The Zidell family released plans Thursday for one of Portland’s largest swaths of unused land. Anyone driving over the I-5 Marquam Bridge can see it.
The plan involves building as many as 30 new buildings over the next 15 years. Reporter Kristian Foden-Vencil spoke to Matt French, the managing director of Zidell Yards, and joned OPB’s Beth Hyams in the studio for a conversation.
Beth Hyams: It sounds like quite the plan. What else can you tell us?
Kristian Foden-Vencil: Well if you look at Portland from the east bank of the Willamette River, you can see downtown, then a large 33 acre site, and then the glass towers of the South Waterfront Area. French is a fourth generation Zidell. Here’s what he says they want to do.
Matt French: We see it as an opportunity to completely re-imagine what an urban community can be like. There’s actually plans to do a full greenway, which will end up being a 100-foot-wide swath of greenway and open space along the river, which will have bike paths, jogging path and kind of places to walk that will connect both to South Waterfront but also where you can jog or bike ride up to downtown and Tom McCall.
KFV: So they’re hoping to attract companies that want to build hotels, offices, retail areas. They’d really like a large company to build it’s headquarters there. So, whatever comes along, they’ll be working with the city to make it happen.
BH: Well, the area has stood vacant for decades. So, why now? Why have the Zidells decided to move forward now?
KFV: Yes, the Zidells have owned the property for about 60 years. They say this is the legacy they want to leave the city. As to why now, they say there’s a perfect storm for development. What they mean is: The first new bridge to be built across the Willamette in 40 years comes down right there. Also, Oregon Health Sciences University is expanding in the area. It’s currently building a new block to cater to students from OHSU, PSU and OSU. They says the towers of the South Waterfront are about 90 percent full so they expect about 4,000 more people to soon be moving through that area every day.
Matt French: It’s really been a confluence of all of these factors and things happening around us, as well as the fact that we’re now completed with the environmental restoration.
KFV: Zidell just finished a $20 million clean-up of the site, working with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Just a couple of other issues: French says about a quarter of the property will be public space. And ground has already been broken on the first building — $20 million dollar apartment complex. It should be completed by next fall.
BH: Thank you Kristian.
KFV: My pleasure