Friday, April 30, 2010
New plan takes shape for Burnside Bridgehead
Portland Business Journal - by Wendy Culverwell Business Journal staff writer
Five years after the Portland Development Commission teamed with Opus Northwest to transform the four blocks at the base of the Burnside Bridge into a glittery urban center, it is weighing a new plan with more modest goals.
The new plan taking shape emphasizes action and jobs, not condominiums, office towers and big box retailers.
“The idea is to get going sooner rather than later and spur redevelopment,” said Geraldene Moyle, senior project manager for PDC.
The agency is spending nearly $1 million per year on planning and preliminary development for the project. That will increase to $5 million in 2010-2011 as work gets going.
Remodeling Convention Plaza, an empty 100,000-square-foot office building once expected to be demolished, is the likely first project. Beam Development, PDC’s Bridgehead consultant, expects to propose a redevelopment plan for Convention Plaza as soon as the PDC adopts the framework plan, which could happen as early as May. Work could begin this fall.
Beam earned the right to develop up to 20 percent of the Burnside Bridgehead by serving as the PDC’s guide on the framework plan. PDC will solicit proposals from would-be partners for the balance of the site.
Beam president Brad Malsin said several unidentified tenants have lined up to occupy the building.
That’s music to the ears of the Central Eastside Industrial Council.
“Seeing anything happen is very positive at this point,” said Terry Taylor, the organization’s executive director.
In the long term, the Bridgehead plan allows the site to develop as market forces demand. In the beginning, projects will probably be low-key. As the economy improves, taller buildings could be included. No uses, including residential, have been ruled out. The zoning for the Burnside Bridgehead allows for up to 12 square feet of development for every square foot of land.
The $260 million Opus effort foundered when it couldn’t find tenants to anchor the effort and the development agreement expired. The 2005 plan presumed the entire site would be vacant and that Southeast Third Avenue would be closed to traffic.
The vision for condominiums, offices and large-format retailers did not sit well with neighboring businesses who want to retain the eastside’s gritty industrial character. The new plan honors that.
“The goal isn’t to change the industrial nature of the district. It’s not the next Pearl,” Moyle said.
Moyle said although the initial plan never came to pass, the effort wasn’t wasted. In the intervening five years, PDC and the city have learned more about the Central Eastside, its 17,000 jobs and have a much clearer picture of how the Portland Streetcar and Burnside Couplet will affect the neighborhood.
The Central Eastside is an incubator for the kinds of businesses the city wants to cultivate, such as manufacturing and apparel.
The new plan, Moyle said, is more appropriate