Paul Allen's death muddles Rose Quarter's future
Paul Allen's death earlier this month adds to the uncertainty over the future redevelopment of the Rose Quarter.
The properties in and around the quarter have long been considered poised for growth. Companies owned by Allen were always expected to be deeply involved in efforts to remake the area that includes the Moda Center and the Memorial Coliseum. The companies are leasing both facilities through 2025, and also own a valuable adjacent four-acre parcel along the Willamette River.
But no negotiations with the companies about the future redevelopment of the area were under way when Allen died on Oct. 15.
"We have not had serious talks with them for some time," says Susan G. Hartnett, Spectator Facilities and Development Manager for the Portland Office of Management and Finance.
Allen's sister Jody was named executor and trstee of his estate on Wednesday. She did not immediately say anything about her longterm commitment to Portland. Allen's basketball team, the Portland Trail Blazers, is leasing the Moda Center and the Memorial Coliseum from the city through 2025. The lease has financial penalties to discourage the team from being moved before then, but does not prohibit its relocation outright.
"I have been given the great responsibility to steward Paul's wealth in service of his vision for the future," she said in an Oct. 24 statmement. "I will do all that I can to ensure Paul's vision is realized, not just for years, but for generations. Paul sought solutions to some of the world's toughest problems, to celebrate the range of human expression, and to implement programs that effect positive global and local outcomes. While the loss of Paul is overwhelming, I am dedicated to preserving and implementing Paul's vision. Paul made the world a better place. Through Paul's generosity, and with the help and support of Paul's friends, partners and colleagues, the future will be even better. Paul's light shall continue to shine."
In fact, Allen's companies had allowed valuable redevelopment rights in the quarter to lapse in recent years. They included the air rights over the city-owned parking garages that serve the area.
The company's commitment is not the biggest question about the future of the
area, however. Although it has been considered underdeveloped for many years, no
viable plan for its future has ever been fully funded by the City Council. Instead, several different plans are currently in motion that could reshape the area, and a lack of certainty about them is dampening investment.
The plans that have yet to be finalized or fully funded include:
? The realignment of I-5 and I-84 in the Rose Quarter, which is being pursued by Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The current version of the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, which is supported by both the council and ODOT, includes "capping" I-5 in the area to provide better pedestrian and bike access between the quarter and the Lloyd District. But is has not yet been completely designed or fully funded by the state and the city, and is opposed by some local alternative transportation advocacy organizations.
? The N/NE Quadrant Plan, which was adopted by the council as part of the Central City Plan update earlier this year. It envisions the quarter as a vibrant mixed-used district with many more multifamily housing and commercial properties. The council has not reserved nearly enough money to fund it, however.
? The plan advocated by the Albina Vision Trust, which is proposed by a nonprofit community-based organization. It is even more ambitious than the N/NE Quadrant Plan, and envisions the four-acre parcel as a park along the river. But supporters are only advocates and have limited financial resources to encourage redevelopment.
Even the future of the Memorial Coliseum is uncertain. It needs ten of millions of dollars in maintenance and upgrades. But the council has repeated postponed making such an investment in it.
Further complicating the redevelopment of the area is whether a Major League Baseball stadium might be built there. Advocates are known to be considering buying the Portland Public Schools headquarters across Northeast Broadway for a location. No announcement has yet been made on the future of the Robert W. Blanchard Education Service Center, however.
According to Hartnett, no developer is likely to invest much money in the Rose Quarter until the questions raised by all of these plans and proposals are answered.
The Rose Quarter has a long and controversial history. A center of the African-American community, it was torn apart by the construction of I-5, the Memorial Coliseum and the planned expansion of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. Construction of the Moda Center as a larger home for the Trail Blazers was considered a positive move, although the area turned out to be mostly dormant when it and the Memorial Coliseum are unused, except for the adjacent TriMet transit center.
Acknowledging the lost potential of the area, several revitalization plans have been proposed over the years. They include Jump Town, a proposal by the Trail Blazers to create a lively entertainment district. Former Mayor Sam Adams proposed
replacing the Memorial Coliseum with a
Major League Baseball stadium, but he backed down after preservationists
argued the coliseum was an historically significant example of 1950s-era architecture. It could still be renovated or torn down, however.
All these possibilities make the Rose Quarter and the area around it prime for redevelopment, although the active support of the companies formerly owned by Allen would likely help.