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Monday 08.13.07

« Talking About Art | Main | Creative Capacity Roundtables »

Further developments? & the role of culture in real estate

Seattle's very corporate style real estate development has acted like a mirror for Portland's rising skyline and rents for years (with some very important differences). Now Faith Ramos, Andy Royer and Arash Shiva have produced a telling look at Seattle's South Lake Union with a documentary about development and gentrification in what was once Seattle's arts cradle. It should be of interest to any art scene in any rapidly developing city as a warning. It already seems too late for Seattle (i hope not but its why I moved here 8.5 years ago).

After watching Heart & Sold, I noted how different most high profile developers in Portland are. Even the mayor's office here wouldn't dare the kind of brush off response we see from Seattle. Here it would surely cost them the election. A dozen or so developers in Portland want to keep the arts in gentrifying communities and create affordable livework space and many have taken extraordinary steps to follow through like the Desoto, Mile Post 5, Falcon Arts Community and the corner of 9th and NW Flanders. It isn't all talk here.

The problem is they do what they can without many incentives like Vancouver BC's Amenity Bonus Program, which I mentioned here last week. It is notoriously difficult for non-Portland developers to do projects here and I think its time to incentivise a culturally progressive kind of civic development instead of a purely prophylactic approach. Why not use the relentless force of real-estate development to build culture into the fabric into neighborhoods that are supposedly going upscale? It isnt that htough a sell, a culturally active neighborhood with toney shopping has more cache than one that merely has high-end shops, it just takes a nudge to make it more common. Instead of Starucks as a retail anchor, an arts group could be a cultural anchor.

Alison Ryan even seems to think the idea deserves a task force.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 13, 2007 at 9:50 | Comments (3)


Interesting movie on Seattle.

Having lived there from 78 thru 95 I saw quite an explosion of Condos/Upscaleness/gentrification, whateveryouwanttocallit happening, even then.

Belltown, Eastlake, Chinatown, Fremont, Capitol Hill, etc, etc. Haven't been back much in years but no doubt most have gone the Soho route to some extent.

I say don't wax poetic about this or that area. If somethings too spendy or soulless, time to find something new.
Let the developers/investors/empty-nesters have it. It served it's purpose, so it's time to move on.

Thanks for the video, and the opportunity to comment.

Posted by: Sean Casey [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2007 02:10 PM

Doing something like the Vancouver Amenity program in Portland is a great idea, but the danger is in how it is implemented. The challenge is that whoever is the decision maker for the funding can becomes in some ways an arbiter of art/culture. Thus, as long as the people that are chosen to make the decisions truly represent the public interest, then it would help keep art in the community.

Posted by: portlandrealtor [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 06:13 PM

Considering how interwoven real estate developers are within the cultural scene here already... Id say having some cultural tenants beats having no cultural tenants. Fact is I rarely see cultural amenities in new condo developments in Portland these days. Cafe's are good but it would be nice if there was something cultural every 10 or 15 blocks. Here's a slogan: greater occupancy density requires greater density of cultural amenities.

And thanks for revisiting this... I'll make certain to add it to the questions for the mayoral candidates.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 11:31 PM

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