More than 100 residents, developers and planners filled the German American Society’s great hall in early June for a three-hour exploration of ways to develop Portland’s communities. Those attending represented 38 of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods, according to Tamara DeRidder, event coordinator. The Infill Expo was sponsored by Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement and Central Northeast Neighbors and Southeast Uplift neighborhood coalitions.
In opening remarks, DeRidder cited the need for smaller, more affordable housing options, quoting a recent survey that only those making more than $30/hour could afford home ownership in the Portland metropolitan area.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales also made opening comments, saying the city was under a great deal of pressure to provide affordable housing and that the city council has taken steps to provide incentives to builders to “de-construct” older buildings instead of demolishing them. Hales said the Council and city staff were working to “…hold back the negative forces of change.” The Mayor commended those present for their involvement and encouraged them to make clear their expectations and plans on how the city should change.
Following opening talks, participants were directed to tables with displays that ringed the room, and those behind the tables took turns explaining what their group did and what form of infill they favored. One of the first to speak was Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, LLC, who told listeners about his group’s efforts to fill the need for smaller housing units for smaller families.
Attending along with Jeff Fish of Fish Construction was Everett Homes developer Vic Remmers. Last year at this time, Remmers’ Beaumont Village Apartments (4429 N.E. Fremont St.) drew criticism from neighbors anxious about the lack of off-street parking. When asked about current reactions to the four-story, 51-unit building, Remmers said, “Once a development is explained to neighbors and they know what to expect, objections lessen quite a bit.” Remmers’ latest projects are located at Northeast Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Mason Street and at Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and 31st Avenue.
DeRidder told the Hollywood Star News, “The general consensus among us sponsors was that the crowd was somewhere from 250 – 300 people.” Some came early and left while others came later, she added, saying she was satisfied with the event, “I heard compliments from many participants throughout the night in regards to the range of exhibitors and connections they were making.” DeRidder noted one symptom of success: “When we concluded the program everyone applauded – even exhibitors.”