Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Saturday Market saved (maybe).

Seems the city's decided to pull the plug on their goofy plan to mess around with the Ankeny Square area. The plan was to get rid of an unsightly, non-upscale fire station, and replace it with a trendy, taxpayer-subsidized condo tower for the idle rich, and then dispose of the adjacent Saturday Market (far too hippie-70's for modern "creative class" tastemakers) and replace it with a taxpayer-subsidized grocery store (also known as a "public market"), also for the benefit of the idle rich. I wrote about this back in January, when it still seemed like a done deal, explaining in detail why this was such a godawful stupid idea.

The reaction across Bloglandia has been pretty predictable. Jack Bog is happy, for once, temporarily, while the Portland Architecture guy and local foodies are livid, sputtering with rage. How dare you refuse us our new shiny baubles? Don't you know who we are?

One of Jack Bog's commenters is outraged as well, saying

I am amazed at the lack of foresight here. With this kind of thinking, Portland looks to be immitating Orange County, California. Does everyone think that projects like Pioneer Courthouse Square, Pioneer Place, Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade, The Brewery Block, & The Pearl District would have just "happened" if left to the open market. The City of Portland and PDC has had a hand in shaping all of the above projects. Take a look at the public investment and see how it leverages private money (which translates to jobs, revitalization and liveabilty).
I am very disappointed to see the Firestation project go away, and with it the Portland Public Market.

That's the same argument as always: "Give us everything we want, or else you'll turn into California!" Now, I loathe California as much as the next guy, or probably more so, but at some point (i.e. now) this just becomes naked extortion. Funny thing, the idle rich in Orange County somehow manage to scrape by without huge public subsidies. Astonishing!!! I wonder how they do it?

I mean, this is all aside from the fact that 3 of the 6 PDC "miracles" listed (Pioneer Courthouse Square, Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade) are city parks, not development projects, per se, and they were only funded through the PDC because it was easier than crazy stuff like, you know, making them part of the regular city budget, or whatever.

I'm not calling the PDC, their developer chums, and their devoted foodie / design-geek fanboys a bunch of crooks. Oh, no, certainly I wouldn't do that. They've all made it very clear, both to themselves and everyone else, that they're only doing this for the highest and noblest of reasons. The fact that they all get extraordinarily rich in the process is just.... well, it's a remarkable coincidence. I'll leave it at that.

I'm also not saying the city should never, ever do this sort of thing. I'm just saying that maybe there are other priorities to consider. Call me crazy, but I'd argue that maybe, just maybe, the city ought to have a go at a few of the classics, such as more jobs & healthcare, and less poverty & crime, and maybe some paved streets in outer SE Portland, while we're at it. Once we've solved those, I'd be more than happy to have a nice long fireside chat about our fair city's desperate shortage of million-dollar condos and doggie day spas.

This isn't the first stupid PDC idea to bite the dust. Remember the ice skating rink they wanted to stick in Pioneer Courthouse Square? Or the plan to demolish a bunch of beautiful historic buildings to put in more park blocks? And let's not forget the (shelved for now) Tanner Springs-style redesign of Watefront Park, which was intended to keep the design junkies happy (and employed) and keep the riffraff out, at great public expense. So it isn't unprecedented for the bad guys to lose a round or two. But win or lose, every time around the strategy for selling their latest scheme to the taxpaying rabble is the same: Plan in utmost secrecy, unveil it as if it's a done deal, then hold extensive public meetings so the public can argue over unimportant details and feel their opinions count for something, the poor saps, and then disregard all that so-called "input" and follow the original plan religiously, for good or for ill.

And guess what? A fresh new stupid plan is already afoot. Seems the "development community" now wants to gentrify the area near downtown that they (and they alone) like to call the "West End". Only problem is that there's a city-owned parking garage in the area, which is, like, totally not upscale. So the genius plan now is to tear the thing out, and replace it with... wait for it... a super-expensive condo tower! Built at taxpayer expense, no less. Who could have guessed?


Updated: According to the Portland Architecture guy, killing the plan was a terrible idea because of all the hard work the poor architects had devoted to this latest outpost of Pugtopia. All that time and taxpayer money spent, slaving away over a hot CAD program, all for nothing. Our job, as taxpayers, is to dutifully throw good money after bad, no matter how much it costs in the end. We need to go on signing those blank checks, because our city oh-so-desperately needs to gain the approval of the world's professional architects. That needs to be our highest priority, period.

Also, we need to build million-dollar condos for the idle rich because of 9/11. If we don't go through with the plan, the terrorists win!!! This is because the proposed replacement fire station (sited a few blocks down the street) would have had a shiny new firefighting museum, which would be a great local memorial for those poor New York firefighters. Never mind that the city already has a firefighting memorial -- with a local connection, no less -- at 18th & Burnside (and they're already building a new condo tower right next door).

The constant "Do X or Portland turns into L.A." we've been hearing is really just the local version of the "Do X or the terrorists win." we get on a national level. The idea is to prevent debate: If you talk publicly, or even think about such things, you're actively helping to cause an unimaginable disaster. Now the developers have stooped to playing the terrorist card locally so they can keep wallowing at the public trough. I'm sorry, but that's just despicable. I'm sure they see it as just another sales & marketing tactic, and I'm sure they don't actually believe the latest crap they're spewing (although they're hoping you do), but this is just way, way over the line.

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