By Don MacGillivray
Cyclists are a huge part of the Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) and their numbers are increasing. The building boom here is complicating the future of the area with many conflicting challenges. Historically the Central Eastside has been an industrial district along with many warehouses and auxiliary businesses. It has been a low cost incubator for Portland jobs and small businesses.
Now major changes are happening, land is becoming more expensive, new businesses are arriving, its main streets have many new market rate apartments, it has become an area of fine restaurants, and it provides supportive services to restaurants from all over the city. Older small businesses are being priced out of their locations and property owners are cashing in on their previous real estate investments in this undervalued central city location that has been expected to burst forth for many years.
The city has recently all but finished their new comprehensive plan and a new land use plan for the central city. These plans increase the capacity of the Central Eastside and alter the types of uses likely to move here..
All of this is very positive for the city and for those businesses that will benefit from the growth. Along with this are significant growing pains. One of these is the transportation situation. Planners have foreseen this and are addressing it, but currently funding for transportation is becoming increasingly difficult. The City has a billion dollar backlog of much needed street maintenance and their other priority is the multi-year “Vision Zero” project that will also absorb a significant amount of funding.
Central to the transportation issues of the current expansion is the multi-modal conflicts on local streets. The challenge for the Central Eastside is to get everything–trucks, cars, bike, pedestrians, transit and parking–into the existing space efficiently in a cost effective way while being able to adapt to any and all future growth.
The bicycle network is one area that is receiving much attention. The planners see it as a necessity. The businesses owners worry about its growth and expansion while bike advocates push for more capacity and better facilities.
In 2012 the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) began a new transportation planning effort for the Central City called the “City in Motion” project (formerly known as the Central City Multimodal Project). After some delays in obtaining funding the effort was begun in 2016.
In the CEID, the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee became the primary leader in reviewing and commenting on the new plans. Other advocates, especially the bicycle advocates, have been left out of the discussions and desire to have their voice heard at the earliest possible date.
To date much of the planning has taken place behind closed doors without very much public attention.
There has been outreach and feedback from selected groups, but the plans have only been open to a very few members of the public. Ostensibly the planners are in charge and the oversight committees review the proposals, but the expertise of the public advocates (cyclists) has not been in play.
They know their subject well and have ideas that must be heard and included, but as time passes the plans become less flexible.
If the City in Motion project is to reflect and satisfy those who will use the District’s transportation network then more planning is needed.
The CEID will no longer be exclusively an industrial sanctuary and warehouse district. It will have all the features of a small city with a density and diversity it has never had. The residents will need good jobs and a wider array of goods, services, and amenities.
The CEID has long been the major player in the planning and development of the Central Eastside. However, now with all the new private development and the changing nature of many of the key attributes of the area the decisions are becoming more complex.
It has only been a few years since the start of the permit parking began and the fees that were $70 are now $300 per year. This money is then used by the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) in the best interests of improving transportation in the District.
Almost all the two or three dozen housing developments in and around the Central Eastside are for market rate housing and above. It is expected that the new industries with high paying jobs will be a major part of the future of the Eastside and expand into the residential neighborhoods displacing the existing modest housing that has been the character of the area for years and is well liked by the current residents.
It will be difficult to prevent this area from becoming similar to the Pearl District. Yes, it will be diverse, but only for those that can afford it. This also has ramifications for the transportation throughout the Central Eastside as it will have commuters using transit, cars, bikes and sidewalks going to downtown and elsewhere throughout the CEID.
If everyone is to be part of the entrepreneurial success of the inner city, great care must be taken to do it properly, That is why everyone needs to be in on the decision making.
Unfortunately the free-for-all developmental environment of today tends to be the ruling voice.