The comments had a constant theme: "No big box store." "National accounts such as Home Depot destroy local economies." "Keep money local."

On Monday, nearly 200 residents packed into a conference room to express their opinions about a pending development on the eastern edge of the Burnside Bridge. Sponsored by Portland Development Commission, the meeting was part of a process to select one of three proposals for the pending five-block development project.

The most comprehensive and professional-looking plan has been put forward by Gerding/Edlen, the developers for much of the Pearl District, who have been pitching a Home Depot. But that idea irked many attendees on Monday evening, who lamented the impact on nearby stores and the increased traffic the store will bring. "It's not like anyone will take MAX to pick up a load of lumber," one resident quipped.

Although Gerding/Edlen have pontificated that major big box stores have been placed in Chicago and New York City's urban cores without major impacts, those examples backfired for many attendees. For example, one resident pointed out that when Home Depot opened in downtown Chicago, a family run hardware store which was located down the street and had been in business for 31 years closed.

A second proposal submitted by the Minneapolis-based Opus Development follows the same format, anchoring their proposal with a Lowe's.

But the crowd's favorite was submitted by Beam Development, who have been responsible for the Eastbank Commerce Center. They propose to fill the five-block space with small, locally owned stores, buildings with ecoroofs and live/work spaces.

A PDC committee will now take the comments provided on Monday and squirrel them away over the holidays. The next public meeting will be held on January 26. At that time, PDC will present their conditional decision--an announcement that will either bring cheers or jeers.

Anyone wanting to make further comments, hop on to PDC's website at: www.pdc.us/ura