For nearly a year, community groups have been negotiating with Portland’s development agency to ensure that when it comes to the Broadway Corridor — one of the largest redevelopment projects in city history — the community benefits alongside the developer.
But community groups at the bargaining table say after 10 months of negotiating talks over developing a big chunk of inner Northwest Portland have stalled.
The coalition of groups, officially called the Healthy Communities Coalition, say that the city development agency Prosper Portland and Continuum Partners, a Denver-based company that was picked to develop and plan the site, are not doing enough to ensure benefits for the site’s future construction workers. And the ongoing negotiations between the three parties surrounding a community benefits agreement have fallen apart.
On Wednesday, the group wrote a letter to the Portland City Council asking them to intervene.
“I am writing to convey HCC’s concern that we may be unable to reach a final agreement. We are angry and frustrated,” wrote Vivian Satterfield, director of strategic partnerships for nonprofit Verde, who has been part of these negotiations. “It pains me to have to remind City Council members and Prosper Portland that HCC will not sign an agreement that doesn’t deliver on the promise that the Broadway Corridor project will be racially just.”
The community benefits agreement would govern the development of the site, which encompasses the old U.S. Postal Service site and stretches between the Pearl District and Old Town Chinatown. The community groups are looking to influence what kinds of wages and benefits construction workers receive, the affordability of the housing in the area and job standards for security officers, among other benefits. In return, the 23 organizations who make up the coalition agree not to oppose the project.
Earlier in the spring, the parties seemed like they were honing in on an agreement. Talks slowed down after COVID-19. Now the community groups say they’ve hit a wall — and they want City Council to intervene.
In a letter to council members, Satterfield wrote that one of the biggest disagreements lay with the city’s chosen development partner who wouldn’t agree to give health benefits to the families of construction workers. She wrote that this benefit had taken on heightened importance during the pandemic when health disparities between white people and communities of color had become “grossly apparent.”
In a statement, Continuum Partners founder Mark Falcone responded to the letter by saying the company was balancing many demands, and he believes their position ensures "all the various constituents see meaningful benefit from this project."
"Our unwavering commitment to have all construction jobs on the project pay at prevailing wage and the additional agreements we have reached with the SEIU for wages on janitorial and security are a substantial shift in the private development market for Portland," he wrote.
Satterfield said she’s heard Mayor Ted Wheeler express support for a community benefits agreement and wanted to alert the council of a major roadblock.
“Right now, we don’t see there’s a CBA happening,” she said. “So do they want this development to happen or not?”
In a statement, Kimberly Branam, Prosper Portland’s executive director, said they're not giving up on the agreement.
“We’re committed to ensuring that Broadway Corridor is an inclusive place and delivers significant, equitable community benefits. We are still at the table and actively working with all parties toward an enforceable CBA. We will continue to negotiate in good faith and remain optimistic that we can get to an agreement.”