Unbuilt Portland: 4 big projects that never happened... yet
Portland and the metro area have a lot to crow about when it comes to development accomplishments during the past decade. But a handful of high-profile projects also deserve attention for never making it off the drawing board.
Centennial Mills: Despite repeated attempts to redevelop Centennial Mills, the 4-acre former flour mill ended the decade as a ghost of its old structural self.
Since purchasing the property for $7.7 million in 2002, the city and Prosper Portland have been unable to unload the property, despite interest from three developers.
A California company planning to develop the site into a food hall ended up walking away at the beginning of the decade.
A few years later, Portland developer Jordan Schnitzer pitched a $116 million plan with a request for $35 million in public funding. Prosper Portland turned him down.
The majority of the buildings then were lost to the wrecking ball after it was determined they were a structural loss.
More recently, in April 2019, a San Antonio-based developer stepped away from its plans for the site after determining that costs to redevelop the site didn't pencil out.
Framework: A 12-story mass timber tower, Framework made international headlines when it became one of two projects selected as winners in the Tall Woods Building competition. With a design by Lever Architecture, the 12-story building's extensive use of cross-laminated timber had it on track to become the tallest timber building in North America.
The project never even broke ground in its planned Pearl District location, however. In 2018, the project team announced it was indefinitely shelving the project due to challenges raising enough money to construct the building.
Even without being built, Framework left a legacy. The $1.5 million prize the project received from winning the Tall Woods competition was used for research, development and testing. The result of that testing has since provided data that has allowed mass timber and CLT design and construction to be highlighted in projects in Portland and beyond.
Columbia River Crossing: A plan to widen and modernize the Interstate Bridge didn't just span states, it spanned decades.
Since 1917, the northbound span of the two-span, through-truss bridge has served as the connection between Oregon and Washington state (the southbound span was added in 1958). By 2005, however, leaders on both sides of the Columbia River agreed that capacity and seismic issues related to the structure needed to be addressed.
Talks about the project as a joint effort between federal and state agencies, the cities of Vancouver and Portland, and local and regional transit agencies began in 2005. Federal money kicked off environmental studies. However, initial discussions about feasible solutions and designs soon led to debates about incorporating light-rail into the project and how the cost for the project should be divided up.
In 2013, opposition by Republicans in the Washington State Senate killed that state's participation. Oregon considered trying to move forward with the project alone, but that plan failed to gain an in-state promise of financial support.
The project hasn't completely disappeared from public view with leaders in Oregon and Washington recently reviving talks about re-examining the project during the next decade.
James Beard Market: Plans for a public market to rival Pike's Place in Seattle may not be dead, but they do appear to be in limbo.
The idea of a public market for Portland was first floated in the 2000s by Ron Paul. The project appeared to gain ground in 2011 when it was identified as the sweetheart tenant of a 17-story tower that developer Melvin Mark planned to build at the west end of the Morrison Bridge. In the end, though, that idea ended up not panning out.
Market supporters spent the rest of the decade looking for a location, including eyeing Central Eastside Industrial property owned by the Museum of Science and Industry and Zidell family-owned waterfront property in Portland's South Waterfront District. The decade closed out, however, without an announcement about what the next decade may hold in store for the James Beard Public Market.
So what does the future hold?
From 2013 to 2019, the Portland metro area's population grew by 35,000 people, reaching 2.35 million, with about 50% of those new residents coming from outside Oregon, and then continued to rise, according to U.S. Census data.
Construction companies in the Portland metro area say they've seen work slow down slightly during the past year and expect another small dip in 2020. Overall, companies are mostly upbeat as they head into a new decade — at least for another year or two.
While hotel activity has slowed, there are projects still underway, including BPM Real Estate Group's 35-story, five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel project that broke ground in 2019 on the site of the former Alder Street Food Cart pod. Meanwhile, the flurry of multifamily projects that flooded Portland with units has slowed to a trickle since the city put in place inclusionary housing requirements that call for projects with 20 or more units to set aside a portion for affordable housing. Developers, however, aren't giving up on multifamily housing and have instead shifted their efforts to suburban areas such as Beaverton and Hillsboro.
The state's role as a leader in the world of mass timber, which took a giant step forward in 2019 with the opening of the A.A. "Red" Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory on the OSU campus in Corvallis as the decade ended, is expected to continue into the next decade. Tennessee-based Sauter Timber has announced plans to open a CLT prefabrication plant in Estacada in 2020, while OSU will prepare for the completion of Peavy Hall, which will be a showcase of mass-timber and technology.
School construction is expected to continue to keep some contractors and their crews busy for the next couple of years. Portland Public Schools, for example, plans to start construction on a remodel for Lincoln High School in early 2020, while also looking at approaching voters for yet another construction bond in the next year or two.
And a statewide $5.3 billion, 10-year transportation bill has started to spin out projects that are expected to continue through most the next decade. Among the efforts is a pilot program to examine the feasibility of applying congestion pricing to major roads in the Portland metro area. In addition, the debate over at least one of the projects included in the bill, a plan to add capacity to Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter, promises a lively start to the next decade.
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