Gateway Regional Center
The Gateway Regional Center On January 5, 2009, in his swearing-in address, Mayor Adams stated:
“Portland may be the greenest city in the country. That’s no longer good enough. We aim to be the greenest city on earth. We can do this with thoughtful planning that integrates Portland’s value of sustainability into everything we do . . . The Portland Plan will put density where density belongs and shape our city so that the necessities of a good life, like grocery stores, are a 20-minute walk from home...
A green revolution is about to bloom across America. Let’s make Portland the hub.” Beyond a number of individual buildings and a few demonstration streets, Portland doesnot have one entire neighborhood or District that demonstrates and showcases Portland’s commitment to and innovation in sustainability; a truly transit-oriented, mixed-use, mixed-income community of housing, jobs, retail, education and recreation, designed and constructed to demonstrate the world’s best thinking—technically and functionally—for “the greenest city on earth.”
Other cities, including Vancouver, B.C. and Chicago, have examples that they tout which, while pushing the envelope, don’t yet rise to the level of the above description. In Portland, there is one opportunity like no other in the metro area; an opportunity offering location, accessibility, infrastructure, demographics (population, make-up, and jobs—existing and potential), and availability that are unparalleled. This is the currently nascent and underdeveloped Gateway Regional Center in East Portland.
1. The Gateway URA consists of approx. 650 acres. It lies at the confluence of two Interstate freeways, and is the epicenter of Portland’s MAX light rail system (red, blue, Airport, and soon, green lines).
2. Metro designated Gateway as a Regional Center and projects it to be the most accessible location in the metropolitan region by the year 2017.
3. To the immediate north of the District lie the 35 acres of undeveloped ODOT property, along with the approximately 85 acres of publicly owned, yet poorly accessible, acreage on Rocky Butte—together envisioned to be Gateway Green; a recreational and iconic destination for Portland. The two themes emphasized for Gateway Green are bicycle recreation and sustainability (wind, solar, water, air); the latter to be in a highly visible, iconic fashion. The number of people going by (on freeways) or through (on MAX) this site per year is estimated to be 65 million. The design and use of Gateway Green is intended to create a one-of-a-kind tourism asset which will help fill the approximately 2,000 hotel rooms which now exist around NE Airport Way. Further, this site is envisioned to be accessed by the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail, a 7-mile-long bike and pedestrian trail running east from the Eastbank Esplanade to Gateway and farther East Portland neighborhoods. Currently, ODOT, Oregon State Parks, Metro, Portland Parks and Recreation, Gateway Program Advisory Committee, and private supporters are working to make both Sullivan’s Gulch Trail and Gateway Green realities.
4. The demographics of the area reveal the following:
a. The Gateway URA is surrounded by some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the State of Oregon (David Douglas High School is the largest in the State and Reynolds High School is second). Yet the Gateway URA is sparsely populated.
b. To the north of Gateway lie the Portland International Airport, Airport Way URA, and Cascade Station, with more than 14,000 jobs to date. Because of flight patterns, the nearest housing opportunity for this employment base is Gateway, which is already connected by rail. Metro planner Sonny Condor’s economic modeling tools project that an infrastructure investment in Gateway would yield far more jobs and housing units than in any other Metro-designated Regional Center.
c. The area is currently healthcare-rich, including Providence, Adventist Medical Center, Oregon Clinic, Vibra Specialty Care, and Western States Chiropractic College. Other necessities, including grocery stores, now exist in the sub-District, so that the “20-minute neighborhood” referred to by Mayor Adams is readily achievable.
5. With close proximity to Portland International Airport, Gateway is well-positioned to accommodate businesses in green, traded industries. Further, Gateway provides the opportunity to larger employers for nearby or even adjacent housing for employees, at a variety of affordabilities—a true urban campus; a concept that Nike, Adidas or Columbia Sportswear cannot currently accommodate at their more suburban campuses. Besides being more green and transit-friendly, this provides more of an opportunity to build community and a great new 20-minute neighborhood for Portland. Design could also provide for District-wide utilities from one central, green source(s), and a goal for net-zero energy consumption.
6. While Gateway has these remarkable ingredients, yet it is nearly a blank canvas upon which to design and build a prototype, 21st-Century District; dedicated to sustainability and the quest to demonstrate just how good a transit-oriented development can be. The community, City, and Metro want these employer/users to be accommodated in an urban and green form, and in Regional Center-scale; resisting the temptation to settle for the more expedient, auto-dominated suburban form.
Metro often takes local developers on tours of the government-sponsored transit-oriented developments in Vancouver, B.C. Nowhere in the Portland Metropolitan Area is there a site with equal potential for creating Portland’s version of such an attraction.
Gateway Green as a Catalyst for Change