On June 19, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart was getting a wet reception in Portland, Oregon, where a Canadian developer has tried to sneak the giant retailer in under its raincoat. Sprawl-Busters received in June the following report from the frontlines in Oregon from the group Save Madison South: “A quiet neighborhood in Northeast Portland, Oregon got a rude wake up call in fall 2006 when a developer announced plans for a 240,000 s.f. development including a 180,000 to 190,000 s.f. big store for a former gravelpit/landfill/golf driving range site directly across from one of the city’s high schools. Residents immediately became alarmed at this initial proposal, as it far exceeded the current zoning of 60,000 s.f. and would thrust a retail environment as far back as five blocks into residential streets and add 900 parking spaces.” The project is located on 25 acres of land that is zoned for light industrial, not commercial. Two days ago, the Oregonian newspaper revealed that Wal-Mart’s developer in Portland, Toronto-based SmartCentres, had pulled its plans for the supercenter on 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street — but plans to return with something more acceptable to the city and the neighborhood. “Our intention is to resubmit in the near future after having considered all of the environmental — figuratively speaking — concerns,” said a spokesman for SmartCentres, a shopping mall developer based in Toronto. 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 has indicated that he has received dozens of calls from “adult-oriented businesses” interested in the property.” So the choice, as the landowner apparently sees it, is between Wal-Mart and a porno shop. “I want to associate with something I’m proud of,” the landowner said, not specifying which land use he found preferable. “We aren’t opposed to him making money,” opposition group leader Dawn Tryon told the Oregonian, “but it has to be the right fit in the neighborhood.”
In a memo dated October 2nd. to local activists, the group Save Madison South reacted to the Wal-Mart withdrawal as follows: ” We have some very exciting news to share with you. We have just received word that the developer for the proposed big box store on NE 82nd has WITHDRAWN THE APPLICATION. That means the big box store is off the table… for now! That means that we, as neighbors and people concerned about our communities, can officially celebrate winning our first round in our fight for livability!… The reason: SmartCentres cited no specific reason for their withdrawal in a letter addressed to Sylvia Cate at the Portland city planning office. We are pretty confident that the traffic issue that our coalition focused on was the project’s complete undoing, in addition to the negative impacts the proposed development would have on safety, livability, property values and nearby business districts. What’s next? We want to caution everyone that this isn’t over yet. The owner and developer have already indicated plans to come forth with another proposal in the coming months. We continue to need your help and engagement in helping all of us build the neighborhood and community that we want. The responsibility lies with all of us to put the bloom on NE 82nd Avenue of Roses, and help build a vision that will build the next great Portland neighborhood. YOU are what made this effort successful to date, and we need YOU to help vision what is next. The Save Madison South / Save Roseway coalition’s efforts for the responsible development on the 26-acre parcel of land across from Madison High School – the largest piece of undeveloped land in Portland – will continue until the right fit is found. While this news speaks to the newfound community that has grown in response to the SmartCentres proposal, the Save Madison South Coalition is fully prepared to continue its campaign. We are excited to share this victory with more than 2,200 supporters who have made it possible for us to put up this fight, and all of us cannot back down until we know we’ve done all we can to create the next great Portland neighborhood area…. This land is still open to development proposals and we are committed to working towards the right fit for the neighborhood. We are hoping to connect to Mayor Potter’s VisionPDX project to tie our vision and the city vision together, and will keep you informed of our progress. Please keep listening, watching and being engaged in your neighborhood. We are going to be shaping NE 82nd Avenue for the next 50 years and we all have a stake in the future — and look forward to working with you. Together we ARE making a difference.” For more information about Save Madison South and to help with this process, please visit www.savemadisonsouth.org, call 503-539-3954 or email: [email protected] to be added to the action list.