By Don MacGillivray
The Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) has been the subject of planning activities for the last forty years. It’s time to renew and update these plans in lieu of the changing aspirations of this era.
CEID seems like a quiet area of Portland’s downtown devoted to hardworking people in support of the rest of Portland.
Over the past years, significant changes have occurred to the CEID. One is OMSI’s move to the riverfront just south of the Hawthorne Bridge. Nearby is the Portland Community College Annex called the CLIMB Center for Advancement that serves 6,300 students.
The Eastside Esplanade has made the riverfront accessible and attractive to the general public. The Multnomah County government moved their main offices from downtown to SE Grand Ave. Grand Ave. itself became a historic district keeping alive thoughts and deeds of the past.
The Trolley, built on Grand and MLK Boulevards, will stimulate future growth. While the Burnside Bridgehead development did not work out as planned, it is an ongoing project. Burnside street was renovated and is gaining new life. The Olympic Mills development has shown how older buildings can serve new functions.
Many businesses have moved to the CEID and most current businesses expect to stay.
With a long, colorful history. the Central Eastside was its own independent city in the nineteenth century. It merged with Portland in 1891 and slowly grew into what you see today.
Dominated by industrial businesses, it has always been a manufacturing and warehousing area. Its proximity to downtown is a major strength and this district employs 18,000 workers.
The SE Quadrant Plan, the last section of the Central City 2035 (CC2035) plan, will develop new policies and potential zoning updates to guide future of development and investment.
It will strengthen and enhance the area’s roll as a major employment center and update the 1988 Central City Plan, but with greater attention specifically to the Eastside.
The Quadrant Plan will “drill down” the specific areas of the CEID and improve conditions in each one while considering the issues related to growth. Increasingly popular among entrepreneurs and creative professionals the Eastside provides an opportunity for the synergistic entities that may grow there.
Many existing firms will remain in the neighborhood if the cost of doing business remains stable. This is also a factor in attracting future small incubator businesses to the district.
Currently many businesses support each other and need the vendors, designers, distributors and other services available here. Many think the Central Eastside must remain predominately an industrial district supporting middle wage employment and that there should not be new housing, like in the Pearl District, except at appropriate locations along the major business corridors.
Transportation has always been of concern and is a major consideration in this plan as well. The major transportation issues include: freight access, pedestrian safety, bike safety, parking, access to the river, and challenges between employment uses and residential neighborhoods.
For large industrial business investments to be made, transportation improvements must avoid conflicts among road users, improve freight mobility and create better southbound I-5 access for trucks.
Lack of parking is a big issue. There are 18,000 jobs in the district and only 14,000 parking spaces. The employees, additional customers and visitors compete for this parking and downtown workers sometimes park in the Central Eastside and bus across the river. The 200 foot street grid system, while good for other areas of Portland, creates various frustrations for users with large trucks.
Currently a Stakeholder Advisory Committee of thirty citizens will review the updated information and advise the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability about the content of the plan.
There are twenty members, from business-related interests, six from the non-profit/special interest groups, and four from the adjoining neighborhood associations.
The kickoff for the plan was in November of last year and the plan is expected to be adopted in March of 2015. A charrette/workshop is planned for public input in April of 2014 and there will be an open house to review the draft plan in the fall.
This will be followed by hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council. Meeting minutes, agendas, background material, and announcements will be posted on the Central City 2035 website www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/cc2035/sequadrant.
Troy Doss is the SE Quadrant project manager and Stephanie Beckman, is the public involvement specialist for the plan. They can be contacted through the website.