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Hales: Shift funds to help Old Town properties

Mayor Charlie Hales wants to shift tens of millions of dollars in urban renewal money from the spiffy Pearl District into the somewhat ragged Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood to the south.

Though details of the mayor’s pivot to Old Town/Chinatown are still in flux, Hales and the city urban renewal agency that he oversees — Portland Development Commission — are exploring ways to subsidize earthquake retrofits for Old Town/Chinatown commercial buildings, as well as tax breaks, fee waivers and loans to promote development of middle-income housing.

To lay the groundwork for the new emphasis on Old Town/Chinatown, the proposed new PDC budget shifts $32 million out of the long-planned project to buy the U.S. Post Office facility in Northwest Portland during the next five years. Using that and other funding, the budget pumps $56 million more into PDC loan programs in the area. That’s a flexible fund that could be used to subsidize earthquake retrofits and new housing developments in Old Town/Chinatown.

(For a longer look at the mayor’s pivot to Old Town/Chinatown, check the Portland Tribune print edition on Tuesday, March 18.)