In a body blow to Portland’s struggling downtown, the city’s economic development agency called Prosper Portland announced Wednesday that its deal with Continuum Partners to develop the first phase of what the city calls the Broadway Corridor is kaput.
In 2018, Denver-based Continuum triumphed over local developers in Portland for the right to serve as the city’s adviser on the redevelopment of 34 downtown acres centered on the 14-acre U.S. Postal Service site (which Prosper owns) in the Pearl District and extending into the North Park Blocks.
Continuum also obtained the right to develop the post office site after the existing structure is demolished.
In the fall of 2020, Continuum and the city signed a community benefit agreement after a long negotiation that included labor and a variety of advocacy groups. But the COVID-19 pandemic has depressed the demand for downtown office space, upended brick-and-mortar retailers, and created great uncertainty about the future. None of that is good for the kind of mixed use—residential, office and commercial spaces—that the city envisioned developing with Continuum’s advice and money.
Continuum will continue as Prosper’s adviser on the project, but it won’t do the development.
“We’ve appreciated our partnership with Prosper Portland and the many people and organizations that have engaged in the project,” said Mark Falcone, founder and chief executive of Continuum Partners. “But given the reality of a challenging real estate market environment and the complexities of the project, we realized that we need to focus on other projects for now.”
The city envisioned building out the Broadway Corridor over a span of two decades, meaning the project was always going to be a long-term plan. That timeline has now expanded again.
“We look forward to continuing to work with [Continuum] as our development advisor in the coming months and to finding opportunities to partner in the future,” Prosper executive director Kimberly Branam said in a statement.
Part of what the city envisions for the neighborhood is affordable housing, which will require significant public investment. Portland Housing Bureau director Shannon Callahan said today’s announcement doesn’t change that.
“We will continue to move forward with Prosper Portland on this historic opportunity to create a new, vibrant neighborhood that is equitable and inclusive, and welcomes Portlanders of all incomes,” Callahan said.