PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For years, 14 acres in northwest Portland sat empty with no clear future for the abandoned buildings.
The city bought the former post office distribution center in 2016 for $88 million and Thursday, Portland leaders announced a vision for its future.
Lisa Abuaf, the director of development and investment with the city’s development agency Prosper Portland, says planning on what to do with the site has been going on for nearly 15 years. It was once sought after for a baseball stadium, but now, a mixed-use development and space for a potential high-rise anchor development is cemented in the site’s master plan.
Seven parcels of land for development will be up for bidding on the site that used to house the postal service distribution center. Pedestrian greenways are being considered extensions of Kearney and Irving streets. Johnson street would be extended, leading to Union Station, serving as the “main street” of the new neighborhood that will connect the Pearl District and Old Town.
“I would think about it as one of those beloved corridors that we all go to because it’s where our retailers are, we can go and gather as a community. That’s what that street for this new community.” Abauf said.
In the years since 2016, commercial office vacancy has reached over 20 percent after work-from-home took off in the pandemic.
In an effort to combat those trends, the post office site and surrounding open properties will mix commercial development, affordable housing and market-rate housing. Add in the transit options of the streetcar, MAX lines, Amtrak and Green Loop, the hope is the site can become a stem to support the Rose City.
“We’re going to have to think of new innovative projects like this and others to really creatively think about how we’re going to use that space,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Developmental Services and Prosper Portland.
Under the Broadway Bridge overpass to the north, and closer to Old Town to the south, tents and people who are homeless have often bordered the post office site. Mayor Ted Wheeler and Rubio urge that affordable housing will be a priority for the development. They said the first development to come up will be at least 200 units of affordable housing serving people who make 60 percent of the area’s median income or less. During her remarks, Rubio left open the possibility for other parcels to be dedicated to affordable development.
Abuaf says, other developments in the city had taken off quicker than affordable housing could be built, and Portland aims to change that with the USPS site.
“We were pretty intentional about who can afford to live here so it’s one of the reasons we’re starting with affordable housing, coming off of lessons learned that the city has done elsewhere,” said Abuaf.
A park and greenway will extend the North Park Blocks through the development and connect the city’s Green Loop project.
Since the city took over the property, there have been developers interested, even releasing renderings of what’s to come, only to pull back.
But city leaders told KOIN 6 they’re confident the conversations they’re having with new developers will change the fate of this massive property and the Johnson Street corridor has been the main draw.
“We do have a partner who is interested,” Abuaf said. “We are having conversations as what they see as the future of this parcel.”
There is still a lot of work to do, including scaling up water lines and utilities to support a new neighborhood and even remediating soil. The earliest construction would break ground will be in 2025.