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The Real Estate Beat

Welcome to our special coverage of how real estate and housing are closely intertwined with bicycling in Portland. We’ll track the latest bike-friendly developments (both commercial and residential) and share our analysis of how low-car trends are impacting the places we live and work. The Real Estate Beat is edited and produced by our News Editor Michael Andersen.


Possible sale of downtown Post Office could be golden opportunity for bikeway

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
usps map
A Portland Development Commission map of the “Broadway Corridor.” The PDC is meeting this afternoon to re-up their negotiation to buy the post office site at the base of the Broadway Bridge and fast-track a planning process for the area.
(Image: PDC)

If Portland’s main post office signs a deal to relocate, a huge payoff for biking could be hiding between the lines.

As the Portland Development Commission meets this afternoon to consider putting up $500,000 to reboot negotiations over moving the operation from the Pearl District to a new hub near Portland International Airport, advocates and planners are watching with great interest.

Redevelopment of the eight-city-block post office site could create the space and funding for a new built-from-scratch bikeway from the Broadway Bridge straight down into the Park Blocks, across Burnside past Director Park, and into the city’s biggest cultural district and Portland State University.

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Where growth went: How different cities answered America’s urban rebound

Thursday, March 26th, 2015
occupied units portland
The orange line shows Portland-area housing patterns in 1990; the brown line shows it in 2012.
(All images: UVA Demogaphics Research Group)
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If affordable proximity is one of the keys to great bike cities, understanding Portland’s biking boom means understanding its urban development decisions 20 years ago.

To see how our metro area grew, it’s useful to see how dramatically different things have gone down in different U.S. cities. A fascinating new website from the University of Virginia gives us a new way of looking at exactly that.

The chart above shows Portland at two key moments in American urban life: the orange line for 1990, when urban crime levels were near their peak and many central cities were seen as charity cases for their suburbs; and the brown line for 2012, when the economic boom of some U.S. cities was accelerating the country out of recession.

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Affordability alliance? Some neighborhood leaders back low-impact infill ideas

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
townhomes on ankeny
Townhomes, like these on SE Ankeny, are currently the most common middle ground between apartments and single-family homes. Some neighborhood leaders want Portland to provide more options for moderate levels of density.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A slate of ideas for increasing Portland’s housing supply with fewer visual changes to its central-city neighborhoods is getting warm reviews from influential neighborhood association leaders.

The list of policy proposals, compiled by local indie developer Eli Spevak last month after a conversation with Tamara DeRidder of the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association, includes concepts such as legalizing internal divisions of existing houses and scaling transportation, sewer and parks fees based on home size.

The general theme of the proposals: allowing more housing in Portland that offers more density than single-family houses but less than four-story apartment buildings.

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Guest post: A progressive Portland developer’s plan for an affordable infill policy

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Greenwood Avenue Cottages (Ross Chapin).
(Photos courtesy Eli Spevak)

This is a guest post by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot. Spevak, who the Portland Mercury once described as “the coolest condo developer ever,” develops small, often freestanding homes in single-family neighborhoods with a goal of increasing the city’s supply of housing that’s both affordable and environmentally low-impact.

Neighbors bemoan the demolition of older homes and the scale of new ones – and worry for the character of their neighborhoods.

Demographers see the trend toward more and smaller households – and wonder where they’ll be able to find enough right-sized and affordable homes.

Planners recognize that we can’t rely only on high density centers and corridors to accommodate all expected new residents; neighborhoods will need to play a role too.

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Housing and transportation advocates plan to pack hearing for affordability bill

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen
SE Division Street has a frequent bus, two parallel neighborhood greenways and many shops within walking distance — but prices in the area are so high that many residents own cars anyway.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Oregon’s 20-year ban on a common affordable-housing policy could be headed for the dustbin, based on what happens after a hearing in Salem next Monday.

The policy, known as inclusionary zoning, would allow city governments to require that new buildings within certain areas include certain ratios of lower-rent housing units. Backers call it a useful tool for preventing desirable parts of town from becoming homogeneously wealthy.

Inclusionary zoning is entirely banned in two U.S. states: Oregon and Texas. House Bill 2564 would remove Oregon’s ban.

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Define ‘compatibility’: Ben Ross on the evasive language of zoning

Friday, February 6th, 2015
N-NE-SE Portland Good-Bad-Ugly Houses 84
Which is incompatible with which, and why?
(Photo: Mark McClure)

Why does Portland require every new house to have a driveway big enough to fit two cars?

Why do we forbid most lots from having two separate dwelling structures unless one is 25 percent smaller than the other and has a roof with an identical slope?

Why do we ban second kitchens within a single home unless the owner essentially pinky-swears that only one household will be living in the building?

In a city where a chronic shortage of housing in walkable and bikeable areas has driven prices up and up, driving major changes in the culture, these aren’t trivial questions.

The most familiar answer to all of them is one of the most-used words in urban zoning: “compatibility.” But what exactly does that mean?

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As Portland’s job growth continues, business leaders tout bikes and transit

Friday, January 30th, 2015
Leonard Barrett of Beam Development atop an eastside office building remodeled in 2013 that now houses 350 workers. In 2005, Beam had planned to demolish it for a parking lot, but high biking and transit use changed the owner’s mind.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

While the organization that says it speaks for local business interests continues to oppose major investments in biking, walking and mass transit, actual local businesses are continuing their embrace of the amenities we’ve built so far.

Hillsboro-based Lattice Semiconductor said this week that it’s sold its Hillsboro headquarters and is moving 100 executive and administrative workers to U.S. Bancorp Tower in downtown Portland. The Oregonian described it as part of a “tectonic shift in Oregon technology” that is channeling tech jobs to the central city rather than Washington County.

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Parking and planning: Lessons from a map of Portland land value

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
land-value-540
Land in dark red is worth $100 or more per square foot. Land in pale green is worth $5 or less.
(All images except the last are © Fat Pencil Studio – click through to reach a larger version)

Money isn’t everything, and neither is land value.

But if you want to know how the world works, they’re both worth understanding. That’s why the above map, created as a policy exercise by our friend Joshua Cohen of the civic graphics firm Fat Pencil Studio, is so much fun.

It’s a color-coded map of the market value per acre of the land — not the buildings, just the land — beneath every tax lot in the City of Portland.

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Two miles south of Portland, residents see a fresh canvas for car-lite development

Thursday, January 8th, 2015
trio bike
Oak Grove residents Chips Janger, Joseph Edge and Eleanore Hunter say TriMet’s new MAX line has made their inner-ring suburb ripe for dense bike- and transit-oriented development, and that neighbors are eager to help it happen.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

While Portland prepares to block increased development along parts of TriMet’s newest MAX line, a group of residents further down the Orange Line say they’re welcoming more density with open arms.

Their dream, they say, would be to use three-to-five-story apartment buildings and clusters of new small houses to turn their corner of unincorporated Clackamas County — the last stop on the new MAX line — into a bustling but more nature-rich alternative to Southeast Division Street.

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Home demolition critics back resolution that would block central-city density

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
(Photo: City of Portland)

In the last five weeks, nearly a third of Portland’s neighborhood associations have approved a resolution that calls for Portland to virtually freeze residential development in the central city at its current average density.

The resolution’s supporters, who call themselves United Neighborhoods for Reform, say it’s not actually an anti-density measure but rather a movement to protect historical character and housing affordability by reducing needless demolitions of old houses.

Margaret Davis, a UNR spokeswoman who also serves as a board member for the Beaumont Wilshire Neighborhood Association, said she wants to prevent home demolitions like one she saw recently.

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