Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Today's South Waterfront update


I thought I'd mosey down to South Waterfront and have a fresh look around, since I hadn't been down that way for a while. The place is surprisingly hard to get to, and it's not really on the way to anywhere else, and there's not much to do once you're there, so it's pretty rare for me wander down that way. But as I'll explain in a minute, yesterday I saw something on the net that piqued my curiosity.

Photo #1 is our world-famous tram tower, now with "saddles" (the curvy bits on top), and a variety of wires attached. To get a sense of the scale of the thing, there's a tiny blob on top of the tower that's actually a construction worker sitting down and welding something. Or possibly mooning the camera. It's difficult to say.

Because the tram's my friend on MySpace and all, I'd like to make it crystal clear this is merely an expression of friendly, public-spirited, neighborly concern. I realize I'm not an expert on building trams, and looks can be deceiving, but I haven't seen much construction progress lately, and I'm starting to worry. I could have sworn the city said the tram wires would be up in August, and it isn't August anymore, and while it's true there are a few guys at work here and there, I don't see the flurry of activity I would've expected. I'd be trying to get as much work done as possible while the weather's still cooperating, if I was running the show.

But then, maybe I could be running the show, if I actually wanted the job in real life. Yesterday, the city put up a job posting for an Aerial Tramway Construction Project Manager. My job, if I chose to accept it, would involve duties such as "oversees and coordinates the Aerial Tramway construction project by insuring construction schedules are met". Actually that's the very first thing they mention. In fact, they harp on it a few more times, with the phrases "responsibility for insuring scheduled completion", "ensures project is completed as planned and on-time", "coordinates work of major contractors to avoid errors or delays", and "works with engineers, architects and construction contractors regarding normal and unusual project problems and phases".

I'd also be responsible for "cost containment, project performance and results", which shouldn't be too hard if everything's going as great as they keep saying. But there's always a catch: "Prepares and makes presentations before citizen groups, funding partners, and the City Council; responds to requests for press information." Ouch. I hate public speaking. I sure do hope it wouldn't involve going back to "funding partners" (listed as OHSU, PDC & TriMet elsewhere in the posting) and asking them for more money. I sure would hate to have to do that. And I can only imagine what the city council would say. I bet they'd accuse me of blackmailing them with a half-built tram, because politicians tend to say mean stuff like that. I tend to get red-faced and stammer a lot in situations like that, even when what I'm saying is the 100% absolute truth -- which I'm certain I'd be doing 100% of the time in this job, because it's a solemn public trust, and a high-profile one, and I have my principles. So anyway I think I may not be cut out for this line of work after all, strictly because of the public speaking thing. Sigh. It sounded so perfect until I got to that part.


So back to the photos. Photo #2 is of our fair city's shiny new South Waterfront Neighborhood Park, two full city blocks of nothing but beautiful green grass. Well, really this is just a placeholder for right now, not the finished park. For now, all they did was grade it, do the usual toxic waste mitigation (which I'm sure is nothing to worry about) and plant all that beautiful green grass. But eventually the city's going to give the place the old Tanner Springs treatment, to ensure the place holds no attraction for outsiders (i.e. kids). So walk your dogs here while you can, or play frisbee golf or have a picnic or whatever, because the design junkies have designs on the place, and after that you will not be welcome here. That'll be a while off in the future, though, since right now the city's got no cash to spare. (*cough* aerial tram *cough*)

If my camera hadn't run out of juice at that point, I'd have taken a photo of the new path along the river. It's really not much to look at yet, though. Like the new park, right now it's the minimum functional implementation: An asphalt path with a few Home Depot-style benches, running for just the few blocks next to where the condo towers are going up right now. So you can't actually hop on the path and walk down to the Old Spaghetti Factory (still the only restaurant in the area) for the time being. Oh, well. At least there's a coffee shop here now. Well, in a manner of speaking. There's a coffee cart, catering mostly to construction workers. From the very small sample I encountered, the iced quad espresso is the #1 choice in the building trades.

Oh, and one more thing. On the walk down to the South Waterfront area, I passed through an area I wrote about back in June, which I referred to as slightly off the beaten path. The reader was supposed to infer the place was much more than slightly off the beaten path. But oh, how wrong I was. The post's second photo shows an overgrown lot next to the gravel road the city calls SW Baker St. Today I was walking along Water Avenue (the paved street down the hill) and noticed the big signs for, the website for the coming-soon Water Avenue Lofts, described as "36 First Class Condominiums from the mid-$200s to $800,000+", with 14 already reserved. Jeepers! There were a few people standing on the sidewalk, looking at the as-yet-vacant lot, and one had a roll of blueprints under his arm. A worrisome thought crossed my mind: What if local developers read this blog, and they're relying on me to seek out weird, out-of-the-way (read "undervalued") corners of town, and then they swoop down and plant condos in my wake. That would not be a happy thought, and I refuse to give it any credence. But still, sometimes I have to wonder, just a little bit.

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