By Don McIntosh
After spending almost two years negotiating a landmark agreement on the massive Broadway Corridor redevelopment project, a coalition of unions and community groups wants to know if that agreement still stands now that the lead developer has pulled out of the project.
The Broadway Corridor project is a planned mixed residential and commercial development on 16 city-owned blocks between Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown and Pearl District neighborhoods, anchored on a now-closed postal processing facility. Members of the Healthy Communities Coalition were euphoric in September 2020 when Portland City Council approved the agreement they negotiated with its development agency Prosper Portland, which mandates living wage union jobs for workers and opportunities for women and minorities in both the construction and operation phases of the project.
But Continuum Partners of Denver was also a key party to the agreement. Continuum was selected in 2018 by Prosper Portland as adviser and lead developer on the project, beating out several local bidders. As part of the deal, Prosper Portland paid Continuum $70,000 a month to advise it on constructing its master development plan, and also gave Continuum first dibs on purchasing developable parcels from the City.
But in September 2021, Continuum announced it was withdrawing from the deal, citing a challenging real estate market environment and the complexities of the project. Based on emails obtained through a public records request, The Oregonian reported in October that Continuum pulled out because Prosper wouldn’t agree to set a price in advance for all parcels that it would buy over time.
So what happens to the elaborate community benefits agreement that Continuum signed with the community coalition? Will the next developer Prosper Portland picks be expected to abide by that agreement? Healthy Communities Coalition reached out to Prosper Portland management, but has yet to get a firm answer.
So on Nov. 10, the coalition sent Prosper Portland director Kimberly Branam and the Prosper Board a letter signed by 20 coalition members requesting an answer by Nov. 24. Union signers included Oregon AFSCME, IBEW Local 48, ProTec Local 17, Fire Fighters Local 43, Service Employees Local 49, UNITE HERE Local 8, Operating Engineers Local 701, and the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. The Oregon Building Trades Council also endorsed the letter as part of the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity.
At press time, there’d been no response from Prosper Portland to the letter.