There is an interesting architecture column in The Oregonian today. I'm referring of course to...Renee Mitchell?
The Metro columnist weighs in on Burnside Bridgehead and cautions Southeast Portlanders and Central Eastsiders to not be quite so fervent in their worship of Bradley Malsin of Beam Development, the lone Bridgehead development candidate whose plan did not originally include big-box retail.
Mitchell basically asserts that people are supporting Malsin, a former New York eye doctor, almost solely on the big-box issue and forgetting that he has far less experience and resources than the other two candidates, Opus and Gerding-Edlen. "Maslin's proposal," she writes, "costs more, offers residents fewer chances to own their real estate, needs more of an up-front public investment and depends on a hodge-podge of local partners and the good intentions of a foreign investor..."
One glaring omission from Mitchell's column, I think, is mention of the proven success that Malsin and Beam have shown with the East Bank Commerce Center. Sure, it's not as big as Gerding-Edlen's Brewery Blocks or some Opus projects, but it is a masterfully done project within just a few blocks of Burnside Bridgehead. Beam isn't just the anti-big-box candidate. They're the home team.
Mitchell concludes by saying that once the talking is done, "the PDC still needs to select a development team that can prove it can deliver this project on time and on budget, using the least amount of public dough." That summation is a little too conservative for my taste. Of course we want the project on time and on budget, but I don't see Beam being any more incapable than its competitors. And while public resources are tight, I'd rather have the best architecture win out than simply the developer or project that brings the fewest amount of budgetary or construction headaches along the way.
Too little of the Burnside Bridgehead debate has been about the architecture, big-box notwithstanding. Who has the best buildings? That's who I want to win.