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BROADWAY TO BE LIT
The company that has been awarded with the job of master planning of the Broadway Corridor project — and with developing the Post Office site in the Pearl District — has a method and a track record, according to Frank Cannon, the firm's development director.
Cannon told the Business Tribune that the first order of business will "understanding the community." It's similar to a political candidate's listening tour, getting to know what people want and what would be the third rail of building in Northwest Portland.
Continuum staff are spending a week with Proper Portland this week, "Getting our feet on the ground with the public partners. We're going to spend some time with, the steering committee, and just listen and make sure we understand their collective objectives in more detail than we could garner from the documents we've already read."
Community waits and sees
Following Prosper Portland, Continuum will expand into an outreach effort with the broader community. As they identify scopes of work they will run a parallel outreach effort for small local and disadvantaged business in locally and identify the best qualified of them to help Continuum execute.
"It's something we've done on a number of projects, Union Station and Ninth and Colorado. Whenever we have new opportunities for collaborative work we try to identify who can bring perspective and skill set to help us execute."
Cannon says he doesn't know which companies to partner with until they know what the local stakeholders want.
"We have a track record, we don't need another large development partner, we're focused on finding the right partner, but not until we dig into what Prosper Portland and the local community want."
Prosper Portland has its own independent team, who awarded the master planning contract to architecture firm ZGF. Continuum has worked with ZGF before, on Bellevue Station in Denver and on a singular building site, mixed use, in the Arts District in Los Angeles that has yet to get off the ground. "It'll happen but not with ZGF, it's taken a different direction since then," Cannon said. He added that they are "highly confident in their master panning abilities" and said ZGF have done a lot of work in the Denver market.
"As we move toward vertical development, we ask, 'What are the pieces we need?'" Vertical development means whatever tall building will be built on the 14-acre former Post Office property.
They are treating it as one large project.
He says it's too early to be thinking about the mass and scale of the buildings, and how tall they will be. That will be done in this ongoing master plan process. "As the end of that there'll be a sense of scale, mass, place making and programming uses, and it'll be visualized."
Granted, there isn't that much community to consult right now, since the site is not residential. But they are hoping it will be a signature project for the whole city.
"It's a unique opportunity for a community like Portland to have a piece of property with pub ownership, you can accomplish broader and more ambitious goals — more so than if it were disparate pieces of ground."
He says the Broadway Corridor is similar to Denver's Union Station, which is a publicly owned parcel of 19.5 acres downtown and has given Continuum the "rare opportunity to create unique places."
Two other large public-private partnerships the city of Portland is trying to get moving are the Albina Vision, bringing back the Albina neighborhood just north of the Moda Center, and the IQ or Portland Innovation Quadrant which stretches from Portland State University across the Willamette River to South Waterfront.
A desk at Prosper Portland
Cannon is aware of the other initiatives but he will rely on Prosper Portland and the local community to fill him in.
Continuum will open a project office over time. "For now, we'll camp at empty desk in Prosper Portland, or with one of the consultants."
Would they work at WeWork? It's right there on Broadway. "Why not? But a WeWork desk would be quite challenging over time," as the project staff grows, from one to six Continuum people.
The master plan will take 15 to 18 months. "It's not a quick turnaround. I think it will be three to four years before the first things open.
Is the Broadway Corridor legally and financially straightforward? Cannon says that's part of what their initial discussions with Prosper Portland will be.
"With the Belmar we took a regional mall that was in rapid decline, on 100 acres and turned it into 26 blocks, a very, very large project. We were able to create a downtown in community, Lakewood, that was void of that. There wasn't a downtown, so we created that."
The work was done in collaboration with the City of Lakewood. "What came out of it is this passion for working on public-private projects where we form a partnership with the jurisdiction and the community."
Even though they have since sold it he thinks the residents today still have positive feedback on the "collaborative nature, problem solving and commitment to high-quality place making."
Is Continuum going to hold or sell the Post Office site once it's developed?
"It depends. We have projects we've held for the long term, and there are some based on their financial structures that are intended to sell. We haven't made any decisions on the Post Office site or Broadway Corridor as a whole. That's one of the reasons we don't want to bring a full team to the table until we understand it. We always try to match our capital structure to what our goals are for each individual project."
They want to understand the right program, and how much they should develop themselves versus bring in a partner. "Once we understand that, we will match capital demands for the project."
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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