Sick of Portland Changing? Too Bad. Here Are 7 Places Where This City Could Soon Go Big. (Rosie Struve)
The horizon is thick with cranes: 32 at last count, more than all but four other U.S. cities. As many as 10,000 hardhat jobs remain unfilled, The Oregonian reported last month. Developers will add a projected 6,500 apartments to the metro area this year.
A handful of large-scale projects are expected to break ground in the next five years, and they could radically alter the face of both sides of the Willamette River. They could change Portlanders’ commutes, and the jobs where they work. And these few projects could have an outsized effect on the cost of housing.
"One thing we can be sure of: Whatever we think won’t change will," says Ethan Seltzer, professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.
That may sound like hyperbole. But these proposed projects are big, ambitious and still unformed. If done right, they could help Portland grow into a major U.S. city, make it a national model for transportation, and handle a wave of new arrivals without pushing out people who live here now. If done wrong, the projects will squander a building boom, clog the streets with cars and make this city a playground for the rich.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to shape entire neighborhoods, improve our economy and continue to put our values around sustainability into practice," says Mayor Ted Wheeler. "We should think big."
None of that future is certain. Some of these projects need champions. Some of them require money. And others—the biggest opportunities of all—are still casting about for the right idea.
In the past month, WW has spoken to more than two dozen planners, architects and city officials. Many of them pointed to the same spots on the map—and said these places could herald a new cityscape.
These could be the seven wonders of Newer Portland. Or the next developments you’ll love to hate. Either way, get ready.
Basically, a mini Silicon Valley—a swath of the city dedicated to companies focused on health, science and technology, lining the river on both ends of Tilikum Crossing.
Oregon Health & Science University is awash in a billion-dollar fundraiser by Nike co-founder Phil Knight to find a cure for cancer. OHSU and Portland State University want lab space for startups that grow out of their cancer research and tech incubators.
The companies at the incubator are working on health tech ranging from new drugs to treat eye disease and stroke to a completely artificial heart.
"It’s perfect timing," says OTRADI executive director Jennifer Fox. "Our most pressing need is space for when they move out of the incubator. They are used to being clustered around each other. They have gotten addicted to collaboration."
So OHSU and PSU have joined forces with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and Portland Community College. Together, they’ve concocted an ambitious scheme to take a section of the city with a lot of new development and vacant property, and roll it into one project. They’re calling it the Innovation Quadrant.
The four organizations are betting they’ll produce enough tech startups—especially around cancer research and genetic engineering—that they can attract developers to build lab space for those companies.
A block away, Zidell Yards just finished welding its last barge—and the Zidell family wants to develop the 30-acre shipyard. (The plans for Zidell Yards currently include 1.5 million square feet of office space, 2,200 residential units and 200 hotel rooms.)
Prosper Portland’s Lisa Abuaf and Kimberly Branam look out over the future Broadway Corridor development site at the central U.S. Post Office. (Thomas Teal)
Prosper Portland says that’s what will happen: 2,400 new apartments, space for 4,000 jobs, and an office tower zoned to rise as tall as 40 stories.
The U.S. Postal Service’s hulking, drab mail-sorting center sits between the Pearl District and Chinatown, clogging the central city with a shrinking federal agency in a building that has all the charm of a 1960s cafeteria (plus an actual cafeteria). In 2018, the post office will move to a new location near Portland International Airport.
Lisa Abuaf and Kimberly Branam look out over the future Broadway Corridor development site at the central U.S. Post Office. (Thomas Teal)
Forest Park (Christine Dong)
You may know that Portland contains one of the 10 largest city-owned parks in the country. You might not know that the 5,200 acres of Forest Park contain 52 species of native mammals—like bobcats and mountain beavers—and 100 species of birds, including the largest known pileated woodpecker, standing 1 foot tall.
Early, preliminary rendering of the Forest Park visitor center completed this year.
A visitors’ center would cost about $10 million to build, parks officials estimate. In 2014, Portland voters passed a $68 million parks bond, but all that money is going to restoring decayed facilities that already exist. The nonprofit that contributes private dollars to the parks, the Portland Parks Foundation, could chip in, or private industry—that’s how the Tillamook State Forest’s $10.7 million visitors’ center was built in 2006.
Hundreds of new apartments are going into the LloydDistrict and could completely change the neighborhood.
One would build on the parking lot for Lloyd Cinemas—a vaguely depressing Regal multiplex. The project would include 680 apartments and artist live-work spaces. Another, called Oregon Square, could place a whopping 1,100 units atop office buildings. That’s a grand total of up to 1,800 apartments and condos—more than the number of homes in the entire Hollywood neighborhood.
Portland needs housing on the scale of whole new neighborhoods. Rents rose 44 percent in the first half of this decade—and between 2010 and 2015, Multnomah County added 2.7 jobs for every housing permit application filed, according to data from Apartment List.
In 2010, just 1,142 people lived in the neighborhood. But the Lloyd District has changed dramatically. Developers have opened three new apartment buildings, each with less than 1,000 units—including one with a national record number of bicycle parking spaces: 1,200.
Lloyd Center ice rink, prior to renovation. (Roger Bong)
(Image: Untitled Studio)
Advocates are pushing for giving buses their own lanes, starting on the Hawthorne Bridge.(Sofie Murray)
So the next step is counterintuitive. Portland needs to make its traffic problems worse, and quickly, at least for cars, so that commuters using public transit get to their jobs more quickly. If we can move buses more efficiently, more people will be willing to ride them.
The Goodman family are seeking developers to build high-rise towers near VooDoo Doughnut and Pine Street Market. (Carleigh Oeth)
(Image: Prosper Portland)
The Goodmans are developing the first of the sites, at 108 SW 3rd Ave. The Historic Landmarks Commission recently approved a six-story building with 133 apartments, a fifth of them affordable, and retail on the ground floor. Construction is expected to begin this year.