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Portland Growth Plan Proposes More Middle Wage Jobs

Portland City Hall.

Portland City Hall.

OPB file photo

Portland City Council is preparing to hold a series of hearings on a new comprehensive plan, a blueprint for the next 20 years of the city’s growth.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability expects that during that time, the city will add 260,000 new residents and 140,000 new jobs.

One key challenge is how to create jobs, particularly middle income jobs, in a city with little remaining undeveloped land.

Portland, like cities across the country, has primarily added high wage and low wage jobs in the past 20 years, with the number of middle wage jobs remaining relatively flat.

The city’s new 20-year plan tackles that problem in a few ways.

First, the city wants to encourage private landowners to redevelop brownfields — old industrial sites that are unused due to pollution. The planning bureau says Portland has about 600 acres of brownfields.

“With a few incentives, we think we can help property owners clean that up, redevelop it, and get it back on the market as industrial property,” said Tom Armstrong, a supervising planner at BPS.

Second, the city wants more land available for small manufacturers.

Armstrong said the new comprehensive plan proposes taking some land in East Portland that’s zoned commercial and shifting it to light industrial use. The zoning changes would allow certain types of businesses to open. 

“Sort of the smaller scale, assembly and distribution makers. You could have things like bike manufacturers. Places like Leatherman Tool Company,” said Armstrong. 

Armstrong said East Portland in particular has a deficit of middle income jobs that are within a one-hour ride on public transportation. He said replacing some retail stores with manufacturers could help bring middle income jobs to the area.

The areas the city is looking at re-zoning include property along 82nd Avenue, 122nd Avenue, and in the Gateway area. 

Finally, the comprehensive plan proposes better bus routes to connect the people who live in East Portland with the industrial jobs clustered along the Columbia River in North Portland.

The City Council is reviewing the proposed comprehensive plan in a series of work sessions in October, and will begin holding public hearings on the 20-year plan starting Nov. 19.

Interested in the changes planned for your neighborhood? You can plug your address into a map app the city has created. It illustrates proposed changes in land use, employment zoning, streets and bikeways, water and sewer services and more.

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