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2008-02-08
Portland, OR. Wal-Mart Dead After Canadian Developer Drops Land Option

After more than a year of high profile combat, a Wal-Mart supercenter proposed for northeast Portland, Oregon is gone. A quiet neighborhood in Portland got a rude wake up call in the all 2006 when a developer announced plans for a 240,000 s.f. development including a 180,000 to 190,000 s.f. big box store located on a former gravelpit/landfill/golf driving range site directly across from one of the city's high schools. This proposal exceeded the current zoning of 60,000 s.f. and would have pushed a retail store five blocks into residential streets. The project was located on 25 acres of land zoned for light industrial, not commercial. On October 5, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Toronto-based developer, SmartCentres, had pulled its plans for the supercenter on 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street -- but left the door open to return with something more acceptable to the city and the neighborhood. SmartCentres never did give a reason for their collapse. "Our intention is to resubmit in the near future after having considered all of the environmental -- figuratively speaking -- concerns," said a spokesman for SmartCentres. The neighbors, along with city and state officials, told SmartCentres they were concerned that thousands of additional car trips would exacerbate existing traffic problems on 82nd. Street. The landowner threatened he might use the land for an "adult-oriented businesses." So the choice was between Wal-Mart and a porno shop. "I want to associate with something I'm proud of," the landowner said -- not specifying whether he was referring to Wal-Mart or the porn shop. The citizen's group which organized to stop this Wal-Mart project, Save Madison South, called the Canadian developer's pull out "very exciting news," but warned that they had just won "our first round in our fight for livability!" "We want to caution everyone that this isn't over yet," the group said. "The owner and developer have already indicated plans to come forth with another proposal in the coming months." The Save Madison South Coalition said it was fully prepared to continue its campaign. "This land is still open to development proposals and we are committed to working towards the right fit for the neighborhood." This week, the citizens group received a second piece of very good news. In a press release, Save Madison South announced that SmartCentres had formally withdrawn its option to purchase the 26-acre parcel of land adjacent to Madison High School. "The developer's decision follows a one-and-a-half-year fight led by the coalition, and energized by the involvement of more than 2,300 concerned neighbors," the group said. "SmartCentres officially leaves behind a purchase option which, until January 31, had prohibited any developers from proposing alternatives... This victory marks a major win for the newfound community that has grown out of a once-overlooked area. Save Madison South/ Save Roseway has advocated for the development of a site that is in line with neighborhood interests -safety, livability, property values, providing local jobs and protecting existing local businesses- and is now poised to support land owner Mike Hashem to quickly find the best development partner." The group said it was "thrilled that SmartCentres has left the table because now our resources can lend strong support to the city and the land owner. Save Madison South is pro-business and pro-development and we view this site as a lynchpin for re-development of the entire section of NE 82nd north of I-84."

What you can do: Save Madison South says it contributed more than 4,000 volunteer hours to canvassing, outreach and strategy activities, equal to more than $65,000 in donated labor costs over the past year. The key to the group's success, according to leaders, is that everyone looked at the issue in a bigger context and saw NE 82nd Avenue as a holistic area including neighborhoods, businesses and schools. That fueled people's enthusiasm for building a new community, and sparked interest up and down the corridor. "It is truly remarkable to work with such passionate people who, as the huge underdog, have partnered to design and execute a winning campaign based on community values," said Dawn Rasmussen, Save Madison South Co-Chair. "Our
organization and its supporters are proof that this section of Portland is on the upswing and that we share a vision for a retail development that will enhance our quality of life." What's next? The coalition says it will work to come up with a development plan that "represents the unique character of the surrounding neighborhoods and the recent city-wide visioning program." A good first step would be to get the landowner to stop talking about adult-oriented businesses. For more information about Save Madison South visit:










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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