From 2,000 miles away, the mitt of Michigan has inserted itself into part of Portland, and City Commissioner Sam Adams wants the Wolverine State's governor to intervene.
The basic question: Why does Michigan have its peninsula in our apple pie?
The answer: Michigan's retirement system, through a fund managed by Morgan Stanley, owns the Jantzen Beach SuperCenter on behalf of its 580,000 workers. The property was bought in 1996 for $76 million and is now worth an estimated $100 million-plus.
A Washington, D.C.-based development company that manages the 48-acre property on Hayden Island is moving forward with plans to demolish parts of the mall, adding eight new retail buildings and 400 parking spaces, which Adams calls "a strip-mall replete with a sea of parking."
The proposed redevelopment, along with another proposal to put in a Wal-Mart, has already stirred the City Council to consider a building moratorium for the island while a plan for its future is hammered out.
Hayden Island is a transit nightmare, and "we find it hard to believe more development won't produce more traffic," says Adams, who sits on a bi-state transportation commission studying ways to make the island less congested and more accessible. Ideas include a new freeway bridge and new routes onto the island.
Meanwhile, in an Aug. 7 letter to Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Adams tells the Democratic governor that Portland's land-use goals and Michigan's desire to make as much money as possible from its investments aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
"Thoughtful redevelopment can often maximize capital, public and community investment," he writes.
Adams' vision for the site would be mixed use rather than just big box, with streets laid out in a grid.
"I don't know what the outcome is going to be, but we're all for it," Eugene Rogers, former president of the Hayden Island Neighborhood Network, says of Adams' efforts. "We need to try to stop some of this building before we have complete gridlock."
The proposed development would also change a bus route, making it tougher for seniors to get around, and eliminate one of their favorite walking routes inside the mall, Rogers says.
The property underwent another redevelopment under its previous owner about a decade ago, becoming a home to big-box retailers like Home Depot, Target and Burlington Coat Factory.
Officials with the state of Michigan's treasury department said Aug. 11 that they had just received Adams' letter and were still reviewing it.
In the meantime, we may be living in a glass house: Oregon has $3.6 billion of its $57 billion in state employee retirement investments sunk into residential, commercial and industrial real estate around the globe.