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Hales: Trader Joe's still a no-go for project

Trader Joe’s will not be returning to a project on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Northeast Portland, Mayor Charlie Hales announced Tuesday.

An official from the grocery chain’s Los Angeles headquarter contacted Hales with the news on Friday. He had been trying to convince company officials to continue participating in the controversial development project they pulled out of because of neighborhood protests over gentrification.

“I told them it was a shame because that section of Portland is vibrant and on the rise,” Hales said in a prepared statement. “We’re confident that another, similar project will happen there, and I’m dedicated to making that happen.”

According to the statement, Hales said he will instruct the Portland Development Commission to restart the development project immediately.

“We can start afresh, but this time with better relationships, more input and a stronger result. We’re in a much better place as a result of the efforts to date,” Hales said.

Developer Majestic Realty Co. had been selected to coordinate the Trader Joe’s project on the 2-acre parcel at Northeast Alberta Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Hales has asked Majestic will stay on in that capacity.

“Majestic knows the site, they know the players, and they know the issues of concern. If we want to fast-track a development that meets the needs of the neighbors, the business community, and the city, then Majestic should take the lead,” Hales said.

According to the statement, Hales heard from hundreds of people in the community who supported the project, including both residents and business owners. However, Trader Joe’s officials said they pulled out due to some community concerns.

Looking to the future, Hales said another retailer, such as a grocery store, would be ideal for the site.

Although the protesters advocated adding affordable housing to the project, Hales agrees with an analysis that said affordable housing isn’t appropriate at the specific site but is badly needed in the neighborhood. In March, the PDC recommended boosting funds for affordable housing in the King neighborhood by an additional $20 million.