They say you can't fight City Hall. Maybe you can if you are one of the largest retail property owners in the country, such as Brookfield Properties, the owner of Pioneer Place mall downtown.
As WW first reported this month, Brookfield's architect filed a permit application to begin the process of installing roll-down security gates at the seven entrances to the 61-store mall, which houses Gucci, Louis Vuitton and the Apple Store, among other high-end retailers.
The city's answer: Because Pioneer Place is in a design overlay zone, the permitting process could take 103 days, or even longer if there were issues with Brookfield's application.
That timetable threatened the revival of a central city decimated by the pandemic and the lingering effects of months of protests that morphed into regular vandalism.
The Portland Business Alliance voiced the concerns of a lot of downtown property owners and retailers at the time.
"Simple things like rolling gates are normal building amenities in larger cities for safety and functionality," Andrew Hoan, CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, told WW then. "Getting issues like this resolved quickly is critical to helping Portland inch back towards a new normal and safely on the road to reopening."
On March 3 at 2 pm, Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the city's permitting arm, the Bureau of Development Services, and Mayor Ted Wheeler will introduce an ordinance that would waive the waiting period for Brookfield and others who may want to make similar improvements.
"We understand the impact the lack of foot traffic coupled with vandalism have had in commercial districts throughout the city, and we've been working closely with BDS leadership on nimble solutions that support small and large businesses alike," Ryan said in a statement. "If passed, this ordinance will support all businesses in commercial districts with design overlay zones as they seek to expediently secure their buildings and fully reopen for business."
"Our businesses need the city to be a responsive partner in the pandemic recovery," Wheeler said in a statement. "We must make it easier and safer for businesses to stay open and be profitable. This ordinance removes barriers to improving building security. It's a step in the right direction."
Hoan reacted positively to the council members' willingness to move aggressively.
"This is a perfect example of the urgent action we need as part of our city's economic recovery efforts," Hoan said today. "When elected leaders such as Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Ryan and their teams introduce problem-solving policies, it helps our entire city inch back towards a safe reopening."