Bill Jackson wasn't expecting such a huge crowd.
He'd only brought 100 handouts describing his Mississippi Avenue Lofts development project to pass out at the May 8 Boise Neighborhood Association meeting. As it turned out, nearly 200 people crammed into the windowless cafeteria at North Mississippi's Albina Youth Opportunity School, eager to discuss the Lofts project and other developments concerning their rapidly changing neighborhood.
Jackson and his development partners—Peter Wilcox and David Yoho—were there to ask the neighborhood association for a letter of support for the Lofts project. In December, they'd done the same thing—but opponents succeeded in defeating the request, voting 24 to 14 against.
Since that vote, the neighborhood has squared off over the development. On one end, Lofts supporters are in favor of upping density along transit-oriented Mississippi Avenue, excited to replace an eyesore of a warehouse with new retail shops, and appreciate that the developers are aiming for an environmentally sustainable building. In January, the Historic Mississippi Business Association voted to support the project.
Neighbors opposed to the development tick off potential problems like the building's height and bulk, lack of privacy in adjoining backyards, and gentrification.
"Gentrification is destroying our community and we want it stopped. Now bring that voice and your vote on Monday night," read one email encouraging people to attend the neighborhood meeting.
Neighbors crammed into the Monday night meeting to hash it out, lobbing pointed questions about how the project would affect the cost of housing in the neighborhood, where prices have skyrocketed. Wilcox—one of the developers, and the former Multnomah County housing director—responded.
"I truly believe that the city's plan to put denser housing on transit-oriented streets, and grow up instead of out, is a good one in terms of affordability," Wilcox explained. "If you put more housing on transit-oriented streets, that takes more pressure off of the adjacent single family neighborhoods."
Their pitch apparently worked: This time, 66 neighbors voted to write a neighborhood letter of support for the project, with 47 voting against.