By Lee Perlman
For the Hollywood Star News, June, 2010
An ad hoc committee assembled by the Portland Development Commission voted overwhelmingly last month to expand the Interstate Urban Renewal District to take in parts of the adjacent and soon-to-expire Oregon Convention Center district as well as other properties. The decision will be forwarded to the PDC Commission in July, and then to City Council.
The committee also approved, unanimously, a Community Benefits Agreement whereby a percentage of urban renewal projects would be shared by interested community groups, including neighborhood associations. The proposal was submitted by Roy Jay of the African-American Chamber of Commerce.
The Interstate District is already the largest in the state at 3,700 acres. To this would be added portions of the OCC district north of Broadway totaling 186 acres, properties outside the district on Northeast Martin Luther King jr. Boulevard (75 acres), and on Northeast Alberta and Killingsworth streets (33 acres), North Lombard Street (28 acres), and parts of the St. Johns neighborhood (103 acres). The addition of the Rose Quarter is also on the table, but is awaiting a separate study.
Some members of the Interstate District have expressed fear that demands for funds from the new territories would exhaust the district’s funding capacity and leave some ongoing commitments unfunded. PDC’s Bob Alexander stated that the district has the capacity to generate $221 million, and that it could meet all identified needs and still have $130 million to spend. Some members weren’t sure. Claiming they did not have sufficient information, or a chance to discuss it with their constituencies, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods executive director Paige Coleman, and Interstate Urban Renewal Advisory Committee co-chair Walter Valenta, abstained on all votes. (Valenta’s co-chair, Sheila Holden, voted with the majority on all but one issue.)