Apparently new life has been breathed into the long-stalled Burnside Bridgehead redevelopment. Four new projects are moving forward after 8 years of neglect, and all of the new projects appear to be designed by Portlanders for Portlanders. Included in the mix are the remodeled Convention Center Plaza by Beam Development, a Works Partnership designed 6-story live/work project by Beam and Urban Development Partners (of Division St. fame), a Skylab designed 12-21 story residential tower by Key Development, and a potential multistory project coming from Kevin Cavenaugh (of The Ocean and The Rocket fame). The most hype has centered around the Key Development proposal due to Skylab’s involvement. The proposal appears to fluctuate as city records and reports slide between 12 and 21 stories, but the program looks unchanged at 290-300 units, ground floor retail, and approximately 200 above-ground parking spaces. The city design reviewers have reservations about the project, but they are also optimistic that the project will come to fruition unlike the previous Bridgehead iterations.
The 105,000 square foot Convention Center Plaza’s renovation is nearly complete, and Beam developer Jonathan Malsin is currently looking to fill the space with creative tenants. The original Portland Development Commission’s decision to move forward with Opus Northwest instead of Beam back in 2005 was an embarrassing moment for the city, but with Opus abandoning their big box dreams of an inner-city Lowe’s the project is available again for local interests to get a second chance. The city has apparently learned its lesson with large national developers and approved Beam, Key and Urban Development Partners to move forward. This change of direction from one mega-project by an outside developer to a more organic local development with multiple designers and developers will make for a much better project for the city and its inhabitants. With so much control, Opus wanted to level the Convention Center Plaza and build a cookie-cutter, anywhere-USA proposal that would have inevitably been cheaply designed and made to look like one large project with similar treatments and finishes. What we have now is local developers pushing some of Portland’s best architectural talent to make exceptional design that will bring independent utility to each and every block, which in turn will create a very dynamic urban neighborhood. East Burnside between 12th and the river is already one of Portland’s most exciting places with previous projects like B-side-6, Jupiter Hotel, The Rocket, and the city’s Burnside-Couch couplet and Streetcar investments.