FLIP, FLOP

moneyIf you had a pile of cash to spend on improving Foster, where would you spend it? Would it be on the streetscape, to make it more comfortable to walk around? Would it be for energy efficiency upgrades for local businesses? Would it be for preparing “catalytic” sites along Foster for new, mixed-use development?

Here’s your chance to let the city know. PDC is giving out $500 in imaginary money, and asking you to spend it . Jump onto their “PDC Town Hall” site, create an account, and spend away! Protip: you can add ‘sub priorities’ to provide more clarity about where you want to see each dollar go.

PDC has taken all of the ideas and suggestions generated at their two FLIP open houses to come up with one list to rule them all:

  • Improve pedestrian environment.
  • Plant additional street trees.
  • Improve sidewalks and curb extensions.
  • Enhance east/west bicycle and pedestrian connections.
  • Re-design Foster Road.
  • Implement an Energy Conservation Program.
  • Redevelop “catalytic” sites along Foster Road that could spur additional private investment.
  • Support existing businesses and the tenanting of vacant buildings.
  • Increase linkages between significant natural habitat areas.
  • Implement a Water Conservation Program.

Questioning the List

We’re happy to have PDC putting energy into our slice of Portland, but we do have some questions about their selection of the list. As someone who participated in all of the FLIP events and tries to stay on top of these things, my response was “That’s it?” After two open houses, long lists of potential projects, and this is the best they come up with to direct the coordinated development efforts on Foster?

The very first presentation about the Investment Strategy, one slide shows the four cornerstones of the project.

Slide

 Unfortunately, their final list doesn’t live up to the spirit of their framework:

  • Four of the items are redundant, covering the same topics as the Foster Streetscape Plan. This overabundance of transportation related concerns will result in a bias of results toward that one project.
  • There is no mention of Watershed Management (aka Stop the Flooding!)  As we shared last week, great strides have been made with the East Lents Floodplains, but it is unclear if that project has solved the problem, or if more needs to be done.
  • East Foster appears to be be almost totally abandoned. At the last open house, East Foster had a whole poster dedicated to the area, and only one of the potential projects survived onto this final list: “Increase linkages between significant natural habitat areas.”
  • Lents Town Center was lost in the abandonment of East Foster. Certainly many of the list items apply to their location in general, but the large role LTC is designed to play in this region isn’t even acknowledged  (Note that the LTC has many separate Urban Renewal, transportation and business development plans, it is possible the FLIP process recognizes and prioritizes those efforts in parallel with this one, but that is not clear.)
  • There is no mention of 82nd Ave at all. This is one of the biggest barriers in our neighborhoods.

Any other glaring errors and holes in your eyes? Please leave a comment below.  Even better, sign up for their online forum and post comments and critiques yourself.

17 Comments

  1. The recruit and retain manufacturing (actually industry clusters would be more appropriate) is completely lost, which means they’re shifting focus from the whole Johnson Creek Industrial area. That’s pretty much 1/2 to 2/3rds of the whole EdDev strategy tossed aside.

    The flooding issues are not resolved. The East Lents Floodplain project mitgated 7-10 year flooding events. Folks in the area have to pay ($400k a year in) flood insurance because of 100 year events. We’re about 3 more storage projects short of fixing that problem, but we do have opportunities to address it on the North side of Foster (requires some building of conveyance under the roadway that could also serve as awesome habitat corridor).

  2. I am confused about the purpose of the Foster Corridor Investment Strategy (FCIS) and how it helps execute the Foster Streetscape Plan. There is $3.25 million on the table for the Streetscape Plan. What funding is on the table for Foster Green, urban renewal, and watershed management?

    I equated my $500 to the $3.25 million that is to be spent on the Streetscape Plan, which is why I spent zero dollars on items not related to street improvements.

    I understand that FCIS is the vehicle for the “refresh” to the Streetscape Plan, but does this also mean that portions of the $3.25 million can now be hijacked and diverted to non-streetscape issues?

    • The current $3.25 identified for the streetscape is attached to the Streetscape Plan – there is no worry about it going to the other items on the FCIS list.

      It is my understanding that the $500 is meant to be spread across all of the projects to understand the relative importance of each item to the community.

