In this week's Sold Out column, I delve a bit into the relationship the Portland Design Collective has with the city, specifically the Portland Development Commission and the downtown retail strategy, as told to me by PDC's (the commission, not the collective) Katherine Krajnak. Unfortunately, due to print space restrictions, I only had room for one itty bitty quote, though what she actually gave me was the full story of the Collective's evolution. It's a must-read for anyone interested in the development of downtown, and an interesting model of the kind of opportunities available for entrepreneurs willing to work hand in hand with city agencies. Take it away, Katherine:

Portland Design Collective is located in the 10th and Yamhill Garage. The garage is owned by the city and managed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), so PBOT would be considered the landlord. PDC and PBOT are negotiations with Carroll Investments to fully redevelop the garage that would entail a tear down and the building of new garage structure with more commercial and residential uses built above the new garage. Due to the uncertainty in the garage's future, all tenants in that garage are on a month to month lease and pay percentage rent—meaning they pay a percentage of gross sales, utilities, and a minimum rent that covers property taxes. This summer, we have been able to confirm with the Carroll Investments development team that the soonest they could begin construction would be within two years.

The impetus behind bringing Portland Design Collective to the 10th and Yamhill Garage is the result of an urging from the downtown task force that created the 2009 Portland Downtown Retail Strategy to pay special attention to the city owned retail property, especially at the 10th and Yamhill Garage. The gap for the shopper walking along Morrison from Broadway to 10th is significant and we needed more activation across from Brooks Brothers to draw the shopper along and to even be compelled to take a short walk down to visit all the great West End retail on 10th near the Ace (Radish Underground, Covet, Francis May, Tender Loving Empire, etc).

So last summer our search for an interim use for the 10th and Yamhill Garage began. We knew wanted to do something Portland, something to support the local entrepreneur, something new and exciting, and something that would really activate that space but we were limited in that we knew the garage would, at some unknown time in the future, be torn down. After many different iterations of ideas, we looked at the idea of a fashion incubator as we saw a lot of success in the pop ups featuring local fashion designers that holiday season. We thought fashion designers wanting work/retail space might consider affordable yet temporary space that would give them exposure to the captive Nordstrom and tourist customer. We also wanted a home for Portland fashion, in the same way Seaplane served that role and we wanted it in downtown because that's where the tourist goes first and sometimes that's all they see and know about us. However, in combination with escalating costs at doing these improvements and having a known two year minimum time frame, we abandoned that effort and simultaneously met Tacee, who was looking for a retail space at the time to start a new store with a similar vision as Seaplane.

I met Tacee in August and we had to move quickly as we wanted something there before the holiday shopping season began. We were excited that Tacee and her team would be able to accomplish the vision for the activation of that site and was willing to accept a two year lifetime if need be. We were excited to have someone there that could connect that shopping experience along 10th to the West End retail, could reinforce the Portland fashion brand in the retail core, and create excitement and activation at that site. That said, the space was not in a very good condition so Tacee had a lot of makeover work to do in that space. As the city was the landlord and PDC manages Retail Strategy implementation, PDC and PBOT provided funds for a tenant improvement allowance for her to do the improvements in the space quickly. She got all of that construction done in about one month believe it or not, complying with all of the city's policies for union wages and green building. (We were very lucky that she also had a contractor's license
and experience in building out so many retail stores.) Part of our agreement with her is that 1) She had to open before the holiday shopping season, 2) Her inventory is primarily local designers with a limited
amount of curated vintage in the space, and 3) The store does monthly events to keep the space active. Otherwise, her lease is structured and looks the same as the other tenants in the garage.