Portland A “New Urbanism” Hub? Not Quite, Say Some Experts

You may have heard the term “New Urbanism.” Very roughly defined, it is the concept that development- even in the suburbs- can be clustered around mixed use applications such as homes, small shops, and restaurants- with lots of transit options either on site or a short walk away.

We Portlanders have long fancied ourselves New Urbanism pioneers. There’s Orenco Station off Cornell Road in Hillsboro; Bridgeport Village in Tigard, and the soon-to-be-IKEA-bearing Cascade Station near the airport.

Yet a real estate conference held yesterday at Portland State University seemed to sound the theme that when it comes to New Urbanism, we PDX’ers have a long way to go.

http://www.djc-or.com/viewStory.cfm?recID=29504“In the metropolitan region, most urban planners and developers look to Orenco Station in Hillsboro as the epitome of successful New Urbanism,” writes Kennedy Smith in today’s edition of the Portland Daily Journal of Commerce.

Smith then cites the view of Bridgeport Village developer (and conference attendee) Bruce Wood that developments such as 2,600-population Orenco have their challenges.

But that development, hailed as a success story, has its problems, Bruce Wood, developer of Bridgeport Village, told real estate professionals Wednesday at a forum held by Portland State University.

“The public perspective on Orenco is that it’s great, but it’s not financially sustainable,” Wood said. “The only way to create density out there is to build parking, and that’s a challenge. The private sector doesn’t want to build it on green spaces.”

The developers of Orenco Station, Wood said, also had the challenge of creating infrastructure where there was none.

Add to that remarks from Portland Development Commission executive director Bruce Warner. Speaking at the conference, he said private developers don’t understand the financing structure necessary to pay for successful New Urbanism developments.

The DJC’s Smith then cited Cascade Station as an endeavor that’s finally emerging from “falure” status after six years on hold. And yes, Ikea is coming on July 25, but:

“What was slated to be Portland’s shining example of New Urbanism turned into not much more than another retail hub on the outskirts of town,” he added.

4 Comments so far

  1. torridjoe (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

    Sort of a strange perspective there–Bridgeport Village isn’t new urbanism, it’s an outdoor shopping mall. There is no related housing, and it is served almost entirely by cars (you could take a bus to Tualatin Park and Ride, but you’d have to cross a busy street at least once, likely twice, instead of being taken to it as at Washington Square).

    I’m not an expert, but my vision of “new urbanism” is much more related to core issues about the physical design of homes and the traffic grid, where houses close together with small lots sit on a grid street alignment, with public transit available and commercial districts reachable without a car. That describes neither Bridgeport or Cascade, IMO, and it ignores the fact that much of Portland is already built like that. So to say we’re behind on New Urbanism may be to ignore that much of the city’s old urbanism follows the New Urbanism precepts.

  2. Truth (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

    amen torridjoe

  3. thedude (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 8:52 pm

    There is much more to Cascade Station then what Wood describes. Ironic since I believe his former firm inherited the project after the death of the lead developer and visionary of the project. Wood and his company couldn’t make it work (just like he couldn’t make Ladds tower work or soon to be burnside bridgehead) The guy talks a good game but he’s not exactly a risk taker or even a solid developer (glorified stripmall developer) The DJC should follow up with a more indepth story, this was rather shallow reporting.

  4. mike (unregistered) on June 1st, 2007 @ 2:34 am

    Is New Urbanism code for more malls?

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