EMEA event touts growing advantages of East County
At downtown Troutdale's Discovery Block on Friday, East Multnomah County leaders, residents and businesspeople were not shy in sharing advantages of life at the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge.
"It's quite a secret (special place) we're living in," said Troutdale resident Mike Greenslade, co-owner of Portland-based Bremik Construction. "That's gonna change soon."
Chris Damgen, the city of Troutdale's community development director, lauded the city's enviable location near the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia rivers.
"Our city sits along a quarter-mile of Sandy River (shoreline) that's out of the floodplain and at the edge of a major metro area and spectacular nature area," he observed, noting that a park/trail system and some type of mixed-use development north of downtown are forthcoming. "We can do something pretty darn cool there."
Greenslade and Damgen were among those who spoke of concrete plans as well as untapped potential of Troutdale, Gresham, Fairview and Wood Village at the East Metro Economic Alliance's FOCUS 2020 forum on Jan. 31. Held on the second floor of the new, Bremik-built Discovery Block building on Historic Columbia River Highway, the event drew about 50 developers, builders, Realtors, architects, landowners, and construction and business/nonprofit leaders to discuss the area's commercial and mixed-use development progress and goals.
Featured speaker Ben Kaiser of Kaiser Group & Path Architecture was joined by Brian Guiney of Business Oregon; Matt Miller, interim president/CEO of Greater Portland Inc.; Jay Fetherston of Retail North and Harsch Investment Properties; Michael Nagy, managing director of Wood Partners; Matthew Brown of YBA Architects; developers Homer Williams and Mike Greenslade and Troutdale Mayor Casey Ryan.
The latter welcomed event guests by describing the amenities of the city along the Sandy River.
"Troutdale has a unique downtown, richly located on the Historic Columbia River Highway, where it starts the journey to one of the most beautiful parts of Oregon," he said. "Its proximity to Mt Hood, Multnomah Falls and other beautiful waterfalls, amazing hikes, PDX, the Sandy and Columbia River and downtown Portland make it a great place for residents to live and recreate. As I look at the other cities in the greater Metropolitan area there is no place as unique as Troutdale."
Dedicated to construction using mass-timber, Ben Kaiser worked with state officials to waive restrictive codes that limit the height of wooden buildings, culminating in the Carbon12 condominium project in Northeast Portland. At 95-feet tall, Carbon12 is the tallest cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure in the U.S.
"This product keeps giving to us, and in a weird way (facilitates) carbon sequestration," he said, noting that young climate-change activists like Greta Thunberg are ahead of where adult leaders should be at this point on the issue. "The concrete and steel industries have been fighting these projects."
Kaiser's "The Radiator" project in North Portland was the first mass-timber structure of its scale built in Oregon in more than 100 years, and received the Portland Business Journal's "Sustainable Project of the Year" award.
Jon Isaacs, Portland Business Alliance vice president, said with the alliance's new CEO Andrew Hoan on board, East Multnomah County has more skin in the metro development game than ever.
"We have our first proactive, holistic policy agenda (dedicated to) the future success of the Portland region," Isaacs said, calling it a "toolbox on how to promote sustainable development (that promotes) East Metro Portland development in partnerships with (local) organizations and leaders."
A topic of the FOCUS event's panel discussion was achieving a balance between attractive upscale and affordable housing in the area.
"People are moving out (of Portland) because of price sensitivity," said Matt Brown. "(Others are) moving in from outside areas with certain expectations. They could be from an urban environment but want to live in a beautiful place that's not downtown Portland but downtown Troutdale."
Brent Parry, co-owner of Southeast Portland-based Bremik Construction, urged leaders and developers to "take advantage of this opportunity that Portland is creating for you.
"The investment opportunity is here and the time is now," he said, noting Troutdale's assets like its proximity to the Gorge and the multi-faceted McMenamins Edgefield. "Let it be known as a place where you can work, dine and get to the park and live. Put the pedal down on the accelerator to make that happen."
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