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Constantin

"...one has to think of downtown and the Pearl District as one place. " I think your absolutely right on that. I've never understood why some folks want to hang on to artifical/dated divisions b/n downtown proper and the Pearl.

I think something that those articles missed is that there is a lot of retail activity that is going on in the Neighborhoods. In the last five years there has been a tremendous expansion of retail activity on 23rd,Hawthorne, Belmont, Alberta, and more recently Lower E. Burnside, Mississippi and Freemont. I think that's where downtown is getting dinged, a local retailer who 10 years ago had a choice between downtown, 23rd, or Hawthorne now has at least 6 or 7 Portland nabs that they choose from depending on the vibe and demo that they're seeking. I don't think it is a bad thing. Downtown with its relatively higher rents and great access to the metro area needs to differentiate itself.

I've been to Bridgeport twice since it opened and it's fine for what it is(if you can find parking), a mall, but it isn't a threat to downtown. If you live in Tualatin or West Linn how often are you coming downtown to do shopping anyways.

cab

Downtown has stagnated because the majority property owner has sat on blocks and blocks of surface parking lots. Basically any place this particular surface parking lot slum lord doesn't own property has boomed. Its ironic since this property owner tends to be one of the leading critics of Downtown. Seems a form of self hate.

ws

cab...Greg Goodman. That's who you're talking about. Why don't you just say his name? And what is wrong with his business strategy? He's playing the aquisition profit game so highly admired by busines.

Goodman's been on record saying his family is interested in developing property....on their terms. That's consistent with good business practice isn't it? He's making money legitimately. If his detractors were in a similar situation, no doubt they would feel similarly legitimate about what they were doing.

All those parking lots are a product of the auto centralized transportation culture developed over the last century. Developers are always looking for the cheap way, rather than the quality way to go. Even if Goodman's lots were available for development at pencil out terms to developers, with few exceptions, they would be hollering for above, rathe than below ground parking to be built in the towers they sought to construct.

Former brownfield, now lifestyle center Bridgeport Village type malls can never approach the authenticity of a living breathing city until it embraces life in its entirety, something it will never do because to them that would not be cost efficient. You can't live there, you can't do business there except retail.

Downtown can be better, less intimidating to visitors and shoppers, and competitive with malls if it continues to realistically address problems associated with life in an urban downtown setting. Taking people off the streets by spending money humanely to house people who are unable to derive a legitamate income is an intelligent thing to continue doing.

Solving problems associated with development of transportation to and from downtown may be a headache for merchants, but the outcome should ease them.

These are things that go along with being in the real world.

Cab

Then he needs to stop complaining about Downtown. Businessmen around him are taking advantage of time and place and creating opportunities, he's sat on a massive amount of land downtown limiting its development. Its that simple. Evertime you drive down Front Ave ask yourself why no development has taken place on such a valuable location, or why in SW old town a critical mass of retail hasn't developed. You name an area Downtown and any time a street starts to get somekind of retail momentum, boom, an unkept surface parking lot breaks it up.

Agustin Enriquez V

"Developers are always looking for the cheap way, rather than the quality way to go."

I don't buy it. The Brewery Blocks were not the cheap way to go--there are around 1350 parking stalls below the 5 blocks (that couldn't have been cheap). Neither is any of the current development happening in South Waterfront--the condo projects are among the most expensive places to live in the city and the Center for Health and Healing has 3 levels of underground parking beneath it and the lot across the street (not cheap moves on the developers part). The recent downtown condo tower by the Art Museum has a large underground parking structure beneath it and that building doesn't look cheap to me. Those three examples have three different developers and all three strived for "the quality way to go."

Richard

Goodman's decision to keep land tied up in surface parking lots creates an additional problem besides visual blight and discontinuity of built spaces. It also tends to shift development to other pieces of land that are already the sites of buildings. And some of these buildings--as in the case of our old friend the Rosefriend--are important parts of the look, feel, uniqueness, history and meaning of Portland. The old buildings are part of the reason that people choose to come downtown in their free time even though, for most of those people, their basic needs to eat, drink or buy could be satisfied more conveniently elsewhere. Have you ever noticed how the best restaurants, bars, hotels, art galleries and music clubs tend to be in old buildings? Part of what people want, it seems, when they choose to drink at the Virginia Cafe or stay at the Heathman hotel is the experience of being in an old and unique space. That's an experience that's difficult to come by in the suburbs but is attainable in a city.

