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Old Posted Apr 26, 2008, 1:02 AM
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MarkDaMan MarkDaMan is offline
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Portland looks to build World Sustainability Center

Friday, April 25, 2008
World class sustainability
Leaders envision World Sustainability Center in Portland
Portland Business Journal - by Andy Giegerich Business Journal staff writer

As part of a push to become the nation's sustainability capital, Portland city officials want to create a first-class World Sustainability Center.

The center could house research and development facilities, the city's sustainability programs, green businesses and nonprofits, and academic offerings.

Initial estimates for the proposed World Sustainability Center, which would likely be sited in or near downtown Portland, fall between $6 million and $16 million for a new building. Some money for the project, which could also occupy a rehabilitated structure, could come from taxpayers.

City commissioners Dan Saltzman, who oversees the city's Office of Sustainable Development, and Sam Adams have convened a group of business, government and education leaders to devise ideas for the center.

The group, which held its first meeting April 15, is mulling several options, including erecting or rehabilitating more than one building and creating a "sustainability campus."

Saltzman believes the investment would eventually pay for itself by attracting more sustainable industries to Portland.

"It's certainly part of our branding efforts to distinguish ourselves as being at the top of the pack," he said. "It would give people coming here a place where they can see what we're all about, as well as give businesses a place where they can share information with each other."

Space wise, the facility could require as little as 20,000 square feet, which would provide room for researchers, and an additional 500,000 square feet, which would accommodate a broad range of programs, said Tom Osdoba, an economic development manager with the city's Office of Sustainable Development.

Likely candidates for the center include downtown, near the Pearl District's Ecotrust: Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center building, or near Portland State University.

Such spaces aren't cheap. New buildings in downtown typically cost about $325 per square foot to build, said Clayton Hering, president of Portland's Norris Beggs & Simpson Companies.

The group has already asked the Oregon Innovation Council, which recommends economic development projects for state funding, for an undetermined amount of seed money. The Innovation Council is preparing proposals for the 2009 Legislature and will consider the request on May 12.

The concept may be a tough sell. The state expects a revenue drop during the next biennium, said Courtney Warner, a spokeswoman for the Innovation Council.

Other funding options include the Portland Development Commission's Quality Jobs Program, a low-interest loan offering, and the Economic Opportunity Fund, which combines low-interest loans with grants. Rents from the building's tenants could help repay the loans. A foundation or nonprofit could also be formed to oversee the center.

The center could also receive city and state economic development funds, Osdoba said.

While a new building or campus would take at least two years to build, supporters hope to establish a temporary World Sustainability Center in an existing 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot structure.

Osdoba said the center could further galvanize an industry that currently moves in several directions.

"This center is a chance to differentiate ourselves from other cities, and the window is closing quickly," he said. "So we have to think big and move fast."

The as-yet unnamed group working on the project includes Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler, Metro Council Chairman David Bragdon and Bruce Warner, the Portland Development Commission's executive director.

Business community participants include Gerding Edlen Development Co. Principal Mark Edlen and Oregon Innovation Council Chairman David Chen.

Lisa Libby and Kimberly Schneider, aides to Adams who are working on the project, said a temporary center could emerge within the next few months.

Colin Sears, the PDC project manager who's leading the agency's center development team, said supporters should view the failed creative services center as an object lesson.

PDC had hoped the creative services facility, in a Northwest Fifth Avenue building, would attract innovative businesses earlier this decade.

Yet prospective tenants couldn't afford the downtown rents. PDC itself eventually moved into the center in 2004.

"We have to learn from our mistakes in the past, like with the Creative Services Center," Sears said. "I think this industry has a lot more depth and the timing is much better for it, but certainly, it has to be much more than just a space or a building or initiative. We need to be careful on how we charge ahead with it."

agiegerich@bizjournals.com | 503-219-3419
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Old Posted Apr 26, 2008, 6:21 PM
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holladay holladay is offline
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This sounds great. If they eventually build a new building they need to make it the shining example of green design in Portland. That would be the real way to distinguish themselves. I went in one such center in Stockholm and not only did they have great information available, their building itself was a knock-out.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2009, 1:14 AM
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