By Sam Diaz
For 36 years, the Land Trust Alliance has hosted an annual gathering of land managers, funders, and practitioners at a national land conservation conference called Rally. This year, Rally took place in Portland, and 1000 Friends of Oregon participated in one of its popular field trips, shining a light on Oregon’s land use system for this very niche national audience.
Organized by Oregon Agricultural Trust (our partner organization that’s led by our current board chair, Nellie McAdams), the sold-out field trip gave more than 70 conference attendees a day-long experience that began in central city Portland at Lloyd Center, toured the incredible Columbia River Gorge and Hood River area on bus, and came back to downtown Portland.
Nolan Lienhart, principal and director for planning and urban design for ZGF Architects, shared that Lloyd Center’s property owner and developer are working with residents, businesses, and local groups to reimagine and redevelop the centrally located 29-acre site.
While some details of Lloyd Center’s redevelopment are still up for healthy community discussion and feedback, one thing is certain: Housing is a must. And, thanks to the city’s inclusionary housing program, which incentivizes adding affordable housing in developments of 20 homes or greater, we’re guaranteed to see meaningful investment in affordable housing for Portland residents. And, that housing wouldn’t be far flung from existing infrastructure, amenities, or opportunity. It would be woven into the fabric of Portland’s central city district, connected with frequent bus lines, protected bike lanes, and a light rail station – precisely the type of location where we should be focusing our affordable and middle housing efforts.
Our state’s land use protections delicately balance the needs of farms, forests, and watersheds and with those of our cities and towns, where building up and in (rather than out onto farms) helps meet the needs of our current and future residents and businesses. That balance reflects Oregonians’ collective desire and commitment to put people over profit, and to protect the place we call home and the people who make it so special. As our executive director, Sam Diaz, shared, support for redevelopment and revitalization efforts like those at Lloyd Center can directly address our housing crisis in the quickest way possible while saving our farms, forests, and watersheds from the alternative: the meandering concrete blight of suburban subdivision sprawl.
Not long after the Rally field trip, KKR Real Estate and the Urban Renaissance Group, with assistance from ZGF Architects, went public with their plan for redeveloping Lloyd Center, which features 5,000 new homes for residents, entertainment venues, commercial space, and new outdoor plazas – and it keeps the ice skating rink. They’ve requested a meeting with the City of Portland’s design group to continue planning and design, and to daylight potential development processes and rules. (These types of meetings can help developers, especially those leading big development projects like this one, gain certainty about the project scope, timeline, and expectations, thereby cutting down cost and time.) Whatever may come for the future of Lloyd Center, we are hopeful in seeing housing development squarely within the heart of one of Oregon’s great urban areas. The land to build within our UGBs is available, and it’s our collective responsibility to cultivate it for the benefit of our communities.