Battle Over Broadway Corridor Property Heating Up
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Located on the edge of the Pearl District, it’s considered prime real estate by developers and city officials who say it hasn’t reached its full potential.
Yesterday, the Portland Development Commission (PDC) held its first in three Open Houses to discuss the “guiding principles” of the Broadway Corridor Framework Plan, which aims to redevelop the area as part of the Central City 2035 West Quadrant Plan.
It comes with no surprise that a central pillar in the project is Union Station, home to Amtrak’s Portland hub. By integrating the station into its neighboring properties, the PDC hopes to re-position it as a gateway to Portland.
“Union Station currently feels isolated from the adjacent neighborhoods for a variety of reasons,” said PDC’s senior project manager Sarah Harpole, citing its position to the Broadway Bridge ramp and the massive United States Postal Service (USPS) facility that blocks it from the Pearl District.
Under a separate project, the PDC is also assessing a re-design of Union Station to bring it up to speed.
The timing is good, too, as Amtrak’s popularity has risen in recent years. Portland ranked 16th in its 25 busiest stations nationwide, with total ridership at 652,455 according to a 2013 statistic.
The Framework Plan also intends to connect the “Green Loop” through the corridor and provide more open space in the area.
Negotiations back on the table
Like a strategic game of chess, the PDC has managed to attain several of the properties in the Broadway Corridor, including Union Station, which it acquired in 1987.
But the missing piece in the plan is the 13.4-acre USPS facility on NW Hoyt Street, which the PDC has been trying to acquire for years.
The post office site has been identified in the West Quadrant Plan as a key property for high-density employment and signature city attractions.
Since 2007, the PDC has been in negotiations with the USPS to acquire the building. In 2008 they attempted to release $500,000 to the USPS for exclusive negotiations. The offer expired in 2013.
But since last April negotiations are back on the table, with the PDC again proposing to pay $500,000 to re-open talks.
According to the PDC, the two parties agreed that a replacement facility must be considered before moving forward with negotiations.
“The USPS is currently completing preliminary designs for a new facility,” said Harpole.
The price tag on the site would be determined by the cost to relocate it, confirmed Harpole. Therefore, “the designs are not site-specific and are intended to inform the relocation costs, which in turn inform acquisition costs,” she said.
The River District Urban Renewal Area has allotted close to $35 million to support the possible acquisition and redevelopment of the USPS site. But the actual cost will likely exceed that figure.
A 2007 appraisal of the property valued it at $45.5 million, and the following year it rose to $53 million.
But the USPS is remaining button-lipped on the matter.
Peter Hass, USPS corporate communications, released the following statement: “The Postal Service is in discussions with the Portland Development Commission, as we have been for years. At this point in time, we have no written agreement in place for anything regarding the facility at 715 NW Hoyt St. We have no further information to share at this time.”
Its corridor neighbor Greyhound is supportive of the Framework Plan – which includes a redevelopment of the bus company – if it means re-positioning them to better serve the community and its customers.
“I would hope that, regardless what the PDC does, there would still be at least some postal service to benefit the general area,” said Greyhound district manager Bradley Chatterton.
Portland’s most-sought property
Size isn’t everything, but in property development that’s less true.
At almost 14 acres, the USPS property is considered the city’s most desirable site. It offers flexibility from Portland’s street grid, considered small by most standards.
“We don’t have a lot of single, contiguous sites that large left in the central city,” said urban designer Mark Raggett of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), which is behind the Central City 2035 Plan.
The post office sits smack dab in the middle of a transportation hub, which includes Amtrak, MAX Light Rail, Greyhound, and improved pedestrian and bike paths.
Even more advantageous, the site could potentially bridge the gap between the Pearl District and Old Town Chinatown.
Suggestions for the site have included a wide range of uses, including a baseball field back in 2004, and more recently office headquarters, a campus development, or an educational institute.
Although residential units could be a part of the picture, Raggett said the city’s not leading with the housing market.
“This is a major opportunity to land a city and regional attraction, something we don’t have. It’s large enough to host just about whatever we would want,” said Raggett.
But the slow-churning negotiations continue to keep the property at bay.
“We’ve taken a few cracks at this before, so it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to be able to move the post office this time either,” Raggett continued.
If the PDC is not successful in acquiring the USPS site, Raggett said the city at least gets a better sense of the property’s value and can plan around it.
“The benefit of the corridor plan is that are there several other sites in the immediate vicinity that we can think about contributing to a larger vision,” he said, “that at one time will likely include the post office site, even if it doesn’t happen in the near term.”
Related Slideshow: Portland’s 20 Hottest Neighborhoods for Real Estate
What are Portland’s hottest neighborhoods for real estate? The 20 neighborhoods below are ranked by the number of sold homes over the last 90 days. The information, along with the median list price and median price per square foot, comes from the real estate company Redfin. The population is from 2010 census data.
The sale to list percentage, also from Redfin, is the final selling price over what the listed price was, to show how close sellers came to their asking price. In cases where it is over 100 percent, the seller got more than then listed price.
Find out what the hottest real estate neighborhoods in Portland are:
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