I published my last post on Oregonlive as Old Town. The content of my Old Town blog became a substantial bone of contention between Oregonlive and myself. Where before I was absolutely free to post content, that changed to an occasional “suggestions.” Frankly I saw these suggestions as a form of censorship. [See Jesse Jackson post from the Old Town blog that was depublished by Oregonlive without notice.]
The Oregonian and Oregonlive are part of Advance Publications that one might argue seeks to squeeze every penny out web site content. Community or neighborhood content is not oriented to any social or political value to the community, but only set to tie community and neighborhood businesses to ad revenue.
Since 2005, I have attempted to focus attention on Old Town. I am sure many didn't appreciate that focus because it was for the most part bringing to the light of scrutiny the very negative aspects.
The failed promises by the city and PDC to develop Old Town has resulted in the ever present drug dealers and growing street users; the housing of substantial number of sexual predators; and an ever increasing concentration of social services and low to no income housing contrary to established city policies.
Old Town is not like any other Portland neighborhood. Old Town was on its way, a very slow path to be sure, to development. I see Old Town as the perfect part of the city for unique urban renewal unlike downtown, South Waterfront, or even Pearl.
It is ideally situated for working class housing, startup businesses, commercial offices and the retail to support them. There is even room for a public market and boutique hotel. But oddly enough, ever since Vera Katz left the mayor's office, Old Town development has been avoided.
Location, location, location – Old Town has it. The Willamette River separates it from the eastside. The river and Waterfront Park is at its back with Pearl and downtown as contingent neighborhoods. The Coliseum and convention center as well as Lloyd Center are just across the river. All of the MAX and virtually all buses transits Old Town.
Historic districts. Old Town has two. Although I am not particularly enthused about historic districts because for the most part in Old Town they have become the rationale to oppose development. While touting the two districts - the city has failed to restore many of the properties in the districts, especially the Skidmore Historic District. They sit vacant from the retail level up and are underutilized at the retail level.
Walkable. A resident in Old Town can easily avoid MAX and buses by walking. It is an easy walk to downtown even to PSU and PGE Park. And, only few blocks away from Pearl and the immediate eastside.
The irony is that there is little in Old Town to keep a resident there. If you have discretionary income – you leave the area to spend it. It is the trip out and back that is the issue.
Walking in and out of Old Town is not comfortable. It is not the homeless or panhandlers or even public drunkenness – it is the drug dealers and drug users that have taken the streets as their own. These are not residents – they come to the neighborhood to sell and use drugs. Portions of 6th Avenue are unsafe to walk at any time.
It is the potential of Old Town that keeps me enthused and actively engaged in criticizing failed city and PDC polices and promises. It is what happens when a city tunes its policies to benefit the lowest common denominator.
But even after years of writing and seeing little positive change in Old Town, I will continue to give my opinion. I remain hopeful that the city government will take cognizance of the need to balance “business” and “social” needs and to keep the promises of the city.