The Accidental Palate

After nearly ten wonderful years of editing Northwest Palate magazine in Portland OR, I've handed over the reins and am now enjoying the leisurely (not!), ever-changing (and then some) life of a freelance bon vivant. Hope you enjoy these posts, and if you want to reach me, contact ajabine (at) yahoo (dot) com. Cheers! Angie Jabine

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Portland Public Market: Home in Sight?

September 27, 2007, Portland, OR--With the latest twist in the ongoing search for a year-round public market, it's bye-bye, Union Station, and (maybe) hello, 511 Building.

With Melvin Mark Development Company as its partner, the Portland Public Market Foundation and its tireless consulting director, Ron Paul, (pictured below with James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro) are hard at work on a new proposal to site the Portland Public Market at the historic 511 Building on Northwest Portland's Park Blocks.

The building currently houses federal Homeland Security employees, who would need to be relocated. The building still belongs to the General Services Administration, but the adjacent parking lot, says Paul, has already been deeded to the City of Portland to be an extension of the North Park Blocks.

This is the latest chapter of a saga that stretches back six years, when Paul first floated the idea of a year-round public market in a central Portland location, where local vendors and artisans could sell their wares throughout the year. After all, Vancouver, B.C. has its Granville Island Market, Seattle has Pike Place Market, San Francisco has the Ferry Building. These aren't just seasonal farmers' markets--these are essential, year-round parts of each of these cities' economic life.

In an interview today, Paul said he couldn't be more thrilled with the new partnership. He noted that the six-story 511 Building, which was built in 1915 and originally was Portland's downtown post office, was one of the first candidates for the market, but the foundation lacked a use for the upper floors. The next candidate, the Skidmore Fountain area, ran into roadblocks from the city. Union Station, the most recent candidate--and, ironically, the site of a Public Market fundraiser this coming weekend--was determined to be too expensive, with about $40 million in needed seismic upgrades and other improvements.

Paul said the foundation was approached by Melvin "Pete" Mark and Bing Sheldon of SERA Architects about five weeks ago with the news that they were interested in buying the 511 Building and developing the upper stories as rental housing. But they needed a use for the main floor. Voila--a new partnership was born.

Melvin Mark should make a terrific development ally--his privately held company has overseen more than 30 complex development projects involving the federal government, including downtown Portland's Duncan Plaza and the Edith Green Federal Building.

No wonder Paul was smiling today. Joining him for the interview at the Oregon Historical Society was Susan Ungaro, president of New York's James Beard Foundation, who is in Portland overnight in advance of Taste America, a 20th anniversary celebration for the James Beard Foundation that's taking place simultaneously in 20 cities around the U.S. (She'll be in San Francisco tomorrow.)

She explained that the James Beard Foundation board has recently voted to allow Portland to name the eventual public market after James Beard himself. Beard, of course, is not just the patron saint of American seasonal, regional cuisine, he is also Oregon's native son, and he was one of Ron Paul's original inspirations for a Portland Public Market.

With any luck, it won't be another six years before Paul's dream becomes a reality.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok OK so I know Portland has the biggest slow-food chapter outside of Italy, but this is rediculous. Markets have been created in cities all over the world...and often before the cutomers starve to death. One way to generate revenue is to START SELLING! I mean is this a cathedral we are building? Way too much emphasis on the pysical surroundings.

4:31 PM  

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