By Staff Reports
A Portland developer is saying the homeless rest area at Fourth and Burnside is jeopardizing the financial stability of the long-awaited renovation of the Grove Hotel.
In a strongly worded letter to the Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association, Grove Hostel developer David Gold is urging the community to take advantage of the “complaint driven” process and urge the city to resolve the siting concerns of Right 2 Dream Too. The camp, which shelters between 60 and 80 homeless people each night, has been sited at Fourth Avenue and Burnside Street for more than a year.
Gold is one of several investors comprising Grove Hostel Property LLC, which has been working to transform the formerly decrepit Grove Hotel into a modern urban hostel. The project has received earnest support from City Hall and the Portland Development Commission. But Gold says that it needs the financial boost of first-floor restaurants to pencil out, and those investors say companies won’t rent the space with Right 2 Dream Too across the street.
Gold’s letter is as follows:
As the developer of the Grove Hostel on West Burnside, I have been advised that it will not be possible to rent our restaurant space at NW 4th and West Burnside until the land use issues are resolved across the street with respect to the Right to Dream Too camp. Unfortunately, the financial viability of the hostel project is dependent upon the rental income from the project’s restaurant space. This is not a situation of “less profit” — without the restaurant lease income there will be an operating loss — we will not be able to pay our mortgage.
Commissioner Saltzman and Mayor Adams have state that Portland Code Enforcement is “complaint driven” and that the only way the City will take further action is if there are public complaints.
The Grove development team has worked for two years to reach this critical point with respect to the hostel’s development. We feel it is a critical project for the health of both the Old Town/Chinatown Neighborhood and the central Burnside corridor. We are ready to invest millions of dollars in the project, but unfortunately we cannot move forward if we will not be able to lease the restaurant space. This is not a position on homelessness, but simply a financial reality.
The folks who use the camp deserve a more humane and long-term option, and my development team needs more certainty regarding the land-use status of current camp site at 319 West Burnside and 10 NW 4th Avenue. The City needs to act now to start that process in order to give camp residents and neighbors more certainty regarding the long-term solutions and other area development opportunities.
As of this posting, Street Roots is awaiting a comment from Gold.
“We have been good neighbors and trying to be good stewards of the neighborhood. We are working to give people the opportunity to have shelter and to do for themselves,” says Ibrahim Mubarak, a R2DToo resident and one of its organizers. “We are going to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”
R2DToo, a nonprofit, marked its one-year existence on Oct. 10 by signing another year lease with the property owners. For most of the past year, the city’s Bureau of Development Services has levied fines, now more than $1,200 a month, against the group for violating city ordinances. The city claims the group is operating a campground, and is subject to those requirements under city code.
Despite the city’s sanctions, the rest area has held a fairly low-profile with police and residents with very few complaints of any problems arising at the site.
R2DToo claim their site qualifies as a transitional housing area as allowed under state law. State statute permits a city to create two such sites, on property it selects. Portland has already sanctioned one such campground with Dignity Village.
To that end, the group’s lawyer, Mark Kramer, has threatened to sue the city to force it to suspend the fines.
When asked about the letter from Gold, Commissioner Dan Saltzman had no comment.
Saltzman’s office has said he is open to consider a second sanctioned operation, but not on the site now occupied by R2DToo.
Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the city’s homeless and housing programs, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Read the entire letter.
Read more about Right 2 Dream Too here.