Just as Portland City Hall nixed plans for a winter shelter at an industrial site called Terminal 1, downtown businesses around O'Bryant Square have learned of plans for a new winter shelter.
O'Bryant Square—long nicknamed "Paranoid Park" for its reputation as a magnet for the down-and-out—sits close to tony shops and serves as a popular lunch spot on sunny days, right next to the largest food-cart pod in the city.
An opponent of Terminal 1, the developer Tom Cody, through his company project^, is providing the first floor of the Bushong & Co. Building at 333 SW Park, just north of the park, as a shelter for the next six months.
The property sold just last month and renovation work is under way.
The shelter, which will be overseen by the city-county Joint Office on Homelessness, will be open for six months and operated by the nonprofit Transition Projects, which also operated last winter's shelter site donated by the Menashe Properties. It's not clear exactly when it will open.
"We've been looking for properties for months," says Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. "We're really excited a private-sector partner has stepped up to work with us."
The shelter will hold up to 100 people, says Cody, who is donating the space while he works to get development plans for the property through the city, a process he estimates with take upwards of six months.
Vacant buildings and land are an untapped resource for sheltering Portland's homeless population, he says.
"My guess is there are thousands and thousands of square feet that are in transition that could be made available," he says. "While those projects are being planned and entitled they're usually vacant. It's a glaring inequity, when you have a vacant building and right outside the building there are people on the street."
Cody, who was among the Terminal 1 opponents who filed a land-use appeal to stop the project, praised fellow developer Homer Williams, who championed the Terminal 1 project, for raising the awareness of the issue.
"It's not just a public sector issue," adds Cody. "It's all oars in the water at least till we get to the point where we have more housing and more shelters."
Area businesses that opposed a homeless shelter at O'Bryant Garage, earlier this year, are concerned about a new shelter going on in near the park.
"Safety is our biggest concern," says Steven Lien, spokesperson for Friends of O'Bryant Square, noting the neighborhood has changed significantly since the park first earned its nickname.
Lien says he's hoping the shelter will provide bathrooms during the day as well as storage to alleviate some of the concerns the businesses have about safety and sanitation.