The Portland Development Commission’s Board of Directors voted to select Opus Northwest to develop the five-block area on the east end of the Burnside Bridge Wednesday evening.
The decision came in spite of considerable public support for a competing developer, Beam Development, and followed more than a dozen public meetings and numerous postponements of a selection.
Following a lengthy meeting at the PDC’s downtown headquarters in which, again and again, community members called on the board to select Beam, chairman Matt Hennessee announced to the palpably displeased crowd that Opus, not Beam, was the preferred developer.
“This district has incredibly scarce resources to reach its goals for the future. We want to preserve the resources as best we can,” Hennessee said. “If we overspend on this project, other important central-eastside projects and programs” will be put at risk.
The development project incurred scrutiny from community leaders beginning nearly a year ago, after it was announced that two of the three developers had included “big box” retailers in their development plans. Many were concerned the corporate presence would harm locally owned businesses in the area.
Opus Northwest had originally planned for a large-format retailer such as Lowe’s or Home Depot home improvement stores at the site, and expressed that they would continue with the plan as late as January. However, the plan was eventually dropped after continued protest from community members and objections to the plan from the Portland City Council.
The distinction of the apparent favorite for the development project changed hands many times during the year-long bidding for the contract. Gerding/Edlen was perceived to be the leader early on due to its notoriety and work on several other high-profile Portland building projects. The company fell behind, however, as their large-format retail concept became increasingly unpopular.
Beam Development was perceived to be the leader in recent weeks, after an evaluation committee appointed by the PDC recommended that Beam be awarded the contract, but Opus Northwest was known to still be in the running.
Opus Northwest’s plans for the five-block site include over 120,000 square feet of retail space, as well as residential and office space. The project is expected to generate nearly $1 million a year in revenue for the city, according to the PDC.
The 1.29 million square foot design includes several multi-use buildings, the tallest of which will rise 15 stories, overlooking the Burnside Bridge and Willamette River.