project recommended that the city widen the sidewalks along N Denver from 10 feet wide to 15 feet wide to make the area for pedestrian friendly. But, says Portland Transportation staffer Kathryn Levine, widening the sidewalk would have meant the current trees would be in the middle of the pedestrian path. The group okayed cutting down and replacing the 21 trees. "I don't know of any projects that have moved trees of that size," says Levine.

According to the streetscape committee's report, "In recent years, there have been persistent complaints from business and property owners about the current street trees in Downtown Kenton. These trees are red maples, dense columnar trees that, in some cases, block signage and/or historic facades. While many in the district appreciate the maples’ striking Fall color, the broad leaves (which tend to drop ‘all at once’ within a fairly tight time period) cause some backup of the storm sewer."

Levine says that although she has had one complaint about the city cutting down the trees, "Within the advisory committee there was agreement to move forward with the project and that meant removing the trees."

The new trees, Honey Locust and Redwood Ash, meet criteria for trees that "meet the needs of the district," including "avoiding excessive litter" and having "‘business-friendly’ airy leaf/branch patterns".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Old Town's Soon-to-Be New Resident

Posted on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Little by little, building by building, Old Town is catching up with the rest of downtown. Its newest addition? The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM), slated to move into the old Globe Hotel building in fall of 2010.


OCOM's new headquarters in the Globe Hotel building (Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects)

The building, also known as Import Plaza, is being gutted on the inside and updated to fit earthquake codes, but its historical façade will remain. Only a few cosmetic changes, such as new window frames (the current ones are in various stages of deterioration) and a new coat of paint to more closely match the original color of the Globe Hotel, will be implemented.

The Portland Historic Landmark Commission approved the design for the 98-year-old building submitted by architect Greg Vohs, of Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, which includes a 4,200 square-foot penthouse addition. The original design, which featured a sloped roof, was rejected because the commission felt it did not keep in character with Old Town.

“We redesigned it to make it much more utilitarian,” Vohs said of the approved, flat-roofed design.

OCOM’s new location at NW Couch and 1st Avenue will join Mercy Corps in the Skidmore Fountain Building and the University of Oregon in the White Stag Building in Old Town Chinatown, representing the community’s effort to revitalize the historic neighborhood, known now primarily for its cabarets and as a safe haven for the homeless.

“I think [the move] is really going to change the dynamic down there. With OCOM, University of Oregon, and Mercy Corps…it’s going to make it a different place. There will be more people on the street during the daytime,” Vohs said.

The Globe Hotel building will also house one or two retail spaces on the ground floor and potentially a community events space, as well. In addition to OCAM’s classrooms and offices, there will be an Oriental medicine clinic open to the public six days a week.

Note: The “Import Plaza” sign that still rotates above the building is being preserved but changed to read “OCOM.” So far, this has not spurred controversy on the scale of the White Stag/Made in Oregon sign. Yet.

Michael Gaeta, OCOM’s president, was not available for comment.

-Rachael Marcus

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Big Transit, Big Building, Big $$$

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 3:03 PM

In this week's paper, I reported on a fight between neighbors, the city and the developer who's building the four-story Albert Apartment building on the old N. Williams House of Sound site. Neighbors are upset about a variety of things with the project — some lament the gentrification of the area, others that the building is a different design character than the rest of the street. In the article I wanted to talk about historical importance of the site, so I didn't have space to discuss one important issue: Should this 72 unit mixed-use building qualify for a $1.12 million transit oriented tax break?


LEED Silver Apartments - soon to be occupying an entire city block near you!

The city initially said yes. Since the design meets the city's transit oriented development guidelines, the project was officially stamped good for transit because it's over 10 units, makes 20 percent of its apartments "affordable" and is within a quarter mile of MLK Avenue (a rapid bus transit Main Street).

But that seems absurd to neighbor Tracy Olson, who wrote an appeal against the plan. "How is his development Transit Oriented? He is building a 49 car parking lot on the ground floor, something the City does not require and in fact a feature that in the City's eyes discourages mass transit usage. This parking lot will include ONE car share space - for 72 apartments, ONE car share as part of the TOD abatement qualifications, Transit Oriented?"

Olson's right - while the transit-oriented zoning means developers don't have to put in any parking spaces for residents in a project like this, the city's "transit oriented" criteria do not include a parking space maximum. The car share space isn't required for transit-oriented development either, that's just a "public benefit" a developer can putting in to qualify for the tax break. So what if Portland forced developers to build carfree housing in mass transit corridors? I wrote last year about some smart young architects who are doing density right in North Portland — their cohousing project started off with parking spaces, but ripped them out to make room for more condos.

That's an extreme. But, hey, isn't Portland looking to be the most sustainable city in the whole wide world?

The Albert Apartments design is up for appeal in July, drop the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods a line to figure out how to get involved.

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