Inner City Industrial Sanctuary in Jeopardy

by Karen Hery



The words sanctuary and industrial wouldn’t come up in the same sentence in most parts of Portland.

If you spend time around Mike Redmond of Creative Woodworking Northwest and his neighbors, you’ll hear all about Portland’s industrial sanctuary and what it could mean if the currently preserved and protected industrial zoning between the waterfront and SE 12th St. gets layered over with allowances for high density housing and general office space in the next round of city planning.

Susan Pearce, current chair of Hosford Abernethy Neighborhood District (HAND) Association has been attending city planning meetings since the mid nineties. She personally shares Redmond’s concerns for our industrial core if we aren’t, as she says, “more mindful of the tipping point”.

City ordinances, variances and rezoning are at the epicenter of the tipping point for 17,000 recession resistant, above-average-wage jobs close in to downtown with a short commute for local residents.

Michael Pratt and his partner Reta Larson and their 90 long time employees have spent twenty years saving time and energy in that short commute between their inner SE homes and the manufacturing floor of their acclaimed artisan tile company on SE Salmon and 3rd.

There is an even shorter weekday commute business to business as suppliers of everything from wood and steel to screws and plumbing parts have set up shop just a few streets from each other; some, like Winks Hardware, over three generations ago and many in the last two decades.

As the final phases of the SE Quadrant Plan come together this fall for inclusion in the broader Central City 2035 Plan, zoning decisions laid out in the 1988 Central City Plan giving sanctuary status to the industrial uses of this area could be slightly or majorly overturned opening up a little or a lot of preserved industrial land to other shared uses.

Recommendations listed in the Southeast Quadrant Plan 2014 Summer Update ( include rezoning major portions of the Central Eastside Industrial District away from the current IG1 (Industrial Group 1) which restricts how much square footage of a manufacturing building can be used for retail sales, service and office space.

If current recommendations are adopted, much of the district will have a less restrictive EX (Central Employment) zone in place which allows for industrial, business, service and residential uses.

(9/14 update to two paragraphs above)

1)      The Summer Update of the SE Quadrant Plan proposed nothing and only identified land use scenarios the Stakeholder Advisory Committee asked us to analyze. None of the three scenarios rezoned major portions from IG1. They did, however, place the Employment Opportunity Subarea (basically an overlay) over major portions of the IG1 area, just as already has been done for most IG1 areas located west of SE 3rd Avenue.
2)      The scenarios do not allow just “office” as noted in the last sentence but “industrial office” (industrial design, software, web and graphic design, and other high tech industries), while prohibiting traditional office uses such as medical, finance, real estate, etc.
3)      Re: conversion to EX, only 4 acres of this 600+- acre district are being considered for rezoning from IG1 to EX. That’s less than 1 percent of the district and far from “much of the district.” That said, there are an additional 12 or so acres that are currently identified in the Comp Plan as EX but zoned IG1. Our SAC has suggested rezoning those so the current property owners don’t have to bear the cost of rezoning it themselves (which they could do today and then build housing). That brings the total EX acreage to roughly 2.6 percent of the Central Eastside. Still a very small portion of the whole acreage.

This clears the way for the full shell of a manufacturing building to be used for office space and for more high-density housing to be built. As parcels of land are rezoned and redeveloped, less manufacturing space remains.

The question on Pearce and Redmond’s minds, as they lobby with the city, is when will there no longer be enough industrial space to keep calling this the Central Eastside Industrial District?

At stake are jobs, a healthy infusion of money from manufactured items sold around the world and a weblike support system for maintaining inner SE Portland’s older homes.

Gathering central eastside industrial business owners and managers together is hard. Their hours are long already and when they do find the time to meet, their talk turns easily to what they are able to do for the residents of SE Portland.

“You can’t buy the specialty screw, or an old plumbing piece, or that unique piece of replacement wood molding for craftsman homes from a chain hardware store,” says Dan Boyer, who sources wood, metal, and advice as he manages a three-man furniture design and manufacturing studio at SE 10th and Burnside St.

“We all need each other.”

The city’s ongoing commitment to maintaining the sanctuary is what Mike Redmond needs most and his four adult children work side by side with him.

Residential and office space density brings more vehicles and different expectations.

Redmond worries about how much longer his business will be able to move big loads in and out of the district with enough space to turn larger vehicles around tight corners.

He needs reserved industrial space to work in, that doesn’t need to be quiet by a certain hour; space that can have the swirl of sawdust and a boisterous company party from time to time.

Already mixed use corridors development plans for the infamous “Goat Blocks” between SE 10th and 11th avenues have Redmond hopping into action.

A variance is being sought by the developer, to narrow the street three feet so sidewalks can be expanded for 84,000 square feet of retail space, 257 apartments and two levels of structured parking.

Redmond organized a group letter from Central Eastside business surrounding the Goat Blocks project to Charlie Hales and Commissioner Novick to stop the variance, explaining that every narrowing of a street inside the industrial sanctuary narrows the chances that his family business and other industrial businesses can keep a strong enough foothold in the inner SE.

Redmond is no stranger to city officials. He’s attended over 20 advisory and planning meetings and is looking into the best way to form a Central SE Industrial Board that could better advise key decision makers and help steer the non-profit Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEID) to advocate more for the importance of the industrial sanctuary.

At this historic tipping point, new alliances are being born and questions are being asked.

Redmond remembers how SE Portland came together many years ago to stop a freeway to maintain the sanctity of neighborhoods. He is hopeful that we can come together again to save the character and capacity of the industrial area.

Will he and other artisans be able to gather enough attention to the importance of the industrial sanctuary to stave off major rezoning?

At the very least, he looks at his kids and the work of all the industrial businesses in his line of sight and knows he needs to try.

Send your input to the SE Quadrant Project staff and follow along with plan updates and open meeting dates at


Inner City Industrial Sanctuary in Jeopardy

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