"Water is magic."
That is the cringe-inducing motto of the development company the Blazers are partnering with to revision the Rose Quarter. According to an article in Portland's Bizjournal, the Blazers and California-based developers Cordish Company are planning "to remake the 36-acre Rose Quarter as an entertainment-themed district alive with activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week." The Rose Quarter has around 10 undeveloped acres, plus four acres along the *magic* river that they want to see populated with restaurants, businesses and entertainment venues.
While new businesses and jobs in the Rose Quarter would be great (it's absurdly poor planning that there's nowhere to even buy a sandwich around one of Portland's busiest transit hubs, much less any high-density transit-linked residential spaces) architecture critics are expressing some disdain for the Blazers' choice of redevelopment partners.
"'Water is magic' and so is good taste," quips Tim DuRoche at Portland Spaces. DuRoche writes that he's nervous about Cordish's style of redevelopment, which tends toward big chain spaces and bland exuberance. He also put together this truly terrifying photo collage of previous Cordish projects (including Louisville's Fourth Street Live! and Baltimore's Power Plant Live!)
Architecture critic Brian Libby of Portland Architecture also showers the design concept with some highly articulate haterade:
To repair the Rose Quarter, the Blazers need to integrate this area into the fabric of the city. Instead of forwarding a cheesy "entertainment zone", they should be looking to erase all surface parking and above-ground parking garages, then add a mix of housing, commercial and retail, and do so in a matter that refrains from thinking of the Rose Quarter as an island... We need a building scale that allows small local businesses and not just big brewpubs that host sports-talk shows and serve cheap steaks to people coming from out of town for the night in their SUVs to see the monster truck pull and eat at Tony Roma's.
Libby continues that he is arguably the biggest Blazers fan in the city BUT "please, Portland, don't let the Blazers be in control of urban planning for the Rose Garden, at least not without a very transparent process, good co-leadership from the city and appropriate talent on both the development and design teams."
Council's approval of the MLS stadium yesterday might hinder the Blazer's revamping vision, since the city will be pouring money into the PGE Park area. The Bizjournal article about the "24 Hour Entertainment District" (also, doesn't Portland already have one of those out on 82nd? ha.) says money for the makeover would probably come in part from the PDC. In fact, the developers note that remaking the Rose Quarter would "suit another PDC effort" — the doomed Convention Center hotel project.
It's also very relevant to be having this conversation about how businesses and restaurants have failed to take seed in the Rose Quarter while the City Council is banking millions on the hope that a new MLS stadium can revitalize Goose Hollow. It's important to understand that stadiums aren't a miracle shot that create new jobs and thriving business — that requires good planning. (and maybe an ounce or two of water magic?)