Big Box Store Proposal Nears Hearing Process
Madison South, a quiet neighborhood in Northeast Portland, got a rude wake up call in fall 2006 when a developer announced plans for a 240,000 square foot development including a 90,000 sq foot big store for a former gravelpit/landfill/golf driving range site directly across from one of the city's high schools. Residents immediately became alarmed at this initial proposal, as it far exceeded the current zoning of 60,000 sq feet and would thrust a retail environment as far back as five blocks into residential streets and add 900 parking spaces. Initial traffic estimates also back up data that this would add another 7,000+ car trips a day on NE 82nd Avenue which is already a state designed High Crash Corridor. Other concerns included obvious cut-through routes that would bring increased traffic near middle and elementary schools, in addition to the high school across the street.
Jumping immediately into action, neighbors gathered at the September 2006 neighborhood meeting to hear from the developer and see the proposed design. A tense discussion followed as resident after resident queried the representative from SmartCenters, a Vancouver, BC developer who has very close ties to Wal-Mart, about the exact tenant that they were working with. The big box store was not identified, but, as SmartCenters planner Sean Fujiki admitted later in the discussion, that there was a high likelihood that it might be a Wal-Mart.
In a classic case of David versus Goliath, a movement has been underway in the Madison South and Roseway neighborhoods of ordinary citizens and residents that has taken on increasing urgency, as SmartCenters has put in a permit with the city and is preparing for the hearing process. Traffic engineers have been hired and the developer's community relations team has jumped into action, going to local business associations in June 2007 and making a case for this so-called 'regional shopping center'. The neighbors have also geared up for action, and have now amassed an 800-member action list of neighbors, businesses, education groups and activists who are kept up to date with frequent communications and a dedicated core of 20 volunteers who are fundraising, creating community awareness, and planning large-scale events to engage the neighborhood and the city in this discussion.
The permit has been sent into the city and was put on hold; however, it is expected that the hold will be removed by early July 2007, and the hearing process will most likely take place by late August or early September. This reveals the ploy of the developer to try and have that critical component of the permitting process take place when most folks would normally be scheduled to be gone on summer vacation before school starts. However, the citizen's group, Save Madison South, has gotten commitments from most of their supporters that they will be in town during that critical month period to be able to testify at the hearing. It is now with complete readiness that Save Madison South gearing up to fight for what every city desires in their neighborhoods- community livability and to support local businesses and sustainability.
Additionally, the developer's public relations firm is now making the rounds in mid-June 2007 to local area business associations trying to make the case for the big-box store. Many small business owners are skeptical and can see the handwriting on the wall, especially if a big box store such as Wal-Mart moves in and begins undercutting local businesses.
A Save Madison South rally is scheduled for July which will coincide with the permit coming off hold (date to be determined) and media announcements will follow that same day detailing time, schedule and location of the rally
For more information about Save Madison South and to get involved with this process, please visit www.savemadisonsouth.org, call 503-539-3954 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the action list.