Just over a year ago the Portland Mercado opened to hundreds of excited neighbors, community members, and city officials. And success didn’t take long. Within weeks, perhaps even days, it was clear that this intersection of Foster and SE 72nd would be forever changed. And save for the occassional complaint about traffic, that change is undoubtedly positive. It’s been a boon to the neighborhood—without question.
This past Saturday, a year after opening, the Portland Mercado celebrated its success and firm place in the community. Its opening and year-in-the-books celebration has also given us a peek into the future. See, the Mercado is not an isolated development; it goes hand-in-hand with future streetscape improvements and an increasingly active commercial district. As much as the energy along Foster has been growing, and several factors have played into its resurgence over the last several years, the Mercado in some ways is a culmination of all the advocacy by neighborhood residents; attempts by the city to spur investment along Foster and into East Portland; and a clear trajectory that is taking Foster and its neighborhoods well beyond the one-time characterization as “Felony Flats.”
And just as the Mercado brings all this energy to the forefront, we stand at a crossroad: how will Foster develop? It’s clear that change is coming, and the Mercado may be the most obvious sign. But does Foster grow in a way that it’s accessible to all, diverse and vibrant just like the Mercado? Or will we see development become more resembling of other close-in neighborhoods, where growth becomes synonymous with displacement and neighborhood division.
Just as the Mercado made its mark on Foster a year ago, there’s more change to come at the now-vibrant corner of SE 72nd. As we mentioned in December, ROSE CDC and other non-profits were working on proposals to bring affordable housing to the vacant lot across the street from the Mercado. The ROSE proposal came with certain conditions, as it was tied to funding availability from the City. (The lot is also owned by PDC, and the housing crisis made that site an obvious choice for future development of affordable housing.)
We reached out to ROSE a few weeks ago to see if there was any updates on plans for the site. Their proposal called for a mixed-use development of 60 residential units in multiple floors above Foster-fronting commercial space. Notice of awards for funding were supposed to be made in March, but as of our last communication with ROSE, they had not been updated on plans for the site.
Emails to the PDC have not been returned either.
But, there is movement on the site. And with the city’s housing crisis, one can only imagine a city-owned property identified for affordable housing would be fast-tracked. Just yesterday, as per a PDC report, we learned that a small piece of land adjoining the vacant lot was slated for a transfer of ownership, which could be a logistical move to make the next step of development easier. The land in question is currently owned by the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), and sits at the east end of Raymond Court where it dead ends into the vacant lot. The 2,300 square feet of unimproved, public right of way that PBOT owns isn’t large, but its positioning makes the larger lot less congruous. By transferring the small parcel to PDC, the site now can be developed as one plot of land, whereas before it was almost sectioned off in two.
While this is only a small detail, and still no announcements have been made about future use of the site, it would appear it’s the first step toward moving on with plans for development.