Three projects spark inner eastside transformation in Portland

Three projects spark inner eastside transformation in Portland

Libby Tucker

The $146 million extension of the streetcar to Portland’s inner eastside is at least four years from a ribbon-cutting. But recent property sales and building activity along a short strip of Northeast Broadway Street could provide a sampling of what’s to come along the proposed route.

Three office and retail projects in various stages of completion have popped up in the four blocks east of the Broadway Bridge, which will carry the streetcar along Broadway between the Pearl District and the Rose Quarter.

Portland-based development company Leftbank will soon announce plans for the long-vacant Multi-Crafts Plastics building, which sits in a triangle of concrete between Broadway and Weidler streets at the Broadway bridgehead.

The building presents a challenge to integrate into the neighborhood, with its awkward location between the freeway off- ramps and the Rose Garden Arena. But Leftbank is optimistic that the surrounding area on Broadway will undergo significant changes in coming years to make the development worthwhile.

“Everybody knows the area, but they know it at 50 miles an hour. The streetcar will really change the way people think about that district,” Joanna Agee, a project manager for Leftbank, said.

The site will hold a streetcar stop and the city has plans to re- engineer the streets around the site to allow left-hand turns that will provide greater access to the surrounding businesses.

Down the street at 55 N.E. Broadway, the Dick Hannah Ford dealership was sold last month to Portland Management Properties, an LLC registered to Fares Rustom, who also owns the Broadway Toyota Scion dealership three blocks away, according to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.

The owner is in the early stages of planning to redevelop the site as a high-density, mixed-use space that would house a car dealership on the ground floor with second-story office space, said Peter Finley Fry, a consultant on the project with Columbian Pacific Planning.

The intention is to undertake a project similar to the two-story Wentworth Chevrolet-Subaru dealership finished three years ago on East Burnside Street and Grand Avenue, he said.

“They’ve done a pretty good job developing the Lloyd District but there are still some structural issues that have to be dealt with,” said Finley Fry. “There’s not housing in the Lloyd District, and the mall doesn’t have much synergy with surrounding businesses. When you go to the mall you pretty much stay at the mall.”

Across the street from the former Ford dealer, renovation is nearly complete on a two-story, 18,000-square-foot former warehouse at 237 N.E. Broadway. Over the past 14 months, the 1924 industrial building has been transformed to a modern, mixed-use space with exposed metal beams and cedar plank ceilings.

Two-thirds of the ground floor retail space has already been leased to RE/MAX and LandAmerica, said owner A.J. Hamade, who’s looking for tenants to occupy the second-floor offices. He expects the renovation to be complete this month.

The proposed eastside streetcar line would run right past the front door of the new offices at the corner of Northeast Third Avenue and Broadway. Hamade says he didn’t know about the plans for the streetcar before he bought the property in 2005, and he’s not happy to be paying an additional assessment the city will charge property owners along the streetcar line once it’s complete in 2012.

“For the tenant businesses, it might be helpful. But as a property owner, it’s just an additional cost,” said Hamade.

The city is betting that property owners along the line will see significant returns in property values once the line is complete, however, and is charging owners an assessment that will cover up to $15 million of the project’s budget.

Three years ago, as the city firmed up plans for the streetcar loop, investors rushed to purchase property in the inner eastside, said Rick Gustafson, executive director of the Portland Streetcar. Now developments or “major investments” are already planned on as many as 16 different parcels along the east side line, he said.

“There’s a recognition that there’s a market for higher-density projects, and properties are underdeveloped for the density that’s allowed,” Gustafson said. “Certainly, that activity we’ve picked up is very important for the streetcar. It doesn’t make any sense to invest in the streetcar unless you see the improvements along the line.”

In all, the eastside streetcar loop is expected to attract 2.4 million square feet of development along the 3.3-mile line, according to Portland Streetcar.

Copyright 2008 Dolan Media Newswires

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