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Portland’s Central Eastside Poses Interesting Questions About the Future of Employment Land

Portland’s Central Eastside (CES) is an economic development success story, and a variety of businesses make the area one of the city’s largest employment districts. Over the past decade, while the rest of the city and the region’s job growth stagnated, the CES now includes more than 1,100 businesses with more than 17,000 employees. Reflecting the changing nature of industry and technology, industrial uses and creative enterprises are neighbors in an area that is emerging as an attractive location for cross-industry exchange, from film and digital enterprises to food, creative services and craft industries.

To address the changing dynamics in the SE Quadrant and ensure that the industrial sanctuary in the Central Eastside preserves and enhances new employment growth, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is leading the SE Quadrant planning effort and recently released a dynamic introduction to the area.

Titled Portland’s Central Eastside, the document includes bold illustrations by a local comic artist, fascinating historic photographs and compelling stories about the people and places in the Central Eastside.

Portland's Central Eastside  Illustration
Read Portland’s Central Eastside
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Urban Land Institute Daniel Rose Fellows Offer Recommendations for Future Planning Efforts

Through narrative and images, the book paints a picture of a place transformed from farmland to loading docks to train tracks and freeways. It shows how the district went from Produce Row to industrial sanctuary, and describes the various business sectors thriving in the area today. It presents a case study of the Ranchers and Gardners Building, which was once a place for local immigrant farmers to sell and distribute their produce and is now home to a variety of small, mostly manufacturing enterprises. The book describes an evolving industrial “ecosystem,” where metal fabricators and other craftspeople form a “colony” of mutually supportive services that are accessible by foot or bike. And it identifies the issues around urban form and character, transportation and the riverfront, and offers discussion questions to start conversations with the community that will be necessary to chart the path ahead.

The land use challenges in this unique part of Portland have caught the eye of planners around the nation. The Urban Land Institute Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use recently chose Portland as one of four cities to study this year, with Mayor Charlie Hales, and directors Susan Anderson (BPS), Leah Treat (PBOT) and Patrick Quinton (PDC) named as Rose Center Fellows.

During the week of February 10, ULI staff and Rose Center fellows toured the Central Eastside, talked with project staff, interviewed stakeholders and presented their findings and recommendations to a crowd of about 70 people on Thursday morning.

According to a ULI media release, their “goal is to initiate the creation of strategy to position the Central Eastside… as a 21st century business district offering sufficient flexibility to serve longtime industrial employers as well as new, emerging industries.”

At the presentation on Thursday, February 13, held at the Eastside Exchange building, ULI staff and fellows emphasized the need to redefine the notion of an industrial sanctuary and create a “haven for ‘doers and makers’” in the Central Eastside. They called on the City to create an employment strategy, not a regulatory strategy, through:

  • Infrastructure and access improvements.
  • Land use flexibility.
  • Programming and partnerships.

The presentation ended with some “homework” assignments for City staff, which will be reviewed when the teams reconvene in April in Vancouver, Wash.For more information about ULI and the Daniel Rose Center, please visit http://uli.org