By Nancy Tannler
In 1988, the Central Eastside became an official district of Portland’s Central City and is now part of the Central City 2035 Plan (CC2035). The SE Quadrant goes from the Banfield to the Clinton Triangle and SE Powell and from the Willamette River to SE 12th Ave. with a few easterly variations. It includes portions of Kerns, Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods and is directly west of Brooklyn neighborhood.
Brief Central Eastside history
In the old days the SE was swampy and Willamette River access was difficult.
Consequently the west side of the river was developed first. In 1851 the east side of the river was incorporated into the City of Portland.
The inner eastside was first settled in 1845 as part of a 640-acre land claim planted with orchards and hay. With the help of human engineering, settlers began to drain the area and reroute and bury streams that ran into the Willamette River as well as building a trellis over the ditch at Sullivan’s Gulch (now the Banfield) for north/south access.
The first access across the Willamette was the Stark Street Ferry in 1853. By the early 1900s, the East Side Railroad was operating, there was an electric street car, and Produce Row–originally Italian immigrants–were selling locally grown fruits and vegetables to citizens, restaurants and hotels in Portland.
The first half of the twentieth century brought bridges, more industry and housing. The Italian Gardeners and Ranchers building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (at that point still known as Union Ave.) was built in 1922 providing farmers and peddlers a central location to sell and distribute produce. It’s still in use today.
After World War II, the inner eastside began to develop more industry, manufacturing and shipping while outer SE became more residential and commercial.
In 1980, the Industrial Sanctuary Policy was adopted. The policy statement calls for the preservation of industrial activity while recognizing other potential use for the district. An example of this is older, multi-story industrial buildings which can be used for small industrial incubator businesses and office space.
The central location works well for distribution and transportation functions. The initial Industrial Sanctuary policy also recognized that parts of the district are committed to non-industrial uses, including housing and retail. (See Preparing the CEID for Growth Jan 2014.)
The Downtown Plan was adopted in 1972. This original plan was to create a city center to encourage people to come downtown. They closed Harbor Dr. and replaced it with Tom McCall Waterfront Park and developed a transit mall linking it to the east and westside light rail, so it could be accessed easily.
The CC2035 plan is being negotiated by community members, business leaders, government stakeholders and other partners to corroboratively work toward a better city center.
Over the next two decades, the plan will guide public and private investment, land use and development decisions for the Central City, while honoring its important role as the heart of the city and region.
It was approved by council in October, 2012 and is now in Phase III the Quadrant Plans.
Plans for the SE Quadrant
This district provides more than 17,000 jobs, most in traditional industrial sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and industrial services. The question for developing the SE Quadrant is how to preserve a unique industrial sanctuary here when these have been lost in other parts of the central part of the City?
The motto from many representatives on the board is “Preserve the Central Eastside as an industrial sanctuary . . .” Consequently, various zoning tools were adopted to promote industrial uses throughout the district, with the exception of main street and mixed-use corridors, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Grand Ave. and Burnside St.
The recent SE Quadrant Virtual Open house disclosed several “big ideas” for the Central Eastside. Here’s a few (more can be found at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/496426):
• High density development around OMSI and the Milwaukie Max line
•Improve Employment Opportunity Subareas to increase employment densities
•Encourage new, high-density, mixed-use development along transportation corridors
•Protect Industrial Businesses from higher density and mixed-use development
•Create residential mixed-use development around Clinton Station
Troy Doss, SE Quadrant project Manager, said one area under consideration to improve and maintain industry in this sector will be changes in transportation.
As more residential and commercial development occurs, this can make it harder for big trucks and equipment to navigate around. CC2035 is looking at creating more signaled streets going east and west and one way couplets going north and south.
For vehicle transportation, they are considering rezoning areas to allow parking garages and parking lots.
From the land use perspective, the SE Quadrant can be viewed as four geographies shaped by zoning and existing uses. The Mixed-Use Corridors are the only areas where residential, retail and commercial office uses are allowed with out many restrictions.
River Front and Open Space
Because the eastside waterfront district is industrial and cut off from the river by I-5, it is not the most appealing access to the river. The Eastbank Esplanade has restored public access and connected both sides of the river. OMSI is another area that stakeholders have expressed interest in developing.
The following list are suggestions about development:
•Stormwater design to provide greenery
•Incorporate plazas with green features
•Convert under utilized rights-of-way for parklets and street seats
•Increase tree canopy
•Increase ecoroofs and green walls
•Focus areas for water transportation
•Connect buildings and open spaces to the river
•Complete greenway trail
•Designate swimming areas
•Designate human access
•Restore fish habitat
An interactive map application online allows you to look at more of the Central Eastside plans. Go to www.portlandbps.com/gis/seQuad
Note the list of map layers in the top left corner and the legend in the lower left side.
You can create endless map combinations. You can also use it to answer questions.
A few suggestions:
Is my property going to be within a 5-minute walk of a new MAX light rail station?
Turn on: Walksheds and Parcels.
Are all the oldest buildings in the district already protected with national landmark status?
Turn on: Building Age and Historic Resources.
Is employment density highest in the Employment Opportunity Subarea (EOS) between SE 3rd and Water Ave?
Turn on: Employment Density and EOS.
What the Central Eastside SE Quadrant will look like in the year 2035 is the reason for the CC2035 plan. The big question is whether it will continue to be a home to industrial services, warehousing and distribution companies.
The outcome requires bold decisions and diligence to implement new strategies and to creatively respond to the inevitable threats and changes to prime Portland real estate.