Massive Development around Union Station in Portland starts 2019
Portland has a great downtown and although it’s changed quite a bit over the last few years, it maintains some essential qualities that aren’t found together anywhere else — proximity to the Willamette river, the streetcar moving people through quickly and efficiency, and an eclectic mix of housing, entertainment, retail and eating establishments.
Similarly, the nearby Pearl District and adjacent Chinatown are lively and diverse. Urban renewal in the Pearl since the 1980s has created a nice mixture of condos, office spaces, warehouse-to-loft conversions, and trendy restaurants and galleries.
Downtown Broadway Corridor Redevelopment
Now, the forces of redevelopment are turning their attentions to the Broadway Corridor. Known to Portland locals as the old Post Office site, the 34-acre chunk of real estate has a number of “challenges” that have kept it from being accessible and useful to Portlanders for decades. Despite being the home of both Union Station (the Portland Amtrak terminal) and the Greyhound station, it lacks connectivity to local streets and transit routes. The configuration of the site essentially bars Pearl District/Chinatown residents and visitors from accessing the Willamette River. And, although it has the potential to house dozens of businesses and hundreds of housing units, it currently offers mostly parking.
Prosper Portland, formerly the Portland Development Commission, is the agency now tasked with overcoming these challenges and transforming this northern gateway into a Portland landmark. According to the Framework Plan, the agency’s hope is to build out the Broadway Corridor with enough commercial space to provide 4,000 jobs, as well as housing to shelter up to 3,100 residents. They plan to do all of this while preserving the historic Union Station, the Greyhound station and the Pacific Northwest College of Art, which is also part of the 34-acre parcel. For green space, the Framework Plan includes an expansion of the North Park blocks by two blocks, as well as a target of 20% tree canopy coverage for the entire area.
Just as important, the Broadway Corridor redevelopment is focused on improving connectivity to the Pearl District as well as the Portland neighborhoods across the river. To do this, the Framework plan proposes to bring NW Johnson St. through the former USPS site straight to Union Station. The plan will also complete the planned Green Loop using the Broadway bridge, allowing pedestrian access as well as multi-modal transit. A reconfiguration of streets near the Greyhound station will allow easy access to and from downtown using 3rd and 4th streets.
What’s next? Prosper Portland is now putting together a Development Plan to flesh out the design, financials and an analysis of the public benefits to be gained from rebuilding the Broadway Corridor. The agency has already done a number of public surveys, open houses and a Community Visioning Workshop to determine what Pearl District and Downtown Portland neighbors, as well as the Portland metro area as a whole, needs most out of this redevelopment project. They’ve put that input to work in determining the ideal mix of commercial and residential real estate and setting aside 25% of housing units to be affordable.
Prosper Portland plans to start moving on the project in 2019, and expects that it will take 10 years to get most of the key elements in place. After that, it could be 30 years before all the build-outs are complete. For a thriving and accessible Pearl District — as well as the continued growth of real estate values — that will be worth it.November 2, 2018