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The James Beard Public Market won't anchor the Morrison Bridgehead after all, but it's not for lack of trying.

COURTESY JAMES BEARD PUBLIC MARKET - An architectural rendering of the now-scrapped market at the base of the Morrison bridge. The James Beard Public Market won’t anchor the Morrison Bridgehead after all, but it’s not for lack of trying.

“Everybody at every level of government was supportive of finding a solution to the ramp dilemma,” said Fred Granum, executive director of the market. The nonprofit venture, 16 years in the making, hopes to be a year-round outdoor-indoor market for fresh food in Portland on a major scale.

Granum told the Tribune last week that he had met with the mayor numerous times, as well as staff from the Portland Bureau of Transportation and other offices, in an attempt to figure out how to make it safe for thousands of pedestrians to cross Southwest Naito Parkway safely with the existing bridge ramps surrounding and above the market.

“Everybody was trying to make it work,” he said. “It just became obvious, despite the good intentions of everybody concerned, this site would not be able to begin construction for years. We had simply taken on a challenge that could have probably been overcome with money and time, but we’re short on both of those.”

As the Portland Architecture blog first reported on Oct. 27, the Morrison Bridgehead site is now scrapped while market leaders shift their focus to exploring other sites.

“After much work by many, we decided that the Morrison Bridgehead site just posed too many challenges,” said Granum, who took the helm of the project earlier this year, after the death of Ron Paul, who had championed the idea since 1999. “The extended delays and additional costs posed by the bridge and its ramps were more than we could accept. We’re delighted to consider these new opportunities that will allow us to move the project forward now.”

Granum added that he’s “gratified” to be part of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s master planning process for their expanded campus, which is located within Portland’s emerging Innovation Quadrant. That’s the east-west chunk of the central city that includes the four districts around Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, OMSI and Portland Community College, as well as other properties.

OMSI recently launched a process to create a master development plan for the museum’s 18-acre waterfront property with the goal of creating and activating a vibrant presence along the waterfront.

As long envisioned, the James Beard Public Market would have nearly 100 fresh food and drink stalls and serve as a hub for promoting community health, rural and urban economic development, neighborhood revitalization and tourism.

“We’re thrilled at the prospect of locating the market at the east end of the Tilikum Crossing,” Granum said. “It’s an attractive site for countless reasons. Teaming up with OMSI and its partners in the Innovation Quadrant will benefit the entire community.”

If moving the ramps was such a major hurdle that everyone anticipated, why pursue the site at all? Granum said the context must be considered.

“This project has been around for a number of years,” he said. “So much of the effort of my predecessor, Ron Paul, was trying to find the right spot in the city. Prior to the Morrison Bridgehead site he had worked on three to four sites that didn’t pan out.”

Enter Melvin Mark Development Co., which responded to Multnomah County’s request for proposals when they announced they were looking to dispose of the site.

A partnership including members of the Mark family bought the site for $10.4 million, and they planned to build a mixed-use high rise above the market at the bridgehead site.

Groundbreaking for the market had been set for 2018.

Dan Petrusich, Melvin Mark’s president, told the Tribune at the time that while the market design partly included spaces under the ramps, he and others preferred that the ramps be redesigned, with the northbound ramp connecting to Stark Street and the southern ramp connecting to Morrison Street.

That figures to be a multimillion-dollar fix, Petrusich said, but traffic studies must be conducted to determine the best solution and true costs.

Without modifying the ramps to improve pedestrian safety, “I cannot see that it would be feasible,” Granum told the Tribune in January.

But Mayor Charlie Hales (for whom Paul had worked in the 1990s) had personally led a stakeholders group over the summer to consider the ramp dilemma, and had been confident a solution would emerge.

“There’s a design fix that’s affordable and really makes that project work,” Hales told the Tribune at the time, noting that he was anticipating that funds be contributed by various parties, such as the Portland Development Commission.

Incidentally, Snohetta — the Norway-based design firm that has released plans for the market at the bridgehead site — also is the firm selected to lead OMSI’s master planning team. That work began this month and is expected to last through spring.

In addition to the OMSI site, Granum said the market will consider the Zidell Yards and Centennial Mills sites. In any case, he anticipates breaking ground in 2019, with a market opening in 2020.

Fundraising is now in the quiet phase of the campaign, and will launch to the public next year.

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