April 25th, 2014 1:31 pm | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Business, Housing

Ed McNamara, Mayor Charlie Hales' Urban Renewal Advisor, is Leaving City Hall

lede_4012(future)SIGN OF THE FUTURE: After 16 years of trying to redevelop Lents, PDC officials are crowdsourcing ideas about what to do with properties it owns in the neighborhood. - IMAGE: Inger Klekacz

The advisor leading Mayor Charlie Hales' remodel of urban renewal is leaving City Hall.

Ed McNamara, the mayor's policy director overseeing the Portland Development Commission, says he will return in June to his private development company, Turtle Island Development LLC.

"I told [Hales] I wanted to do two years when I agreed to do this," McNamara tells WW. "We didn't quite get there."

McNamara was among Hales' first staff hires upon winning election in 2012. McNamara came to City Hall with a 35-year resume of construction and affordable housing development.

He's been Hales' point man on changing the focus of the PDC from job creation to "place-making": picking a few geographic areas of the city to invest time and money.

The Oregonian reported this morning that Hales will bring his new urban-renewal plan—including the elimination of a Portland State University "education district"—to the City Council next week.

McNamara led the mayor's efforts to double down on urban renewal in Old Town/Chinatown and in Lents. The city has spent $96 million on reviving the East Portland neighborhood of Lents, and now wants to invest as much as another $55 million over the next five years.

In January, McNamara told WW the city would reform the PDC by creating deadlines to get projects done.

“If people are going to invest,” McNamara says, “we want to give them some clarity and some certainty about what’s going to happen over the next five years.”

UPDATE, 1:48 pm: Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes says the mayor informed staff this week about McNamara's departure.

"Ed brings this holistic way of looking at stuff," Haynes says. "He reminds us to go back and look at the whole picture. He's going to be really hard to replace—not just for his knowledge but for his empathy."

Haynes says Hales' office will also miss McNamara's contribution of "the world's cheesiest mustache."

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