      Your ranking of streetscape elements will be useful to them when implementing the streetscape. If other items on the FCIS list seem important to you, please consider editing your ranking to include other items as well.

      In general, transportation funding comes from different, non-competing, sources from the other items on the list.

      • It’s good to hear the funding for the streetscape is safe. Its planning phase, however, has not remained unscathed since being pulled into the amorphous blob of FLIP and its FCIS.

        Since the list is so streetscape-centric, I took it as our opportunity to give input to PBOT on that project. Am I wrong? Is PBOT not using the results of this “town hall”? Will they have some other way for residents to express their priorities for the streetscape?

        • Great questions, I wish I had the answers.

          PBOT is a partner in the FLIP process, so I’m positive they will use the results of this exercise to help understand community priorities of the elements of the streetscape plan.

          There will be a FLIP open house on Feb 28th. I presume the streetscape will be a big topic of the day because of it’s importance, and potential controversy.

          Given the intent of the town hall form, the FLIP planners will look at your response and conclude that you view the streetscape improvements as more important than any of the other project items. If this is true, then you’re all set. If you do like the other ideas too, it’s worth throwing them a bone from your $500 to help communicate that.

          • This is what has been frustrating me all along as far as mutual support across neighborhoods goes. It seems like every time Lents tries to move ahead with a project – there’s push back from the Foster Corridor neighborhoods because of this perception that additional projects are “cutting into” the streetscape funding or storefront funding or whatever for the Bob White.

            Foster Streetscape funding is already committed. Money is included to the business line loan and the storefront improvement budget in every budget cycle.

            The LTCURA has $150 million dollars more of projects to get out the door – and other funding to do those projects. It sure would be helpful if we had more support for making those projects happen too- you know, as much support as we’ve been giving the streetscape over the last 4 years.

          • I’d be cautious about taking one inappropriately harsh, anonymous comment on PDCs site as representative of widespread pushback from the Foster neighborhoods. I imagine some of the emphasis comes as a response from the equally “us first” attitude of the Lents NA letter to PDC.

            Mutual support is a tricky thing. Right now we have neighborhood associations made up of arbitrary boundaries all ‘competing’ over prioritization of their pet projects and local interests. Unfortunately “breaking down barriers and working together” is no one’s pet project.

            What this process is missing is regionally-focused leadership, and a clear message to the local neighborhood representatives about why working together matters. Maybe the bureaus will step up and communicate that better at the next Open House.

            As for the the streetscape project, you won’t see the end of that for a while. 4 Years of talk after 6 years of nothing is still 10 years of nothing. And depending on the result of the plan update, we may have a few more rounds of funding to grab before it is fully funded.

            I don’t know much about the URA process, priorities and opportunities. You say it needs ‘support’. What does that mean? What does it need? Out of all the planning and spending going on in the area, the URA process seems to most obscure, political, and inaccessible. Any insight is appreciated.

          • This isn’t about the one comment. and it’s not about neighborhood association boundaries. It’s about a pattern of comments that assert that Foster and 60th is the only node that matters, combined with a pattern of comments that assert that Lents Town Center is a failure and should be abandoned, combined with a pattern of comments that assert that the streetscape west of 72nd is the only project that matters.

          • And, what needs support is all of the vacant, PDC owned property in the Lents Town Center that is just sitting there, un-used, with no plans or efforts toward redeveloping and/or tenanting the properties.

            I’ve actively sat in meetings, at Olivers, that were specifically about Lents Town Center, where we invited folks from FABA and west of 82nd to come participate – and had them try to steer us toward working on Foster and 60th instead. Literally – “why not just put all the effort into Foster and 60th. No one wants to be anywhere next to a freeway and folks in Lents can go to Foster and 60th instead”.

          • Fair enough. I haven’t read all of the comments to get a feel for the direction it was headed.

            It is clear that the political leadership of FoPo and MSA are focused farther west. I think this is fairly misguided, particularly for FoPo since about half of their residents live between 72nd & 82nd.

            I have high hopes for FABA’s resurgence as a more functional and equitable group, but only time will tell.

