Portland's least talked about urban renewal area is still in its infancy as far as new development is concerned. Many officials see the area as ripe for a new urban hub with its freeway access, light rail convergence, and plethora of underused land. Getting the ball rolling has been hard, so what can be done?
New zoning for denser development?
New street grid?
Could we make Gateway the Bellevue of Portland?
What do you think?
PDC's website: http://www.pdc.us/ura/gateway.asp
PDC's project map: http://www.pdc.us/pdf/ura/gateway/project-map.pdf
Portland should get its gateway
And Gateway should get its green
Sunday, July 27, 2008
P lanning geeks like to crow about Portland becoming America's "most European" city. We sure hope that's not Paris they see in our future. We're not that taken with the idea of a high couture core surrounded by slums.
As more and more people -- more and more of whom happen to be wealthy -- crowd toward close-in living, Portland risks driving deepening pools of its poor to the urban fringe. Welfare checks might displace desperate housewives as the signature suburban species.
Our city's best shot at thwarting this trend is the ongoing effort to forge a linked network of thriving live/work centers distant from downtown. Metro, the regional government, has targeted for development a number of such "town centers." It has dubbed just one a "regional center."
In 1954, an ambitious merchant named Fred Meyer opened a shopping center way out on Portland's east flank. Adorning it with an arch, he marked the spot he figured would one day be a glittering "gateway" to Portland.
Half a century later, that glitter -- now green -- may finally be at hand.
Neighborhood activists long have campaigned to attract investment to Gateway. Close to the airport, the area sits at a key urban crossroads where two freeways and two -- soon to be three -- light-rail lines intersect. It's been seven years since the Portland Development Commission proclaimed here an Urban Renewal Area, seven years in which nothing much has happened.
Ted Gilbert thinks he knows why developers are staying away in droves. "It's because Gateway is East Portland," he says, "a place without a brand."
Then one day Gilbert, a developer who owns both land and buildings in the area, found his gaze falling upon the island of 35 lush acres squeezed between the I-84 and I-205 interchanges. And a dream was born.
In short order, Gilbert corralled a design team from Portland State University and a hefty engineering assist from David Evans & Associates, a pledge of $1 million from a private donor, and green lights from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland Parks and Oregon State Parks -- all owners of adjoining land, including that sylvan east flank of Rocky Butte.
What's emerging is a vision plan -- Gilbert calls it "Gateway Green" -- for a 200-acre oasis of open space that could be an eastside centerpiece, and the catalyst for adjacent development. Zoning permits towers 150 feet tall.
Mark Rosenbaum, the recently departed -- and already sorely missed -- head of the Portland Development Commission, suggested in his valedictory address that Gateway might be linked to downtown with a linear green urban renewal area ribboning through Sullivan's Gulch, sparking redevelopment all along that transit corridor.
Much more of this, and from Paris to Prague, they'll be competing to be Europe's most Oregonized city.