By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,424)
The City’s Housing and Community Development Committee voted late tonight for the city staff to enter into negotiations with RockBridge over the purchase of the city owned park next to the Westin Hotel in downtown Portland. The vote was 3 to 1 with District 1 Councilor Kevin Donoghue, the sole dissenting vote.
Last week the Congress Square Redesign Study Group deadlocked (6 – 6) in its vote of whether or not to support the proposal for the redevelopment of the Plaza. However, that vote appeared to have little influence on tonight’s vote.
Close to forty people testified in opposition to the staff directive while about fifteen people testified in support of the directive to the staff to start negotiations. Doug Fuss, president of the Portland Downtown District and business owner who lives on the Hill said: “I worry about a lot of the talk about open spaces – for its sake. This is dead space. There are already lots of high quality spaces. This can be a gateway to the arts district.” Downtown business owner Dan Hatt said: “If this fails, it will send a negative message to other developers who are interested in investing in Portland. We have a habit of allowing the minority to stop development.” Michael Borque, a volunter at Portland Community Chamber said: “The sale money should be used to enhance the park. It’s hard not to accept this when teachers are being cut from the city’s budget. We have to take care of the homeless, but this Park is not the place to do that.”
Councilor Ed Suslovic said: “There is significant benefit to the public for a successful hotel. There is an advantage to bringing people into the area….” Councilor Donoghue said he was opposed to the motion because he doesn’t see any enthusiasm for the rest of the plaza. Suslovic responded that he’s enthusiastic about the rennovation of the entire area.
Please see Post # 1,427, dated May 22, 2013 for more background information.