New Gentry Seasons on Williams Ave


A pricey New Seasons grocery store is moving in to a vacant lot between N. Williams & Vancouver Ave… Says they’ll bring jobs to “food desert” of the Boise-Eliot neighborhood, in combination with the higher rise apartments and condos they’re building two blocks away. Doubt it!

construction, construction, what’s your function?

to hook up yuppies with fancy food and move uppity junk in!


{lyrics and image borrowed from Utopia or Bust.}


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From The Oregonian. Jan 27, 2012:

Neighbors in North Portland like the idea that the New Seasons store on Williams will bring jobs

In recent years, development has resisted the recession and blossomed along the long-dormant stretch of vacant lots and old warehouses that make up North Portland’s Vancouver/Williams corridor.

Now, plans for a 30,000-square-foot, $8 million New Seasons Market at Williams Avenue and Fremont Street are pushing the area one step closer to becoming Portland’s next hip neighborhood.

The most common reaction in the area is that the store is a welcome addition that will add jobs and attract redevelopment. More debatable has been whether the store — which some say is the latest example of gentrification — will address what some call a “food desert” where low-income residents struggle for access to fresh food.

Either way, most say New Seasons’ arrival is a sign that fortunes have finally turned for the better. The Vancouver/Williams corridor — running through the Eliot, Boise, King and Humboldt neighborhoods — has traditionally been more of a bypass route than a boulevard. Investment, too, passed the area by, as Northeast Alberta Street to the east and North Mississippi Avenue to the west grew and changed.

The welcoming sentiments are even reflected at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, a place still frequented by African Americans who grew up in the area when it was the heart of Oregon’s black community.

“I think it’ll cause growth,” said church Deacon Glenn Ward. “It’s going to employ people in the neighborhood, and maybe people will shop and even go to church!”

Region on the rise

In the past few years, shops have opened along Williams between Beech Street and Shaver Street, including Hopworks BikeBar, Cha Cha Cha Taqueria and Spielwerks Toys. Housing followed in the past year, with the 18-unit EcoFlats building at 3935 N. Williams Ave., the 72-unit Alberta at 3632 N. Williams and an 84-unit building planned for 4116 N. Williams.

New Seasons is sure to fuel more development. It will occupy the north half of the block, with another 30,000 square feet still up for development. Washington state-based Ivy Street Partners said that site isn’t scoped out yet, but it will surely host something bigger than a grocery store, perhaps a medical office building.

“It’s good for jobs,” said the Rev. Virgil Turner, pastor of Community Outreach Christian Church, which sits one block east of Williams. “I’d rather have that than another liquor house.”

Adding to its allure, New Seasons prides itself on being a good corporate citizen. The company, headquartered at Vancouver Avenue and Tillamook Street, employs 2,300 people and will create 160 jobs that pay at least $10 an hour. CEO Lisa Sedlar has promised to hold a local job fair and work with the Northeast Coalition of Neighbors to explore creating a food benefit program for those on public assistance.

And last year, the company donated 10 percent of its after-tax profits to about 700 community causes, such as Good in the Hood, concerts in Dawson Park and neighborhood cleanups.

Access to fresh food

Much has been made of the area as a food desert. But conflicting definitions of what constitutes a food desert — for example, how far an area is from a grocery store — and what kind of store truly helps are dividing opinions.

“I don’t think there’s much to (the issue),” said Mike Warwick, a local developer and land-use chairman of the Eliot Neighborhood Association. He points to the site being nine blocks from a Whole Foods and a mile from a Safeway. “Depending on which corner of the neighborhood you’re in, there’s either the Safeway or the Whole Foods right there.”

The city includes the area on its food desert maps, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t. That’s because the U.S. defines urban food deserts as areas where substantial populations must travel a mile or more for groceries, while Portland marks increments of a half-mile, three-quarters of a mile, one mile and greater. The Portland Development Commission, tasked with helping companies locate grocery stores in food deserts, said New Seasons applied to its food desert program but was not chosen.

Neither the city nor the federal government distinguishes between health food store and conventional groceries when they say “access to healthy food.” Given that, stores that offer the lowest prices, even if they are far away, tend to attract low-income shoppers.

“Low-income shoppers definitely shop around,” said Michele Ver Ploeg, an economist with the Agriculture Department who authored a 2009 study on food deserts. “Most low-income people go for the lowest prices.”

New Seasons says it works to stay competitively priced and take food stamps. But it is not a low-cost grocer so may be out of reach for some low-income residents.

All the same, at the moment, the store’s embrace seems so widespread that arguments about gentrification may be fading in the face of an amenity most will use. Just last summer, a proposal to widen bike lanes on Williams unleashed a cascade of criticism about gentrification and racial preference in the city’s decision-making process.

Michelle DePass sits on the Williams Avenue Traffic Safety Committee and advocates for the area’s African American traditions.

“Gentrification, I think that’s already here,” said DePass, whose statement mirrored those made by the Urban League of Portland. “I’m just thrilled to go to the grocery store.”

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Firm takes reins on several projects
As development has grown more robust along the Vancouver/Williams Corridor in the past two years, LRS Architects has played a significant role in shaping the design.
Now, the Portland-based firm is designing the Eliot New Seasons Market and two other projects.
LRS is working with Rujax LLC of Portland on an 84-unit apartment building slated for 4116-4222 N. Williams Ave., at Mason Street.
The building, called Williams and Mason, is pursuing LEED Gold certification and will have ground floor retail and 66 parking spaces.
LRS and Rujax also developed the Albert Apartments, a 72-unit building nearing completion three blocks to the south at Williams and Beech Street.
Both buildings will have automated parking machines that will slot cars into vertical spaces.
Boise Neighborhood Association will hold a special session to meet with developers of the proposed 84-unit apartment building at Williams and Mason. The neighborhood association has expressed concerns about the size of the proposed buildings and has fought the previous project build by Rujax LLC. Meeting will be Jan. 31 at Albina Youth Opportunity School (AYOS) at 3710 N. Mississippi Avenue. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
–Cornelius Swart, Special to The Oregonian
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