Late Tuesday afternoon has come word from the Portland Development Commission from its Centennial Mills Evaluation Committee that LAB Holding of Costa Mesa, California is the recommended development team - the winner in a three team race against developers Nitze-Stagen of Seattle and the Cordish Company of Baltimore to turn around this decaying local landmark.
You can read the press release here, but it doesn't say too much yet about the decision. Before reading any comments coming up in Wednesday's papers, I'd assume the less ambitious, and therefore less costly, nature of the LAB proposal weighed in the developers' favor given the downturning economy and so forth. One would assume the Nitze-Stagen proposal finished second. I know The Oregonian's editors and numerous commenters here felt strongly that the Nitze-Stagen proposal, including a design team led by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, was a good one. I also remember hearing more than one person say they weren't blown away by LAB's proposal in person several days ago. I'm still not completely sure which of these two I favored. Nitze-Stagen and ZGF seemed to have the highest quality plan, but maybe it was a little too ambitious. I'm not necessarily displeased to think that the original Centennial Mills buildings will seemingly be more prominent now that the LAB proposal has been chosen.
What's next? PDC says: "Executive Director Warner will now present the recommendation to the PDC Board of Commissioners at the March 26 Commission Meeting. If the Board approves the recommendation, PDC and LAB Holding, LLC will begin negotiation toward a Disposition and Development Agreement." So speak to the Board or forever hold your peace (except in cyberspace).
Of course as we've learned with projects like Burnside Bridgehead, all this may be moot anyway. We may be several years from seeing something completed there. And if something does get built, the design may change along the way. In fact, that's certain. It's only a question of how much.
In the days ahead, we'll want to look back on this process and whether it was a successful one. How do people feel so far?
One other caveat: It's not a done deal that the PDC board will go along with the evaluation committee's decision. In the case of Burnside Bridgehead, for example, they rejected the decision and went with Opus Northwest over Beam Construction, the latter of which was, if I remember correctly, the committee's recommendation. However, I think it's more likely this time around that the board will agree with the committee, because the board is more apt, as they were with the Bridgehead, to be financially minded -- and the LAB proposal is much less ambitious in terms of what it would ask of public investment and what would be physically built there.
And aside from what was the most appropriate decision for PDC to make given economic and other realities, which plan was best from a pure design standpoint?