            How can people support PDC in their effort to fill vacancies in LTC? This all feels above and beyond what the average person can contribute to in any meaningful way. Isn’t it the PDC’s charge to break down barriers to redevelopment? Isn’t it the market that decides to fill vacancies?

            But overall, it seems like everyone has the same idea: “Focus here first, we have the best chance of success.”

            Clearly, multiple areas with that same attitude will not see eye to eye, and will not be able to participate openly and honestly in a collaborative corridor-wide effort.

          • I don’t think Lents is so much “focus here first” but more – please give us the adequate amount of attention to keep our projects moving forward, and that we do require more effort because we’re coming from further behind (we don’t have as many ready to occupy buildings, or buildings period, small storefronts, existing businesses, etc.)

            In general, my neighbors are extremely supportive of what’s going on at 60th and Foster currently – we frequent Bar Carlo, O’Malley’s, the Gemini and NWIPA, we support the Bob White. That’s why it stings when we hear the opposite attitude coming from the west.

          • Hear, hear!

            The Eagle Eye is well on the way to being the draw from those out west, particularly for those wanting to do Karaoke. WCA seems pretty rockin’ too. As more services and destinations rise in Lents, more people will come.

            The lack of small, ready to occupy buildings seems like a real stumbling block to redevelopment in Lents. Unfortunately, the PDC philosophy of “acquire, demolish, assemble” doesn’t seem focused on providing cheap, small, storefronts. That said, I know very little about economic development and real estate. Isn’t the PDC supposed to know how this works?

            Also, to bring this around full circle to the streetscape: The walk or bike to Lents from west of 82nd sucks ass. Foster sucks, crossing 82nd sucks. Who would want to subject themselves to the awful environment if they can help it?

            Since the walk/bike is so bad, they’ll hop in their car. And if you hop in your car, why not go somewhere else?

            This cycle may change once LTC development reaches a tipping point, but until then I think the physical environment is a major detractor to local support of destinations to the East.

        • Jed,
          Remember that the Foster Streetscape Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public where they take public comments at the end of each meeting. It is a great way to express your priorities and stay in the loop.
          Check out the PBOT link.

        • That’s why it’s so frustrating when folks west of 82nd are just fine with ignoring the barrier that 82nd poses. If they were supportive – they would be saying “we want to go east” rather than “we don’t go east so why bother fixing it”.

          • I’m with you 100%. If anything, breaking the 82nd barrier is what FABA should be advocating for the most. (Assuming they really believe they serve all of Foster).

            I think that for most people 82nd falls into that category of “Problems so big we can’t do shit about it.” Sometimes I think the City of Portland itself even feels that way about it.

    • It’s actually quite the opposite. The Foster Corridor Investment Strategy is meant to create a more holistic strategy for ongoing investment along the entire Foster Corridor, but with a primary focus on creating a work plan/investment order that helped catalyze the industrial area in and around Johnson Creek, East of 205, create new habitat corridors, flood mitigation and recreational facilties and does is all in a way that is integrated between bureaus – combining funding streams and resources to achieve the greatest benefit at the lowest cost.

      The streetscape plan (really with a focus on how streetcar would be implemented) was brought into the process to ensure that investments made all along Foster complement the Foster Corridor Investment Strategy – rather than work against it. The streetscape is just a smaller sub-project of the whole investment strategy.

      When you’re setting priorities for the investment strategy, you should be thinking long term, big picture – overall corridor from 50th to 122nd.

  3. Thanks for the post. I hope this generates interest in the project and the community tells us what their priorities are for the “whole” Foster Corridor (52nd to 122nd).

    To set the record straight, this is a pilot tool being deployed to guage interest in corridor level investments as a way to inform the final priorities. We have corridor wide and specific projects around each of the five nodes. The City can’t do everything so tell us what is important to you.

    Cora described the purpose and approach already so no need to repeat, but I will stress that the feedback is invaluable for the Partnership for us to develop a corridor wide strategy.

    The time to request additional feedback on specific nodes (Heart of Foster, Green Link, East Foster, etc) comes later through individual presentations to community based organizations and our last open house that is scheduled for February 28. We still have a bit of work to do to get to the final investment strategy, but this tool helps us take one more important step to get there.

Submit a comment