Last month, the City of Portland was dealt a huge blow to its attempts to revitalize the downtown area, particularly through the development of the Broadway Corridor, when its key developer, Continuum Partners, pulled out of its plan to develop the first phase of the project.
What is the Broadway Corridor?
The Broadway Corridor is a long-term development project headed by Prosper Portland, Portland’s economic and urban development agency. The 34 acre area is located in Northwest Portland and encompasses the US Postal Service site. The project is meant to be an opportunity zone for high-density employment, mixed-income housing and other attractions and amenities. According to the Broadway Corridor site, “The project offers the potential to create nearly 4 million square feet of new economic, business, social and community development opportunities.”
Continuum is a Denver-based development firm who, in 2018, beat out local developers and obtained the right to serve as the city’s adviser on the redevelopment of the Broadway Corridor area, as well as the right to develop the Post Office site once it is demolished.
In September of 2020, the city and Continuum signed a community benefit agreement after negotiations between labor and advocacy groups. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for downtown office space has dwindled as have the number of brick and mortar retailers in the area. This uncertainty doesn’t bode well for the kind of mixed use spaces – residential, office and commercial – that the city had planned for the redevelopment project. And so, Continuum has pulled their plans of being the primary developer for the area, though they will remain on as the primary adviser on the project.
“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.”
What does this mean for the Broadway Corridor project?
According to Portland Housing Bureau director Shannon Callahan, “The City’s commitment to providing affordable housing within the Broadway Corridor remains the same and is not impacted by this decision. 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.”
She maintains that the near term plans will remain unchanged, since the demolition of the post office facility and construction of new streets and utilities are necessary to complete before development can begin.
However, one question that remains is that of financing. In 2016, Prosper Portland and the Portland Housing Bureau purchased the post office site at the center of the project for $88 million. This was accomplished with the help of a line of credit from the city. Prosper had planned to pay off the line of credit by selling the post office site to developers. However, now that the primary developers are out of the project, it remains to be seen how the City of Portland, Prosper Portland, and the Portland Housing Bureau plan to move forward.
We want to hear from you! What do you think the best course of action is for the City of Portland and Prosper Portland? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.