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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.


Burnside Bridgehead project includes possible bike-through retail window

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015
burnside bikes rendering
Though it’s a shame that the creators of this image seem to have been unaware of the existence of Couch Street’s bike lane, they do seem to be enthusiastic about serving people who arrive by bike.
(Image: Key Development)

In the latest burst of bike-oriented development on the Burnside Bridgehead, a developer is considering turning the tables on all those drive-through windows that allow cars but not bikes.

Key Development has proposed a 20,000-square-foot, $7 million commercial building on the space immediately west of Couch Street’s southward curve towards the Burnside Bridge. Currently in design review, the project would include a bike-oriented retail plaza, possibly with a bike-through window.

It might also function as a sort of annex that’d create easy bridge-level bike access to residents of the big 21-story tower that’s now in construction right behind it.

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Task force likes proposal to restrict main-street residents’ curbside parking rights

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
morehead with centers corridors committee
Portland Bureau of Transportation planner Grant Morehead discusses parking policies with the city’s Centers and Corridors parking stakeholder committee.
(Photos: M.Andersen and J.Maus/BikePortland)

Central-city apartment dwellers might want to start looking into that whole car-free thing pretty soon.

An advisory committee composed almost entirely of residents of residential zones gave a general thumbs-up Wednesday night to a city proposal that could let residents of residential zones vote to prevent people who live on commercial streets from buying overnight parking permits in their neighborhoods.

Because most of Portland’s commercial main streets are zoned for mixed-use or employment, the proposed parking permit system — which would also charge residential permit holders a yet-to-be determined monthly or annual fee for curbside parking — would effectively let residents just off of commercial corridors remove curbside parking rights from residents of most nearby multifamily buildings.

The city’s idea is that such a system would lead developers of buildings on commercial corridors to include more on-site auto parking in their new buildings, or else to market their buildings more successfully to car-free residents.

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Portland’s next great bike neighborhood may be its most unexpected triumph yet

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
the district lead image
The Lloyd, waiting to be born. City of Portland Archives: A2012-005, April 24, 1964.

This is the first in a three-part series made possible by Hassalo on Eighth.

At first glance, the changes sweeping across the Lloyd District right now look like a story Portland has told at least twice before.

Developer makes big bet on underused land near downtown. Residential towers shoot up. Amenities multiply. Streetcar whistles through. Bikes roll in by the hundreds and eventually the thousands.
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Democrats in state Senate join Republicans to kill neighborhood income diversity bill

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
se division pedicab
Though the bill would have affected only condos and other owner-occupied homes, some rallied around it as a seemingly achievable way to preserve income diversity in bike-friendly areas like Southeast Division Street.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A bill that would have let Oregon cities require some condominiums in some new housing projects to be sold for below-market prices reportedly died in the state Senate on Wednesday.

One leading advocate for inclusionary zoning, as such policies are known, said late Wednesday that Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Southeast Portland) had “opted against a final caucus on the bill, claiming that the votes aren’t there.”

“We believe otherwise,” added the advocate, Jonathan Ostar of Portland-based OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, in an email to supporters of House Bill 2564. “It’s beyond frustrating that the caucus won’t get to discuss this last amendment.”

The bill’s backers include the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Upstream Public Health and other groups looking for ways to keep Portland’s decade-long housing shortage from making it impossible for most people to afford homes in Portland’s bikeable, walkable neighborhoods.

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Why are these 11 buildings illegal in most of Portland?

Friday, June 19th, 2015
2314-16 se salmon duplex built 1927
2314 and 2316 SE Salmon: built in 1927, illegal to build today. A ride this week took a closer look at “The Missing Middle.”
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Most of Portland’s conversation about ways to create enough new homes to defuse our deep and ongoing housing shortage has focused on the four-story apartment buildings rising along a few main streets.

But there’s a growing awareness in Portland’s housing policy community that low-rise apartment buildings — let alone the taller buildings rising in the Lloyd, Burnside Bridgehead and Pearl — aren’t the only buildings that can increase the supply of housing in the walkable, bikeable parts of Portland. In fact, the other options might be more popular with neighbors, too.

The only problem: in almost all of Portland, creating such buildings is forbidden.

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Portland’s housing supply still isn’t keeping up with population, but it’s falling behind more slowly

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Screenshot 2015-05-21 at 10.34.41 AM
*2010 housing figures reflect an upward readjustment from information gathered in the decennial Census.
(Data: Census Bureau, summarized here)

After eight years of failing to add housing units nearly as fast as new residents were arriving, Multnomah County nearly kept pace in 2014, according to Census estimates released Thursday.

The shortfall in new units since 2005 has led to the country’s worst chronic shortage of rental housing in the most desirable parts of Portland as residents have competed for the largely unchanging number of homes in the central city. That’s led to rocketing home prices and rents, forcing many to live in less bikeable areas further from the urban core.

In 2014, a wave of new apartments hit the market and the City of Portland has led the region in both single-family and multifamily housing starts. The population still grew faster than the number of housing units, the Census estimated, but by a much smaller margin.

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Portland’s most affordable neighborhoods to bike from (for now)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
High Crash Corridors campaign launch-3
Number one is poised to get better.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Willamette Week bike issue came out today, which makes this the one day a year when we stoop mooching off their generally excellent reporting and they get to mooch off ours. (Seriously, y’all, no problem.)

But one piece in their nicely put-together bike issue falls clearly in the “wish we’d done that” category: a tally of median single-family home prices per Portland neighborhood ranked by the time it takes to bike to the city center.

“Portland has long been thought of as a cycling mecca for one big reason: Affordable homes were close enough to work to commute by bike,” Willamette Week’s Tyler Hurst writes in the piece, more or less accurately. “Housing prices rose by another 6.6 percent last year, and a February project by Governing magazine found the city is gentrifying faster than anywhere else in the nation. Does the promise of an affordable, bikeable Portland still hold up?”

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City debates cutting park fees for small homes, hiking for big ones

Friday, April 24th, 2015
N-NE-SE Portland Good-Bad-Ugly Houses 84
Backers say the proposal would encourage smaller, more densely built houses.
(Photo: Mark McClure)

For years, almost every new home built in Portland has paid thousands of dollars into a city fund that pays to buy and develop parkland. But so far, the size of the home hasn’t affected the size of the fee.

If it were built today, a 900-square-foot bungalow would pay the same $8,582 parks fee as a 3,100-square foot 4-bedroom.

But in a proposal that could shift the local economy toward building smaller homes — and potentially provide a boost for bike infrastructure funding — the Portland Parks Bureau is suggesting that its fees on new homes become proportional to the number of people who are likely to live in them, based on their square footage.

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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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