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Old Posted Jul 26, 2006, 1:47 PM
CouvScott CouvScott is offline
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Portland Streetcar News

The City Council votes today on the eight-block, $14.5 million extension

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Grass has sprouted on the first park. Workers scurry to raise the fifth condo building a few blocks from the tram tower. And joggers pound the riverfront trail.

Portland's pricey South Waterfront district is starting to fill out into the neighborhood city leaders -- led by former Mayor Vera Katz -- envisioned three years ago when they agreed to help private developers pay for Portland's largest redevelopment project

"Things are moving along very well," said Larry Brown, who manages the South Waterfront's redevelopment for the city's Portland Development Commission.

Today, the City Council could keep the $2 billion project rolling when it votes on a long-planned extension of the Portland Streetcar. The streetcar, along with the aerial tram, is among the key projects that solved the area's decades-long transportation problems and attracted private investors.

The $14.5 million streetcar project would build an eight-block loop that ends at Lowell Street. Construction would start next month.

The streetcar is one of three projects that got sped up this spring when the City Council raised its investment in the district.

The council endorsed a new funding package after the costs of the aerial tram jumped. It includes money for public improvements that would turn a mostly vacant industrial district into a neighborhood of high-rise condos and an expanded campus for Oregon Health & Science University.

With residents moving in and condos rising more quickly than anticipated, developers and the city realized they needed neighborhood features sooner than planned. Along with the streetcar, the new deal would bring a 2-acre park and riverfront greenway faster than planned, Brown said.

The cost for roads, the tram and parks, among other public improvements, would be $195 million in the first eight years. City, state and federal taxpayers would pick up $125 million. Developers and property owners would pay the rest.

The public's share of the overall costs would rise in the new deal from 57 percent to 64 percent.

While some district features were moved up, South Waterfront's affordable housing was pushed back. Original plans had the first apartments rising among a concentration of high-priced condos in 2005; that's been put off until fall 2007.

So far, condo sales remain strong. Homer Williams, South Waterfront's lead developer, said about one-third of the condos in the Atwater Place tower, the highest priced yet, have been sold even though the building won't be done for two years. "It's very solid," Williams said.

For the streetcar, about $4.8 million of the cost would be picked up by South Waterfront property owners. (The bills will be as high as $3.23 per square foot of land.) Another $2 million would come from a state grant.

The council also will vote today on a $11.9 million contract with Stacy & Witbeck to build the extension. The Alameda, Calif.,-based firm has built all of Portland's streetcar lines. If it gets the council's OK, the nonprofit Portland Streetcar Inc. will manage the project under a $442,200 contract with the city, said Vicky Diede, Portland's streetcar manager.
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