The Oregonian recently published a lengthy article about the state of Downtown which included a poll of 600 residents in the area that was most unfavorable. Portland leaders need to look in the mirror to find the fault because local leadership or lack thereof is entirely the problem. Although The Oregonian seemed to suggest some blame on external politics like Donald Trump and the George Floyd situation, they also seemed to recognize that Portland needs to clean up its act if Downtown is ever to recover from the nightmare that was 2020. I do not think Portland has what it takes to do so, and the confidence levels from both the citizens and private sector business remain scary low.
Meanwhile on the sunny side of the Columbia, Vancouver city officials should be vary careful about how they choose to deal with the issues as they arise here on the north shore. There is a troubling number of new homeless encampments along Interstate 5 on our side of the river. Although compassion for those struggling should always be apart of our value system, leaders often confuse compassion with enablement. Creating an environment conducive to public camping is not a good idea. Providing an opportunity for homeless people to recover from a negative financial situation and gain placement in the workforce and permanent shelter is good for the homeless and good for the local economy which needs people desperately. But studies continue to show the disturbing trend among homeless that many do not wish to return to the workforce, permanent housing, or society at all. I think the city will find that the overwhelming majority of citizens in Vancouver are opposed to grotesque camps along our streets, highways, and in our parks with litter blowing in the breeze. I’m surprised all the environmentalists are eerily silent on this important issue as plastic debris continues to make its way down stream into the Pacific Ocean. Homelessness in Portland and now even a bit in Vancouver is an environmental catastrophe. It also works strongly against all the city efforts to create a great space for the public Downtown and on the Waterfront.
City leaders are wise to continue funding the broad base of homeless services for those that want to improve their circumstances. Likewise the city needs to clear the illegal camps from along the highway, our public streets, and parks as these create environmental problems, safety issues, and reduce the nearby property values. These can lead to less development and loss of jobs as employers leave and choose a better environment for their company and employees. Portland is experiencing this right now and it is going to lead to severe shortfalls in the city budget over the coming years after federal COVID funds dry up.
Vancouver needs to continue to be the better alternative to Portland. Right now we are better, but I fear some on the council have the same mindset as Portland, that is not good for Vancouver. The city has a lot of our money invested in the urban core, and they need to be good stewards of our investment as well as the private investment pouring from all over the country.
COVID-19 is on the wane and hopefully this summer will be closer to ‘normal.’ Having a buzz of activity at Esther Short Park and the Waterfront is good for all the businesses in the area and certainly adds that lively atmosphere that most Downtown residents enjoy.
Meanwhile progress continues on numerous projects in and around the city center. Pressure on the price of building materials may lead to some slowdowns and or delays. The country seems to be headed into an inflationary cycle. Hopefully the projects underway will not be stalled out as a result of supply shortages, but that could already be playing a role in the delay of three very large projects on the waterfront, Indigo Hotel, Kirkland Tower, and Columbia all seem to be a bit behind schedule. Meanwhile the tower crane base was installed at Block 17 over a week ago, but the crane remains unassembled. That could also be a supply delay, hard to say. Holland is well underway with the large Block Ten project, the office tower is about two thirds of its final height and there are two more floors on the residential tower yet to rise up. After a couple of weeks since Pence Construction set the fencing up around the site of Aegis at the Academy, trees are being removed and significant groundwork is underway. There should be a crane going up on that site soon.
The urban condo market saw modest activity last week. Very few new listings and a few more pending and closed sales so things are a tad tighter now. A unit at the Academy Square was listed and sold just a couple days later. Those units do not stick around long.