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New riverside project raises questions about linking east-bank paths

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The unlabeled parcel, between SK
Northwest and Ross Island Sand and Gravel,
is the site of a new development proposal.
(Graphic: BikePortland)

A proposed service shop and event space for high-end racecars and motorcycles is the latest puzzle piece in the awkward connection between Southeast Portland’s two riverfront bike paths.

As reported last week by the Daily Journal of Commerce, Portland-based Vollgas Motorwerks is planning to redevelop one of the four parcels that currently sit between the southern end of the Eastbank Esplanade and the northern end of the Springwater Corridor, along the Willamette River near downtown.

City plans require any development of the parcel to include a paved pathway that could one day be part of an off-road link between the two paths. After years of legal battle, the watercraft and RV retailer SK Northwest built a similar orphan path in 2009, immediately north of the Vollgas Motorworks property.

However, the northernmost and southernmost landowners of this quartet, the Portland Spirit cruise company and Ross Island Sand and Gravel respectively, both have thriving operations and no active plans to sell or redevelop.

Where the Eastbank Esplanade ends.

Vollgas Motorworks’ owner and founder, Haithem Toulan, said in an interview Tuesday that he’d be happy to leave room for such a path but doesn’t see the point of paving it until his neighbors do, too.

“Right now, it makes no sense building another orphan, because it just seems to be a waste of money for going nowhere,” Toulan said.

Toulan, who also happens to be the nephew of the late Portland State University planners Nohad and Dirce Toulan, said he’d like to find a different way to give Springwater Corridor users access to the riverside land on his property. He’s waiting for a chance to discuss the options with the city.

“We’re not going to remove the option of doing something across the property,” Toulan said. “We leave within our plan the possibility of the greenway path [between the two corridors] being built at a later date.”

Toulan said he could imagine a deal whereby he and any future owners of the property would be obligated to develop the path once a full connection is possible.

“Right now all I know is that we have to build the path from SK Northwest to the edge of my property, which dead-ends at the water,” Toulan said.