In today’s Daily Journal of Commerce there is an article about a new apartment building proposed on Williams Avenue – “Apartment Project Reignites Tension on North Williams.” The story is pretty run of the mill: a developer proposes to build apartments in a growing neighborhood, the building will be taller than the neighbors are used to and destroy the privacy of the adjoining homes, the neighbors object, and the project represents gentrification and change. If the story goes like most have gone the project will be approved because it is within the zoning.
The story is more interesting in that it is a microcosm of forces effecting the city and the issues that Portland and the larger region face as we continue to grow. As a city that has been successful in attracting new residents we need to create places for them to live. The city especially needs workforce housing that it affordable. We have decided that we do not want to sprawl into the hinterlands so it must be within the existing urban footprint. But what does that mean for the neighborhoods that are so fundamental to what Portland is? How does new development change the urban form, does it enhance it or detract from it? The city, especially the Eastside has traditionally been in essence a collection of small towns. As we add thousands of new residents how do we maintain our character while simultaneously evolving into a more urban city. How de we balance the creative economy and its needs with those of the older industries that have supported the city for decades and continue to provide thousands of jobs for Portlanders.
Building Portland will be my attempt to report on and analyze the development of the city and the forces that drive it. I have been following these issues for the ten years which I have lived in the city and through this blog I hope to share some of the information I dig up and possible stoke some thinking and dialogue about our built environment and how we plan it. I hope that you will join me and together we can build a better Portland.