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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.


Pittsburgh is (in many ways) the city that Portland wants to become

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
market square lead
Pittsburgh’s Market Square.
(Photos: M.Andersen)

When I headed to Pittsburgh last week to join the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference for my other gig, I was telling people that “the Paris of Appalachia” (as its mayor likes to call it) is the city that my hometown, Toledo, Ohio, wishes it could be.

Three days later, I started telling people it was the city that Portland wishes it could be, too.

Pittsburgh obviously isn’t as bikeable as Portland, though it’s coming along. But almost everything else about the city measures up.

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Tech will make central-city parking spaces pointless, Gabe Klein tells Portland crowd

Thursday, August 14th, 2014
klein at table
Gabe Klein, right, speaks to a panel of local transportation experts at the Multnomah Athletic Club Thursday.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The author of the transportation reinventions in Washington DC and Chicago offered some advice to Portland-area developers Thursday: start building for parking-free cities.

Self-driving cars will be available in a few years, predicted Gabe Klein, the former transportation director of both those cities, and they’ll mean “the end of parking as we know it.”

Klein, now a fellow at the Urban Land Institute, an organization for real-estate and land-use professionals, spoke to a room of local ULI members and other guests Thursday morning at the Multnomah Athletic Club in southwest Portland.

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The case for streetcar as pro-bike infrastructure

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
hassalo
The Lloyd District’s new “bikescraper”: also a streetcarscraper.
(Rendering: GBD Architects)

Though the experience of China, Japan and Northern Europe makes it pretty clear that you can’t have a great bike city without also having a great mass transit city, streetcars are the one transit type that seems to rankle bike-lovers.

Maybe it’s the rails that turn traffic lanes dangerous for biking. Maybe it’s that streetcar projects often underinvest in adjacent bike improvements. Maybe it’s that streetcars are deeply controversial in the public transit world, too.

But there’s also an argument that streetcars are actually the very best sort of public transit at improving biking. On Portland Transport Monday, local streetcar and biking fan Chris Smith laid it out.

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Should central-city apartment buildings charge extra for bike parking?

Friday, July 25th, 2014
Paramount Apts at Flint and Broadway
The new owner of the Paramount Apartments on N Flint and Broadway built a new indoor bike parking area and charges tenants $6 a month to use it.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Here’s a question for those who say it’s only fair for car parking to cover its own costs: Should bike parking ever do the same?

Whichever way you come down on the question, the new landlord of an inner North Portland apartment building is putting it to the test. He spent $2,000 to add 40 indoor bike parking spaces, a bench and a repair clamp to an unused shop room and is now charging tenants $6 a month per bike to use it.

“Just trying to recoup some of my labor and expense,” the landlord, Roy Eberle of Eugene, explained in a phone interview Thursday.

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Backyard homes are almost as car-lite as apartments on transit lines, study finds

Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Sally Spear, 63, moved into a 200-square-foot backyard cottage designed by her son-in-law Schuyler Smith, 33, in 2010. Smith now designs ADUs for a living.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When it comes to cars, accessory units in backyards and basements are nearly as low-impact as big apartment buildings next to bus lines.

That’s the conclusion of a new state-funded analysis (PDF) that combines the results of a survey of Portland accessory dwelling owners with other recent studies to start examining one of Portland’s newest real estate trends.

The average rental unit in Portland brings 1.31 cars on site, according to the U.S. Census. For transit-oriented apartment buildings, that falls to 0.83 cars — and for accessory dwelling units, it’s 0.93 cars.

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Is Portland’s newest urban corridor good or bad? City is asking residents

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen
There’s nothing like a walk to better understand the impact of changes to a street.
(Photo M. Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland’s planning department is trying to figure out if the rapid transformation of Southeast Division Street will become a template or a cautionary tale.

On Wednesday night, it’s invited the public to attend a “community walk” to assess the rapidly redeveloping street and “consider zoning issues through a local lens.”

The walk is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and begins at Piccolo Park, SE 28th and Division. According to the official description, city staffers will ask:

  • What’s working well or not so well regarding new development?
  • How can zoning code regulations help support a thriving business environment?
  • What building features, scale, or site designs will enhance the character of the area?
  • What design features will create a quality environment for future residents?
  • What are appropriate ways of creating transitions in development scale and activity between mixed use development and adjacent residential areas?

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New Relic’s palatial in-office bike parking is Portland’s answer to the Google bus

Friday, May 30th, 2014
in-house mechanic
Tech firm New Relic hires a mechanic to visit its Portland engineering headquarters and give free bike tuneups to its commuters.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia Home

In 2012, one of Portland’s fastest-growing employers told the managers of Oregon’s biggest office building that it would walk away from any lease offer that didn’t allow employees to bring their bikes up to the 28th floor office.

The company, software performance management startup New Relic, got its way. Two years later, its 180 employees in downtown Portland’s U.S. Bancorp Tower are enjoying the benefits: the most attractive commercial bike parking in the city and a workplace where bike-commuting is about four times more common than driving.

New Relic also seems to have kicked off a new local trend, the Portland tech scene’s version of Silicon Valley’s on-site laundry services and all-you-can-eat buffets: hiring a bike mechanic to come by the office for free on-site tuneups while the bikes’ owners are at work.

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Tribune finds support for limiting car use by microapartment dwellers

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
A rendering of the new micro-apartment building
permitted for Northwest Thurman near 23rd.
(Image: Footprint Investments)

Here’s a pretty simple solution for complaints that new “microapartment” buildings will swamp on-street parking: forbid some of the people in them from parking cars on the streets.

In a cover story of the current Portland Tribune, the concept gets positive reactions from a microapartment developer, a neighborhood association official and a sustainability think tank. And Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat calls it “very interesting.”

The idea would only work in areas that use parking permit systems, such as (as of this year) much of Northwest Portland. It’s home to two new microapartment buildings, which use small bedrooms with shared kitchens and lounges to offer lower-rent units in high-demand areas at market price.

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Talking past the opposition: Ben Ross’s advice to advocates for city life

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
Maryland-based author, transit advocate and urbanist Ben Ross.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia Home

People who speak out against investments in density, biking and public transit may claim to be motivated by things like traffic, parking or crime, Ben Ross said Monday at Powell’s Books.

But though they might not realize it themselves, they aren’t. And that means that addressing their concerns won’t silence their worries.

That’s Ross’s claim, at least. A successful volunteer transit advocate from the inner suburbs of Washington DC, Ross is on tour for his book Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, in which he tries to explain the causes of the developed world’s urban revitalization and offer advice for navigating its politics.

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Maybe this is why you can’t afford to rent in the central city

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Yellow areas are zoned for single-family homes, blue for mixed-use and multifamily, gray primarily for industry and office (with some residential allowed), green for park and open space.

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia Home

Seven miles is an important distance in the world of bike transportation.

It’s about the distance a casual city rider can pedal in an hour, which studies show is the upper limit of the time most humans prefer to commute. It’s the distance where, even in the Netherlands, public transit trips become more popular than bike trips (and car trips are eight times more common than either).

So as Portland’s apartment rents have jumped an average 11 percent in the last year, with the tightest markets in North and inner Northeast Portland, the city’s biking population has felt it — in either their wallets or their thighs.

Here’s one factor at play in one of the country’s most persistent urban rental shortages: in two-thirds of Portland’s central seven miles, it’s illegal to build a multi-family building.

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