By Karen Hery
Hopes for a morale-boosting decision by city council were dashed last month when a land use appeal requested by the Central Eastside Industrial Council for the Goat Blocks street narrowing was denied by unanimous vote after testimony and community comment.
Many Portlanders have followed the fate of the goats that gave the blocks their name (those vacant two blocks up for development between SE Belmont and Taylor, 10th and 11th). Fewer Portland residents are as aware of the pending fate of the industrial business district the goats overlooked.
With developer Killian Pacific of Vancouver poised to begin construction on the goat blocks for a large swath of retail and residential apartments, the now-famous inner-city goats have been moved over to munch on grass at the Lents Town Center property at SE 91st and Foster.
Munching on all of their options for appeal and persuasion, supporters for a continuing strong core of family wage light industrial jobs in the Central Eastside filled the three-minute public comment roster at City Hall on October 8. District reps, business owners and concerned neighbors asked for a change of construction plans to help stave off the overcrowded circumstances that, over time, can inspire once thriving businesses to shut down or move out of the area.
At stake during the hearing were two wider than average streets approved already to be narrowed to make room for the wider sidewalks required for the new mixed-use development.
With the appeal of the road-narrowing denied despite earnest testimony, hopes for a successful marriage of large truck industrial deliveries with new residential neighbors and busy retail activity now lie with PBOT – the Portland Borough of Transportation. In theory, the most prudent use of no parking and restricted parking signs along SE Taylor and 10th, both during construction and once the new development opens, will be tweaked and corrected by city staffers until all parties are functioning well.
Unless the CEIC re-approaches the city to formally widen the required width of streets in this light industrial district, this same parking sign and ensuing ticketing/fining process will play out block by block and street by street over the next few years as an unprecedented amount of large scale apartment buildings and big box retail enter the district, especially around the Burnside Bridgehead.
A recent map, produced by Barry & Associates, apartment appraisal specialists, reads like an inner city urban growth success story and a pending community relations nightmare. Such quick growth of apartment units in an already-crowded industrial area is likely to pit expectations of new residents against the sights, smells and sounds of industry.
2,180 pending apartment units, 1,765 units under construction and 1,707 units already built, according to Barry and Associates fall apartment construction report, place an estimated 5,652 new units in close in East Portland over the next few years. This dwarfs the 767 proposed, 289 units in progress and 184 new units that make up the 1,240 new apartment units in the Suburban East.
It’s not just the skyline that will change when projects like Block 67 rise 21 stories at the end of the Burnside Bridge. The question for everyone watching the pressure on our now thriving industrial sanctuary is . . . can these large-scale changes be absorbed and still keep a successful economic core?
Portland’s mix of residents is already changing. The New York Times recently reported that the number of young college graduates in Portland has grown 37 percent since 2000. Age 25 to 34 with a college degree now make up 5.6 percent of the population, up from 4.8 percent a decade and a half ago.
Young graduates are some of the most likely candidates to fill these new inner city apartments. Will it be hip to live side by side with the creative woodworking, loud noises and rush of traffic . . . at least until that first child comes along?
Bridgid Blackburn, manager of Cargo, a wholesale, retail, manufacturer and distributor of imported goods, is busy with a recent move over to the Central Eastside after years in the Pearl. Will Cargo and other companies like Winks, that also moved out of the Pearl, move again in a few years or simply close down as more housing and retail comes in?
PSU Demographer, Charles Rynerson, can track the uptick in inner-city residents with each passing census. He remembers how intimately involved his brother was in one of the first neighborhood associations in Portland. Their association formed in the 1960’s to protect Irvington’s residential neighborhoods from being overrun by the spread of industrial businesses up from the river.
Now that the process is reversed, all these decades later, what associated forces will hold our core industrial sanctuary between Powell and 84 from the river to 12th together to allow us to live and work in close proximity without one coveted type of land use pushing out the other?
After listening to an hour and a half of city, developer, business district and citizen comment about the Goat Blocks, Amanda Fritz expressed her hope, as a commissioner, that the work of the SE Quadrant Plan and the Comprehensive Plan will well address the upcoming conflicts between the zones.
“If the rules need to change,” says Fritz, “then those processes are available if the right of way needs to be bigger to accommodate loading, parking and all the other uses.”
“I am confident that we are going to be able to protect the sanctity of the industrial district and the wonderful businesses that have provided so many good jobs for neighbors and Portlanders for so long,” concluded Fritz.
Steve Novick happily added that before the final vote is cast on any major changes, “The Goats should be consulted. They have an historical interest.”
Everyone interested in following the comprehensive plan process can connect into findings, proposals and next public meeting dates at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/34249