I was very, very upset when I read the May 28 Nose column about one of the latest proposals for Memorial Coliseum: Paul Allen placing a Costco or Home Depot on this site. I can understand a business person wanting to recoup millions of dollars in losses, and a city salivating at the possible tax and other revenue, but what about the original public purpose for this site?
Am I one of the few native Portlanders who remembers an early history of the "urban development" that was to engulf the area that is now largely the Rose Garden and the Coliseum? I seem to recall words that included "public interest" and eminent domain.
In the area that has become a sports and entertainment venue, there was once a large residential community of predominantly working-class African Americans, many of whom owned their homes. A city/community development agency (I don't know what public organizations were represented) decided that, for the public good, it would exercise public domain and buy out the homes of those citizens. The property was condemned or otherwise undervalued, and these people were forced to move.
My great-aunt and uncle had a solid, large three-story home where she had raised and housed boarders and a widowed brother and his six children (one of them being my mother). She and my uncle had owned their home since the war (World War II).
In her 70s, she was offered a low price and forced to move much farther out to North Portland, far from her former neighbors and community of interest, and to a much smaller home of much less marketable value. Even at my young age, I could tell the difference in property values. As a child in those days, we weren't allowed to know much about "grown-up" finances and business deals, but I vividly recall the hurt and sadness she had in being forced to leave her neighbors and neighborhood of many decades.
I realize that there are other ideas on the table, many of them presented in a lengthy public process seeking citizen input as to the Coliseum site's use. It would seem that one of the proposals--the idea of a multi-sports venue--would benefit youth and serve a greater good.
Does business interest override public interest? Is the original intent and stated purpose of the public/urban development ignored after all these years?
My mother is 90 years young, and I don't have the heart to tell her the latest idea proposed for her old neighborhood.