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Portland's South Waterfront

Pete Springer/OPB

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency wants to move their Portland offfices from the Pearl District to a building on the South Waterfront. The agency would expand the new building to about twice its size so it could also accomodate temporary holding cells for people detained for criminal or other violations related to immigration. The South Portland Neighborhood Association has raised objections and is appealing to city council to conduct further review of the building’s proposed use and whether or not it would be appropriate for the location.

This is just one in a long line of hiccups in the development of the west side of the Willamette River south of the Ross Island Bridge.

Development on Portland’s South Waterfront began in earnest in 2003, though negotiations and real estate wrangling began well before that. Developer Homer Williams, along with Gerding Edlen and others, lead the charge from the private sector, while then-Mayor Vera Katz and the Portland Development Commission spearheaded the city’s task of providing transportation and other infrastructure in what was essentially an industrial wasteland. Oregon Health and Science University was also instrumental to the vision of the area and has continued to invest in property along the waterfront.

All of this came on the upswing from the last recession (remember the early 2000s?), when condos seemed like a hot commodity. When the economy took another, deeper plunge in 2008, Portland’s condominium market dried up, throwing a wrench into residential — and, by extension, commercial — development on the South Waterfront.

Do you live in one of the condos or apartment buildings on Portland’s South Waterfront? Do you run a business there? Has the area lived up to your expectations? What are you hoping for from the future? How does the South Waterfront serve as an economic barometer for the rest of Portland and Oregon?

economy housing politics development real estate

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