Foster’s Changing Landscape

After years and years of apparent land-banking, some of Foster’s property owners are finally, shall we say, shitting or getting off the pot. In what has seemed like the ultimate catch-22, many property owners along Foster have seemingly been waiting for the perfect time to unload their properties at a premium, meanwhile contributing themselves to a stagnant commercial real estate market due to the glut of buildings sitting vacant and/or under-used. In other words, we’ve had the dilemma of seeing buildings sit off-line in wait IMG_0004of a turned-around market, but no property owners willing to sell or improve their buildings to drive up interest.

Boo to crummy property owners. Foster seems to have a lot of those.

Something’s changed in the last year, however. While prized buildings/properties like the Phoenix Pharmacy continue to sit and decay, numerous others have recently come onto the market. It was just this summer that the BobWhite Theatre changed ownership; the Lansing Linoleum property at 7307 SE Foster was sold to Badge Bomb, which will see them and One Inch Round manufacture and sell buttons, stickers, magnets, badges and the such; PDC-owned property on SE 72nd, across from the Portland Mercado, was listed over the summer; a parcel of land at 5816 SE Foster has recently been marketed as a mixed-use development opportunity; property on SE 67th, just north of Foster near Performance Works NW, has been on the market and, too, been listed as a mixed-use development opportunity.

5047 SE Lafayette

On the north side of SE Lafayette sit three buildings for sale on 10,000 square feet of land. To the south is a large vacant lot, once home to the now-demolished Buys Bee Cleaners. With developers working their way down SE 50th from Hawthorne and Division, will they cross Powell?

And it was just this Monday that we posted about property/buildings for sale near the intersection of Foster and SE 50th.

That’s a lot. And there’s probably more.

If you look beyond the triangle, development is slowly approaching us on all sides. (Multi-unit residential and mixed-use buildings are being built or proposed just north of Powell on SE 52nd; on Holgate and SE 52nd; and in the Lents Town Center around Foster/Woodstock and SE 92nd.) There’s even the proposed apartment building in our own neighborhood, set to join an eventually rebuilt YMCA at 6036 SE Foster.

So what does this mean for the western stretch of Foster? - hypothetical development for 5816 SE Foster

Is this what Foster’s future will look like?

Well, if you look at the tide moving eastward and combine it with plans for a new streetscape on Foster, as well as the recent availability of property along the commercial corridor, it seems pretty apparent. Now, to be clear, we’re not clamoring for large-scale investment on Foster, especially if it’s anyhow resembling of other neighborhoods’ recent transformation. But we are intrigued by the idea of some of our vacant, under-used and near-squalid buildings having life breathed back into them. And if we can get some more housing to help maintain some semblance of affordability, even better.

But we’re not cheerleading here; just sharing some of the facts.

Portland Bureau of Development Services

Portland Bureau of Development Services – Current Design for YMCA rebuild

This is a delicate issue. And one which elicits many strong views and feelings. On one side is the faction that sees Foster as the last of a dying breed in Portland neighborhoods; one which, to this point, has been immune to the growing pains of large-scale commercial and residential investment. On the other side of the spectrum are those who see development as ideal; it will usher in a new era of prosperity in the Foster-area, where increased population density leads to more vibrancy along the corridor and with it, too, the viability of bike infrastructure and more pedestrian uses (oh, and increased property values). Somewhere in the middle is the group who see development as not only inevitable, but probably a necessary evil that will bring to the neighborhood (and Portland, in general) many things they won’t like (boutiques and yuppies?), but many things they will (things to walk to, places to shop locally?).

How Foster moves forward is still a mystery. And fortunately there are many things unique to Foster itself that will dictate how it grows. And that’s one thing we do know: like it or not, Foster will be growing. Let’s just hope it’s planful, with taste and not at the expense of its current population.

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3 Responses to Foster’s Changing Landscape

  1. Nancy Chapin says:

    Wanted to finish your article but it won’t open up. Nancy

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. benmollica says:

    Sheesh! I feared the worst when I saw that image of the Phoenix immediately following the headline “Foster’s Changing Landscape”.

  3. christine says:

    this is really well-said. Speaking as a refugee from inner-NE (after 20 yrs I couldn’t handle what was happening there). I can only agree — if there is any way to get out in front and nudge development in a better direction — do it. Exactly the same dynamics occurred in inner NE (speculative owners waiting for the right moment while letting properties deteriorate). You can win sometimes, especially with good ideas and a concerted group effort. It’s hard to preserve/restore an old neighborhood in the face of marauding capital!

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