There was just an article about art and gentrification in Tacoma, WA. And here’s one about gentrification in Portland, but a lot more bluntly said. One thing you can learn from Tacoma is how universities are, in fact, real estate developers. The university today is all sorts of organized capital, including physical property. They’re not just places to learn how to survive the system, but they’re physical real estates. Where educating the “workforce” fails, accumulating real estate is another market of theirs. There are a lot students with larger-than-life loan debts, and a lot of board members / university donors with larger-than-life pocketbooks.
Developers get all sorts of points when they provide places for the new gentry to “study” (i.e. capital-intensive work), and when they simultaneously sweep the “skeeze” under the rug — as this ridiculous article from the “industry building blog” below argues for. Oh, and it isn’t surprising anymore when the gentrifiers invoke housing activist Jane Jacobs whenever they want to defend some new fucked up policies.
Fuck your industry building blog.
Fuck your university of oregon.
From Daily Blog. by Joe Steckert. Dec. 9:
Redevelopment under Burnside Bridge could take the skeeze out of Old Town
The area beneath the Burnside Bridge has been most strongly associated with Saturday Market. For years, the weekly craft market brought life and vitality to the sheltered area and turned what was normally an empty lot into one of Portland’s most active mercantile areas.
Saturday Market, though, has moved to sunnier, more open pastures just across Southwest Naito Parkway. While some bits of market activity do spill over into the area just beneath the bridge, for the most part it’s been nothing more than a shadowed dead zone, home to naught but a parking lot and a few interesting smells. What used to be the busiest place in Portland two days a week is now dormant full time. It’s precisely the kind of urban blank spot that would make Jane Jacobs cry.
The quiet is not going to last for long, though. Throughout the year a blank storefront under the bridge has been redeveloped by Venerable Properties and the University of Oregon for classroom use. Behind the opaque glass exterior, real stuff has been going on. When I visited the property, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the interior, but I did manage to sneak a peak at some of the construction. The surrounding area belies the new interior- it’s not just a box of bricks and dust. The glass-and-wood fixtures going in are much more evocative of a swank, polished university campus than anything else in Old Town. (The contrast, by the way, is by design. There was a rather amusing list of properties that were disallowed from the site.)
According to Heidi Hiassen, the communications and marketing associate for the University of Oregon in Portland, students will start using the space starting winter term of 2012. According to the U of O’s academic calendar, classes start Jan. 9. Hiassen says that “it will either be studio or classroom space,” but that “it may take a few terms for the students to figure out how to use it to their best advantage.”
The development beneath the bridge isn’t just significant because a new tenant is moving in. The expansion of the University of Oregon (my alma mater, by the way) is just the latest bit of development in Old Town that’s slowly been changing the character of the district. Old Town (also known as the North End, Slabtown, the Portland Tenderloin, and Couch’s Addition) has always been known as a sort of skeezy, low-end part of Portland and historically has been the part of the city to be most inhabited by homeless. The Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, the Blanchet House, and other charitable organizations have all been fixtures of the district for some time. Saturday Market has brought a large general population into the district for the weekends, and the neighborhood is known for nightlife and clubbing, but the University of Oregon is a different sort of animal. The U of O opening up additional academic space in the area means that students and instructors will bring a certain amount of day-to-day activity to a mostly-desolate section of street during daylight hours, is mostly populated by the homeless.
Whether this will at all change the character of Old Town, displace the present population, or liven up the space under the bridge downtown, remains to be seen in 2012.