The Nose understands why so many are freaking out about the idea of plunking a Home Depot (or a Lowe's) down on Burnside. The fact that the Portland Development Commission, the city's urban-renewal junta, is even considering dropping a mastodon-sized DIY supply store at the east end of the Burnside Bridge is a little disturbing.
The Nose, like all good Portlanders, knows that corporations are mega-evil. Plus, he's worried about what might happen to the eclectic central east side--specifically, to Union Jack's, home of the $10 table dance. But, yes, he's also fretting about the scores of small, indie businesses that make the area what it is.
So it's no surprise concerned citizens packed two PDC meetings last week to jaw-jaw about the Burnside Bridgehead. What the Nose doesn't get is why no one makes the connection between Burnside and another PDC project--one that sure looks like a bush-league maneuver of galactic proportions.
At the same time PDC is considering three different proposals for Burnside, it's blundering forward on a downright Rumsfeldian idea on nearby Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. For about a decade, PDC futzed around with "Vanport Square," an attempt to revitalize three blocks of MLK just north of Alberta Street.
Dreams of a new grocery store--a crying need in a 'hood now served by a Safeway that is, as the kids say, janky--stalled out. Last week, the commission basically said screw it, voting to subsidize a call center's move from downtown to the Vanport site.
That's right--a call center. And not a new one, but one that's already providing Portland with 250 presumably crappy jobs.
The Nose doesn't doubt that MLK--already home to two Popeye's outlets--needs 250 more mind-numbing jobs probably bound for Mumbai in five years. What better way to tell Northeast Portlanders the city cares? But MLK is a mess. While the nearby Alberta and Mississippi corridors are taking off like Lindsay Lohan's career, Northeast's main drag is still a wasteland. A handful of bright spots struggle to survive amid the vacant lots and crumbling buildings. Opinions vary as to why--though more than one observer tells the Nose that PDC itself mucks up the street by buying land and then doing jack with it.
Lucky for PDC, the Nose has a solution to both the Burnside fight and MLK's heat-death. And because he loves his city, he'll give it away, without even pocketing the customary $647,000 fee.
Here we go: forget Home Depot on Burnside. Put Home Depot on MLK.
Why not? MLK is a busy four-lane state highway. There's no shortage of development-ready land. Neighborhoods on both sides are packed with fixer-uppers and the people who love them. And unlike Burnside, where a big box could slice open the jugular of a neighborhood that's starting to cook on its own, MLK desperately needs the ass-kick a titan would bring.
It's a solution so obviously brilliant, the Nose is certain it will go nowhere. But he thought he would try, if only out of self-interest. After all, no one ever went broke by getting in good with PDC.