The Portland Development Commission (PDC) voted last Wednesday to authorize the sale of a 2-acre lot at
the corner of NE Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and Alberta Street for $502,160 or $2.4 million less than its appraised value of $2.9 million. Once the deal closes, Majestic Realty Corp. will build a 20,000-square-foot Trader Joe's at the site.
A group of concerned citizens gathered on Sunday to protest the decision which they believe "will further exacerbate gentrification in the neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland."
Protestors questioned the need for a taxpayer-subsidized grocery store when there is a Safeway a half mile north of the site and a New Seasons one mile south. The money could be better spent, they felt, to help attract grocery stores to east Portland, where residents have far fewer shopping options. They also noted that meetings with the developer were held in secret, without any public input.
The citizens group expressed disappointment that PDC "failed to see the property as an opportunity to bring together neighbors and community members affected by gentrification" and urged the agency to operate with "more accountability, more transparency, and stronger focus on equity."
Prior to Wednesday's vote, the Oregonian's editorial staff argued that the deal was not in the public's best interest because it doesn't provide significant economic or social value, and they urged the PDC to vote against it.
In September, the King Neighborhood wrote a letter to the PDC, requesting that the public agency "seek new ways to engage the public in decisions about the direction of planning and developing neighborhoods" and offered to "partner with the PDC in constructing and maintaining robust, participatory democracy" in the interest of "developing innovative and creative changes to our neighborhood, through dialogue that is truly inclusive."