East Portland ‘prosperity district’ programs unveiled

Six specific areas were invited to participate in a new Portland Development Commission pilot program some call ‘Main Street Lite’. See which of them made the cut. See how it unfolded with lots of exclusive photos and much of the speakers’ remarks …

Portland Mayor Sam Adams greets participants, before the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative announcement begins.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The auditorium filled at Adventist Medical Center (AMC) on the morning of February 7, as City of Portland officials finished their wholesome late-breakfast treats, and turned their attention to which of the six “Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative” (NPI) districts – all of them east of the Willamette River – would be selected to participate in a new, but still relatively undefined, program.

  • To read the East Portland News story published in January, for background information about this program: CLICK HERE.

Judy Leach, of Adventist Medical Center, welcomes guests.

AMC Manager, and President of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, Judy Leach, brought the session to order: “It’s our pleasure to have you with us for this monumental announcement this morning.

“A community-driven approach to creating thriving communities, successful neighborhoods, and businesses who have long-term sustenance and equitable access to quality jobs over Portland, create what we call a ‘healthy community’,” Leach continued. “All of us are here today because we are interested in, and invested in, having a healthy community. It’s our pleasure to welcome Portland Mayor Sam Adams, to talk to us about the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative.”

All six NPI areas did qualify to participate in the program, Mayor Sam Adams says.

Mayor Sam Adams addressed the assembled group. “In addition to neighborhood associations, Venture Portland, East Portland Chamber of Commerce, and all of you, we are finally putting investments behind our ‘good words’ about truly supporting East Portland’s best potential. This is an incredibly exciting day.”

Adams said that the day’s announcement was the next step in the program announced by himself and Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen several weeks ago.

“Every single one of the six ‘opportunity areas’ qualified [to be included in the NPI program] – and qualified with great enthusiasm,” Adams revealed. “It was not a guarantee [that a proposed NPI area would be included], it was an opportunity. That opportunity required a level of due diligence, and a level of good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, that we’ve never asked of you before.”

Adams glowed as he added, “I’m very excited about it.  It’s innovative, and it’s different – and that’s a good thing.”

Multnomah County’s Economic Development Director John Tydlaska says the program does more than improve buildings – it improves capacity.

Referring to Multnomah County as a “key partner” – along with the Portland Development Commission (PDC) – Adams introduced John Tydlaska, who was filling in for the out-of-town County Chair.

“From the county’s standpoint, we are beyond excited, and beyond thrilled, about this,” Tydlaska exclaimed. “To us, we see this as a new step forward in a vision toward what urban redevelopment looks like.
“We think of it as adding more resilience,” Tydlaska went on. “It’s more than the buildings. It’s building a capacity in the community. It’s giving you all the tools. We’re so thrilled to see all of you step forward. Congratulations to you and to Mayor Adams for pushing this forward.”

Portland Development Commission’s chair, Scott Andrews says the NPI provides the six business districts a “new way” to develop.

Next, Scott Andrews, the Portland Development Commission’s Chair, spoke. “On behalf of the five-member commission, this is a very, very exciting day. We’ve been looking for ways to help East Portland and the neighborhoods.  Understand that most of [PDC’s funding] money comes from the urban renewal districts. Without a district, we can’t help for the most part. About 97% of our budget is tax increment financing or TIF.”

Although “it’s not a lot of money”, Andrews added, it will “… hopefully, provide catalytic projects that will get these neighborhoods going.”

In putting together this project, Andrews concluded, “Getting each one of these neighborhoods organized around some ideas, and getting some people do talk about common problems and common ideas, it is worth a lot all by itself.”

Venture Portland board President Justin Zelner says the NPI provides a “great connection” between the business community and neighborhoods.

President Justin Zelner of Venture Portland (formerly APNBA) stepped up and commented, “A thriving, effective community requires a great connection between the business community and the neighborhoods and the residents – and the workers and the employees who work in those businesses, here within our city.”

Zelner added, “These are the types of programs we’ve been talking about for decades here. This is very exciting because, to me, this is the right approach. This is what we do to connect and to tell that story, and start building that thriving community and thriving city that we’re all really looking to achieve.”

Mayor Sam Adams presents the representatives of the Midway Business District, along outer SE Division Street, their official “Certificate of Acceptance” into the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative program.

When Adams invited the representatives from the six districts to come forward, the auditorium nearly emptied as those representatives gathered around large map graphics which depicted their respective NPI areas:

NPI areas accepted into the program:

  • NE 42nd Avenue
  • Cully Boulevard
  • Parkrose
  • Rosewood (primarily along SE 162nd, south of E. Burnside Street)
  • SE Division Street (117th – 148th Avenues)
  • SE Division Street and 82nd Avenue

 

Portland Chinese Times Editor Rosalind Hui speaks enthusiastically about 82nd Avenue being included in the NPI program.

Adams invited Rosalind Hui, Editor of the Portland Chinese Times, to speak.

“I am so excited!” Hui exclaimed. We got it! Coming from 82nd and Division NPI area, it’s just like home to a lot of Asian people, especially for the Chinese – we call it the new Chinatown.

“During the outreach process, I went out to talk to our community members, and they were excited to learn about this project, in their own language,” Hui said. “As well as to learn that the city really cares about them.”

Hui wrapped up by adding, “The number ‘8’ and the number ‘2’ in Chinese sound like the phrase ‘getting rich easily’. With the city’s new attention [on East Portland] and all this effort, let’s see if the businesses here can be even more successful, to match the sound of ‘82’ in Chinese.”

Closing the meeting, Adams remarked, “This is ‘Not your grandmother’s Portland Development Commission’.  They are fighting to make every part of Portland – every part of Portland – as good as it can possibly be.”

This happy group, from the Rosewood NPI area, looks forward to a brighter future, says their spokesman (far left), Moe Farhoud.

Rosewood NPI area’s Moe Farhoud, of Stark Firs Management, a company that owns eight apartment developments in the area, said, “Today, it’s a wonderful day.”

The best thing about having the Rosewood area included, Farhoud said, “is that this is a new page for outer Southeast Portland. I think that we can conquer lots of things, starting today. I mean, I’ve been in the neighborhood for 25 years.  I believe is a new day, to start the best for Southeast.”

Representatives of the Parkrose NPI listen as Mayor Adams concludes the presentations.

Speaking for the Parkrose NPI, Joe Rossi commented, “This is a great thing to help benefit all of our community. I’m excited about the project.  Just look at the people here together with me. I’m fourth-generation Parkrose, and I love my community.”

Specifically, Rossi added, “This is a great thing to help people to unify and get together. The biggest change we can expect is that we have something now to help unify a vision for our community.”

The Midway NPI district representatives are enthusiastic about the program, with their “Certificate of Acceptance” in hand, says spokesperson (second from left), Lori Boisen.

Lori Boisen, proprietor of Advertise in the Bag, and the Midway Business Association’s Secretary, listed six important things they believe the NPI program will bring to outer SE Division Street:

  1. Reduced vacancies, and new business into the empty storefronts – especially near 122nd Avenue;
  2. Support and enhancement of existing local businesses within the corridor;
  3. Enticing residents and businesses who are already in the community to stay here and draw people to the community;
  4. Bringing into the area a grocery store with affordable food;
  5. Improved mass transit transportation; and,
  6. Creating ‘smart growth’ for the area.

It’s clear that expectations for the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative districts run high among these committees. East Portland News hopes their enthusiasm and dedicated participation pays healthy dividends.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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