Last Wednesday, in front of a standing-room only crowd, the Portland Development Commission (PDC) discussed its opinions about each proposal so far--highlighting each one's strengths and weaknesses. The only applause during the evening was for Beam, who boasted a proposal incorporating locally owned businesses. The other two proposals had originally anchored their projects to big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe's.
But Gerding/Edlen--one of the developers who had previously touted a big box plan--proved how far they were willing to go to secure the $250 million project. Whoring themselves out to the prevailing public consensus, they claimed that they would dump the Home Depot and replace it with small stores. (In previous public workshops, there had been an overwhelmingly negative reaction to Gerding/Edlen plan to place a Home Depot along the eastern end of the Burnside Bridge--within a few blocks of a dozen smaller, family run hardware stores.)
Neighborhood advocates pointed out that once the proposal is approved, Gerding/Edlen could easily pull a switcheroo in order to plug the Home Depot back into their plans for the space, using an excuse like needing the economic stability of a big-chain store in order to secure funding.
In addition, the absence of a Home Depot or Lowe's in the space is only one aspect of Beam's appealing proposal--Beam's plan also includes sustainable ideas like wind-generated power and eco-roofs for the area's buildings.
What's more, Gerding/Edlen has the largest gap between financing and cost for the project, and that difference will need to be made up via public financing. Currently, Gerding/Edlen's financing falls an eye-popping $51 million short--nearly one-fifth of the project. Comparatively, Beam, who apparently has secured commitment for 90 percent of the office space, only has a $20 million gap.
On Saturday, there will be another opportunity for public input about the pending project. Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE MLK, 2-4 pm.