Portland’s Zidell Marine launched its final barge into the Willamette River on June 16, 2017, symbolically marking the end of an era, with plans to remake its 33 acre site into a new mixed use neighborhood along the South Waterfront.
At the South Portland Business Association’s June 7th luncheon meeting, Portland attorney Charlene Zidell unveiled Zidell Marine’s long-awaited masterplan for its South Waterfront development, with a brief history of the company and its contribution to the city of Portland.
Zidell’s Post World War II Salvage and Barge Building Business
From the beginning, salvaging and re-purposing has been central to Zidell’s philosophy. Following World War II, Emery Zidell used the family’s South Waterfront scrap yard to dismantle, scrap, and re-use parts of retired warships to construct barges and petroleum tankers.
By 1960, the company’s ship-dismantling and re-constructing operation had become the largest in the country. In 1961, it launched its first barge, and has been building barges ever since. Seeing a changed market, in September 2016, Zidell decided to exit the barge-building business, but will continue to lease barges and operate its Tube Forgings of America business in Northwest Portland.
Zidell Reinvents Itself as a Developer
After over 60 years in the salvaging and barge-building business, the company plans to once again reinvent itself, this time as a developer in the rapidly expanding South Waterfront area, home to Oregon Health & Science University towers. In 2012, working with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Zidell completed an extensive, 19 year-long, $20 million clean-up of the site, in preparation for sustainable redevelopment.
In a question and answer session during Charlene Zidell’s talk, South Portland Business Association member attorney Richard Rizk asked her to name the greatest challenge Zidell Marine has experienced with moving forward with the project. She explained that its 19 year-long, $20 million remediation project, working with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to clean up the site in preparation for new development, has been the greatest challenge so far.
The 118-unit Emery Apartments, now ready to rent with complete amenities and services, was the first building to rise from the Zidell Yards. Across the street from The Emery are parks and retail, on the corner is the OHSU Wellness Center, and within walking distance is the streetcar, a new light rail station that connects to downtown Portland and the Airport, and the OHSU aerial tram.
A 21st Century Vision for a Vibrant Community
In December, 2016, the Zidell family revealed its ambitious new vision to recreate Zidell Yards into something distinct, bold, and of lasting value for the City of Portland. Although the company has received architectural drawings, it has not yet hired an architect to complete the plan.
Zidell’s vision is to create a healthy 21st century living, working, and recreational environment along the Willamette River that incorporates culture into the fabric of the community. It plans to redevelop the 33 acre site to accommodate 2,600 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, a grocery store, a retail anchor, restaurants, parking, a 200-room hotel, three parks, a public plaza, and a waterfront greenway with recreational access to the river.
Zidell will need to renegotiate with the city how many of the three parks planned for development Portland Parks will own, and is currently working with the city to include structures that will extend out into the water, such as dock and swimming pool.
Infrastructure Construction Will Pave the Way for Development
The necessary infrastructure construction on the undeveloped site, with roads and sewers, will start at the end of 2017, and construction will start fall 2018, with buildings opening two years later.
The development of Zidell Yards depends on the extension of Bond Avenue, which runs parallel to Moody Avenue, until it stops at Whitaker Street, near the tram terminal. The two roads will be the development’s main arteries, with Moody as a one-way street southbound and Bond going one-way northbound.
The Portland Development Commission (PDC) has pledged urban renewal dollars and Portland Bureau of Transportation funding to pay for the extension of Bond and additions that would help connect it to downtown, and the PDC promised funding for the project’s waterfront greenway. With road construction concurrent with the surrounding development by Zidell, the city can use tax revenue from the project to fund the road construction.
City of Portland May Purchase Land Parcel for Affordable Housing
In 2015, following urgings by housing advocates, city officials added to the development agreement a parcel of Zidell land north of the Ross Island Bridge and east of Moody Road that the Portland Housing Bureau could potentially purchase for affordable housing to accommodate about 200 units. According to the agreement, the city has until fall 2021 to purchase the land; if not, Zidell will be free to sell or develop it without affordable housing.
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