Although the changes won't be noticeable any time in the near future, over the next few weeks the fate of the Burnside Bridgehead will be determined. On Monday, Portland Development Commission released three proposals for commercial and residential development adjacent to the east end of the Burnside Bridge. Whichever report is accepted will dramatically change the character of the entire central eastside.

For the past year, PDC has been considering overhauling a five-block site of crumbling buildings and underused space near the Burnside Bridge. Although the geographic spread of the site is relatively small, its significance for the future of the city's eastside is enormous. The neighborhood has recently been rejuvenated, drawing in upscale restaurants like clarklewis and a bustling night scene studded with the Bossanova and Doug Fir. Nearby are family-run businesses and eclectic coffee shops. But the area lacks a nucleus.

This proposed development will not only pull together these scattered businesses, but will provide the most salient link between the city's east and west sides. It will also signal the direction of the city's economy--either towards mega-corporations or towards a more mixed bag of locally owned boutiques.

Unfortunately, Gerding/Edlen, which is currently completing renovation of the Brewery Blocks and commands OHSU and South Waterfront developments, submitted a proposal with Home Depot at its core, asserting that "Home Depot has demonstrated its willingness and skill in adapting large-format retailing to urban centers such as Manhattan and Chicago." But they make no mention about what placing a Home Depot mere blocks from Wink's and Hippo Hardware--both family-run hardware stores--will do to those businesses.

Another proposal shows glossy illustrations of a massive glass-encrusted Lowe's home building center. That proposal comes from Minneapolis-based developer Opus. They have designed office parks and shopping malls in Texas, Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

But the third proposal, from Beam Development, offers some hope. Led by Brad Malsin, who has developed the Eastbank Commerce Center, this proposal sticks close to the small-business mentality. The report asserts that they "deliberately avoided the typical suburban retail tenants normally associated with large-scale development." They talk about small grocery stores, art museums, and work/live space. (Most impressively, they already have letters of intent from two-thirds of the potential commercial tenants.) "None," their report points out, "are associated with a big box or large chain retailer." They also pepper the proposal with mentions of eco-roofs and solar power.

A public presentation of the proposals will take place on December 9, and residents will have an opportunity to give PDC a piece of their minds at a discussion/workshop scheduled for December 13. (Both meetings take place at the State of Oregon Building, 800 NE Oregon, 4-7 pm.) PDC hopes to make a final decision by January 7.