Development within an established urban environment usually involves destruction. Developers are good at answering the question whether new development "pencils out" financially. Unfortunately, they don't generally bother with the question of whether it pencils out architecturally and culturally. On that level, the Ladd Tower development and consequent Rosefriend destruction clearly doesn't pencil out. The upcoming redevelopment of the block containing the old Dental Building, Zell Brothers and Virginia Cafe also doesn't pencil out, in my opinion, though that one's a closer call. High rise condos on surface parking lots or the current sites of parking garages: now that clearly pencils out.

Unfortunately, while Goodman obviously knows how to work the "free market" to his personal advantage, he's interfering with market forces that might otherwise dictate that those downtown lots without structures already in place would be the first places to be developed. Which is yet another piece of evidence that we sure as hell can't trust to so-called market logic to preserve what's good about our city.

I know the original post wasn't about Goodman, so maybe I can try to make a larger and more relevant point. Putting more housing downtown, if this is done with great care, should be a good way to sustain the area economically. I worry, though, that we don't have the regulatory mechanisms in place that would ensure that in our efforts to permit more people to live downtown we don't destroy the things that make people want to live downtown.

I sure will miss the Rosefriend and Virginia Café.

gerry

Is it just me or does it seem like downtown retailers have been having the same problem (losing customers to malls) and dealing with it the same way (proclaiming/demanding a renaissance) for about thirty years?

Downtown retail can't win by trying to be a better shopping mall. All us smartypants types know this, but still, every plan seems to revolve around somehow reproducing the malls' convenient access and sleaze-free environment. The downtown debate seems a little stuck in a way.

Also, we need to remember that the success of this kind of retail probably has more to do with Christmas shopping than anything else. The profitability of that sector is pretty much totally dependent on those last few weeks of the year. And as holiday shopping has metastatized into the monster it presently is, so will people continue largely to avoid anything but the most comprehensive, fully-stocked, easily accessed shopping destinations: gigantic malls with acres of parking located near freeway exits. Sad but true.

Bill

We should "urban renewal" Goodman's lots, because they are flat-out blight on the urban environment. Create an RFP that includes a small public plaza & affordable housing so there is a public benefit, and threaten to take 'em away from him if he continues to sit on 'em.

What a bloody joke - at least the PDC was able to redevelop the south auditorium district back in the 60s in a fairly successful manner; give the PDC back its' balls and get some shit done!

Bill

Back onto retail, my first memories of coming downtown as a kid included the funky restaurants, 24 church of Elvis, and vintage clothing stores. We still have 2 out of the 3, although the explosin of new art galleries partially makes up for it. Unfortunately, so many of the little funky places have jumped over to the eastside, which has opened quite a few vacancies in downtown... but a large part of downtown's problem is the unwillingness or disinterest landowners have in improving their properties - there are tons of buildings downtown that should have ground floor retail, but don't. Huge gaps in the urban fabric effectively destroy the street environment.

Storefront improvement plans that reach out TO the building owners to spruce up and lease out vacant spots in their buildings would be the best way to go about it (like they are doing on the transit mall), but I suspect many landowners are vacating their buildings purposely so they can rehab or tear down the POS they have and build something new, since the market is so strong.

Still, I have my Church of Elvis t-shirt, so I'm happy!

ws

Bill, maybe increasing rents is the reason all the little funky places have had to flee. Stephanie Pierce, the proprietress of Church of Elvis couldn't make the rent once Berbati's forced her out of her very successful location on Ankeny btwn 2nd and 3rd.

People are contradictory...they like funky stuff, but they also like new stuff. I suppose that's partially why some people you wouldn't think would be so otherwise, are ecstatic about Moyer plopping his massive tower on the homesite of the VC, a move that will obliterate for the forseeable future, one more shred of the onetime shoulder to shoulder co-existence of the funky and the classy downtown.

In the end, for many people, it's all about making money. This, for the people most consistently having the clout to make big changes downtown, is what will likely have the biggest role in the changes we shall see there.

Craig

I read that supposedly visionary NAU Sportswear is opening one of their first locations in Bridgeport Village (in spite of the fact that their HQ is in the Pearl). Somehow their urban cool sustainability brand message doesn't quite jibe with the Bridgeport reality of fake streetscape shopping mall (surrounded by acres of parking).

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