September 17th, 2010 | Published in News
Roy Jay, has a flair for the dramatic. The tall, debonair and immaculately dressed president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon and Southwest Washington has a vision for redirecting some of the money churning through the Rose Quarter to the neighborhood that he believes deserves a cut.
Built in the early 1960s, the Rose Quarter was part of a legendary wave of regional projects that included I-5, the Fremont Bridge and Legacy Emmanuel Hospital. The redevelopment led to the demolition of 1,376 homes in North/Northeast Portland and the leveling of most of the area’s African-American neighborhood. The Rose Quarter alone was responsible for the loss of 488 homes.
At a September subcommittee hearing of the Portland Development Commission, Jay proposed that the city create a dedicated local fund to assist local business and struggling social service nonprofits in the area. The fund would draw 1 percent from the annual revenue of the Memorial Coliseum and Rose Quarter and a $1.99 surcharge on all tickets.
“What’s their slogan? Rise with us! Prove it!” said Jay as he playfully challenged the Trail Blazers, the Rose Quarter’s largest tenant, with his trademark theatricality. “This is their chance to go beyond giving out basketballs and free tickets to a game.”
Some question whether such a fund is legal. Others claim that it’s not fair to charge a business like the Blazers for what some have called reparations.
“It’s not reparations,” said Dr. T. Allen Bethel, president of the 125-church Albina Ministerial Alliance and a supporter of the proposal. “It’s for the neighborhood and any organization that would be impacted by Memorial Coliseum.”
For decades, the residents of the area have felt that the city and its investors have spurned them.
“There’s always a suspicion in this side of the neighborhood [that] people don’t put money into the East Side because it’s a minority neighborhood,” said Mike Warwick, a local developer and activist with the Eliot Neighborhood Association. “So they invest in the Pearl District and South Waterfront.”
Even the Rose Quarter itself invests its publicly generated dollars on the West Side.
The City of Portland’s Spectator Facilities Fund generates approximately $9 million a year through a six percent fee on ticket sales at the Rose Quarter, Memorial Coliseum and PGE Park. Every year, $6 million of that sum goes to pay down bonds.
In the past, the fund has paid for roads, parking garages and seismic upgrades at the Rose Quarter. Today, most of the money goes to pay for improvements that were made to PGE Park in 2001 and to offset the park’s annual financial losses, which can range from $500,000 to $1.2 million. In 2011, the fund will pay $12 million to help convert PGE Park to a soccer stadium. Of that amount, roughly $8.4 million will be generated at the Rose Quarter.
While it’s not clear if the Rose Quarter will ever pay the neighborhood a cash benefit, it’s very possible that neighborhood property taxes will make a cash payment to the Rose Quarter.
To finance renovations at the Rose Quarter, the city may use a network of funding that will most likely include money from North/Northeast Portland’s vast Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area.
An urban renewal area is a special geographic taxing district that directs local property taxes into improvement projects inside the district.
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