Friday, March 5, 2010

Custom House auction

This is an exquisite building situated on the North Park Blocks in the Pearl District with MAX and Portland Streetcar within a few blocks. Sometime ago the GSA determined “that removing the structure from its inventory would be more beneficial to taxpayers than keeping it.” This meant proceeding according to GSA Property Disposal procedures.

The GSA under a public benefit program offered to certain buyers the property for zero dollars “as is.” Just like buying anything “as is” one takes the item with all the warts. Bottom line is that a $10.5 mil property would have been given free to qualified applicants.

An Old Town Blog post has pertinent information and links to recent articles, but suffice to say the latest applicant, International School, felt that the “warts,” i.e., the seismic and disability access costs, were too great even with a free building.

There has been two applicants since 2004 both under the public benefit disposal procedures. The first one was a boutique hotel and the second was the International School. But since neither applicant followed through, the GSA determined to auction the property.

But why hasn't PDC via the River District urban renewal district taken advantage of this give away when they had a chance? Yes, the seismic upgrades are expensive, but the property would have been a great community center for Pearl and Old Town/ Chinatown neighborhoods.

I may be wrong, but I believe that the remaining part of the property not used by the community center could have been leased. Thus, various non-profits in the two neighborhoods could have been centralized. As a community center its availability would have been a tremendous asset, especially since it is situated between the two neighborhoods.

Arguably, in the 3 storey building with nearly 79,000 sq. ft. enough rent could have been collected to offset the cost of seismic upgrades. Thus, it is possible that the upgrades and continuing maintenance would have been achieved without any subsidies.

If there would have been a will there would have been a way.

I can't necessarily put all the blame on PDC because the neighborhoods should have never lost sight of the potential benefit of this property.

© 2010

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