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Builder Backs Out, But Clinic Still Planning To Open

A company contracted to build a Planned Parenthood Clinic in North Portland has indicated it's pulling out of the project.

The clinic has been the target of several anti-abortion protests. As April Baer reports, despite this recent development, clinic supporters and opponents intend to continue their fight.

It's not as if there haven't been attempts to create new business on Portland's Martin Luther Kind Boulevard.

Erika Ries:  "It's a very diverse neighborhoods, I see all kinds of people, young and old, black and white…."

Erika Ries works at a residential treatment center, a little way off the main drag. Historically, most people who lived here have been African American. But Erika notes that's changing.

Erika Ries: "We have a lot of younger white kids what have moved into the neighborhood, renting the larger houses….we do still have a lot of police patrolling in this neighborhood. There's been a number of restaurants opened up. We also have brand new pizza parlor that seems to be doing well, salons, nail parlors."

While countless businesses have made a go of it on this stretch of road, at the corner of Beech and MLK, there have been more failures in these empty storefronts than successes.

Parking's a problem. The surrounding neighborhoods aren't what you'd call well-heeled.

The developer, Beech Street Partners, is hoping to include retail space in addition to the Planned Parenthood clinic. But first, they'll have to find a new builder.

James Adamson:  "I'm not worried about it at all."

James Adamson is one of the two developers behind Beech Street Partners. He says long before newspaper reports spread the word that builder Bob Walsh was pulling his construction firm out of the project, he knew it was coming.

James Adamson: "The issue was he wanted to be partners with both parts of the community, those that are pro choice and pro life, so he decided it wasn't in his best interest to do it."

Adamson says there are plenty of other firms who might want to work on the project, and he's not at all concerned about getting construction started.

Assuming Beech Street Partners can find a new builder, it's a firm bet that company will have to weather the same protests that anti-abortion activists have waged against Walsh Construction, and the projects' architect, since the development process began.

Nina Ray   "Aggressive, I mean we've been to their office. We've been to the architects' location."

Sam Jackson Jr.   "We protested Planned Parenthood events all over town. And we've been here twice a week for over a year, a couple hours every Thursday and Friday evening."

Anti-abortion protestors Nina Ray and Sam Jackson Jr. say they will not accept Planned Parenthood because its menu of services includes abortion.

For its part, Planned Parenthood adds that abortion is only a small part of its work. Most clients come for contraception or help with sexually transmitted diseases.

The clinic is coming to an area that's gone through a lot of change — with new money and new faces popping up every month. As much as the anti-abortion protestors have repeatedly framed the debate as white society imposing the clinic on black women in the neighborhood, it's not clear their message has taken hold.

School kids pass by this vacant lot all the time. Tierra, Chynarree, and Ruby — we're just going to use their first names — go to school a few blocks away.

Their ages range from fourteen to sixteen. When they heard about the clinic, they thought it was a good idea.

"It's a good thing! Cause some people, they be scared to tell their mom, it'd be good for them to tell other people, to get it off their chests and stuff.  Like if they wanted to talk about birth control?  Yeah, it'd make them feel comfortable."

As for the protestors' concern that Planned Parenthood's education services might lead kids into promiscuity, the young ladies weren't buying it.

Ruby: "You don't have to have sex just because it's a clinic for teenagers. People choose to have sex on their own."

Monday a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood referred calls on the project to developer James Adamson, but indicated that despite the setback, Planned Parenthood expects the project will go forward as planned, later this year.

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