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Cruise along any street in the Central Eastside industrial area, and the energy and change is palpable. Husks of old warehouses are being rehabbed across the street from new commercial buildings. Pedestrians and cyclists are just as likely to travel the streets as a variety of freight vehicles. And the new light rail line taking shape across the river and south to Milwaukie will soon connect with the streetcar loop and provide additional opportunities for development around new station areas.
And as more businesses seek office, industrial and flexible work space in this dynamic and close-in area, development pressures could jeopardize the still-reasonable lease rates and the district’s unique character and urban form.
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 at the Eastside Exchange building at the end of the four-day investigation.
According to the ULI, their “goal is to initiate the creation of a 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 final presentation on Thursday, February 13 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 of Portland to create an employment strategy, not a regulatory strategy, through infrastructure and access improvements, land use flexibility, work force training, programming and partnerships.
The presentation ended with some “homework” assignments, 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.
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 covers the history and background of the district, its role as a regional employment center, types of businesses, urban character, transportation issues, the riverfront and future of the industrial sanctuary. The book includes bold illustrations by a local artist, fascinating historic photographs and compelling stories about the people and places in the Central Eastside.
Through narrative, images and case studies, 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 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.