Metro weighs future of Portland Expo Center
Metro called for public input and creative ideas to shape future development of the Portland Expo Center on Tuesday, June 7.
The 53-acre exhibition facility is owned by the regional government at 2060 N. Marine Dr. near the Columbia River in North Portland. Metro said it has millions of dollars of needs and no guaranteed financing. The Portland Expo Center Development Opportunity Study is seeking ideas about future uses that could best benefit the region.
"Expo has served as a hub of community events for a century, but it has significant capital needs and no long-term funding source to pay for them. This process aims to address that," said Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, chair of the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (MERC) that oversees the Expo Center. "By understanding community aspirations for the site, learning its market value, and seeing viable options for its future, MERC and Metro can best decide how to complement, support and repurpose spaces to enhance the venue's operations and continued economic vitality."
According to Metro, there will be no immediate changes to the Expo Center or its upcoming schedule of events while the project is underway.
Metro is looking to understand through a public survey what matters most to area residents and how the Expo Center could be part of the solution to address their top regional priorities. The survey is now live at www.expofuture.org. The newly launched website includes in-depth information about the site and facilities and a video about the project that features several community members.
Metro also invites regionally-based teams interested in public-private partnerships to submit their ideas for the future of the Expo Center through a Request for Expressions of Interests (RFEI) — a common process to seek creative and principle-driven development concepts for publicly-owned sites. Submissions will be considered through the lens of the project's community-developed guiding principles, which include:
• Honor historical and cultural legacy of the site
• Ensure financial sustainability
• Maximize economic prosperity
• Create financial and community wealth-building opportunities, especially for Black, Japanese American, urban Indigenous, and other communities of color.
• Recognize, respect, and restore the wealth and interconnectedness of the environment, land, water and people.
Metro describes the Portland Expo Center as a valued tourism venue that attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year to over 100 public trade shows and community events bringing an economic impact of more than $47 million annually. The campus includes five spacious exhibit halls totaling over 333,000 square feet and 10 meeting rooms. The historic Vanport Floods near the Expo Center and the incarceration of Japanese Americans at the Expo Center during World War II have had lasting impacts on communities across the region. It remains important to Metro to honor these and other important historical and cultural ties that many communities have with the Expo site.
However, according to Metro, significant capital investment is needed due to the age of the original exhibition halls, which celebrated their centennial this year. To meet this need, Metro has met with area tribes, businesses, and community groups, including representatives from Black, Japanese American, and urban Indigenous communities, over the past two years to outline how the future of the Expo Center can best serve the people of the Portland area in future years.
"This project is our generation's opportunity to honor the legacies of those who came before us while creating something that will have an immediate impact for this generation and those into the future," said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. "I look forward to seeing the creative ideas for Expo that come our way through this flexible and unique development process."
Input and involvement from residents and community-based organizations will assist Metro Council and the MERC with determining how the future use of Expo Center can best benefit the region, Metro said.
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