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Framework plan is done, master plan to follow in new Pearl sub-neighborhood.

COURTESY: PORTLAND DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION - Pearl Post Office handover to the city: PDC Commissioner Gustavo Cruz, Fritz, Hales, Samra, Kelly, Blumenauer, Saltzman, Branam, former PDC Commissioner Bertha Ferran, Former PDC Board Chair Scott Andrews, former PDC Board Chair Mark Rosenbaum.

As local politicians and development professionals met Tuesday morning at the United State Postal Service parking lot USPS Parking Lot at Northwest 9th Avenue and Irving St, a letter carrier in shorts and cap walked on to the stage.

The mailman delivered a Priority Package to Tom Samra, the United States Postal Service Vice President of Facilities.

Samra extracted a large, cardboard key, which he presented to the Executive Director of the Portland Development Commission, Kimberly Branam.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Executive Director of the Portland Development Commission, Kimberly Branam talks to Congressman Earl Blumenaeur about the sale of the Pearl District Post Office to the city., Nov. 22 2016.

Although it approved the deal in January 2016, the city now officially owns the property, which consists of 13.4 acres at the base of the Broadway Bridge.

The site has a retail post office but is mainly a sorting office and parking lot for mail trucks. As high-end mixed-use buildings have grown up around it, truck access has become harder. The building presents none of the street amenities that people in the area expect. Developers have long eyed the potential of what it the largest available parcel of land in the central city.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The Pearl District Post Office will be demoed in two years for mixed use development.

From golf carts to mail trucks

(The U.S. Postal Service Processing & Distribution Center will relocate to a 47.5-acre site on the old Colwood golf course. The Post Office is spending the $88 million plus $69 million in federal funds to build this more suitable sorting office and vehicle maintenance facility, with better access to Portland International Airport and the Interstate highway system along which much of its parcels travel.)

Groundbreaking on the Pearl site is expected to happen in about two years. Residents could start moving in in four years.

A market survey conducted by PDC said it would take 10 to 15 years to absorb all the new housing stock on the market. Construction will be staggered over those 10 to 15 years, said Lisa, Abuaf, the PDC’s Development and Investment Director.

The Broadway Corridor Framework Plan was completed a year ago by ZGF Architects and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It includes plans for this site and other buildings, such as the Pacific Northwest College of Art a block away.

The council has had its say around the financing and what density of development will be here (it will be 2,000 units, 700 of them affordable) and where the parks would be. The new development will be mixed use, homes and offices, with plenty of green spaces. Making sure Johnson runs straight east west to Union Station was a priority.

2020 foresight

While the first units might be available in four years, for now PDC can work on a master plan. That will show how what the streets and buildings will look like.

Abuaf said there will be a meeting on December 7, 2016, to begin gathering input from the public.

She said it will take a year to do the master plan, then a year to negotiate early phase development with the development community.

The project is more complex than the development in Northwest Portland on land owned by Con-Way freight company. On the Pearl Post Office site there are many public entities involved, such as bureaus building infrastructure and affordable housing.

Getting the Federally run Post Office to move was a complex job, according to those who spoke at the event. Now public subsidy will be needed to build the properties. Through a Notice of Funding Availability, the development community will propose what amount of public investment from the city it requires to construct the housing.

U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales both talked about how they had been around for the 25 years the discussion to sell has been going on.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The uninviting post office will soon be demoed and operations moved nearer to the airport.

"Trusted arm of government"

Blumenauer told the Business Tribune he thinks the Post Office generally has had a bad rap lately. He said there is an artificial funding crisis in congress which ignores that the Post Office is no longer subsidized by the taxpayer.

“Business depends on it, people depending it, for medicine, for ecommerce, and engagement with the community.”

He said there has always been under appreciation of the USPS, which is as old as the Republic.

”Year in year out it’s one of the most trusted arms of the government, and there’s no constituency for postal efficiency. Some people think it’s a thing of the past and that it should be privatized. It’s only the mandate of universal service that allows someone in Burns, Oregon, to drop something in the mail and know it will be delivered in Portland, Maine, in a few days for less than 50 cents.”

Blumenauer said the USPS would not be in line for any coming wave of privatization, because too many businesses, such as Amazon, depend on it.

The new USPS near the airport will have more capacity, which is needed. A projected 400 million pieces of mail will be delivered in Oregon over the 2016 holiday period. He sees no sign yet of a privatization giveaway.

“Because the Post Office runs like a business, it’s not for them to give this stuff away, they need to get full value for the postal customers, and they did.”

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