Even as Anita Smith proceeds to close her popular restaurant, Hannah Bea's Poundcake and More, the Portland Development Commission is reviving its Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Updated Action Plan.
The PDC's updated plan includes six strategies that encompass dozens of detailed projects including storefront improvements, more on-street parking, wider sidewalks and plantings of native trees and other greenery.
"Obviously she has her perspective on this," said PDC business finance manager Fred Atiemo. "In terms of what we've done – we've gone beyond what we've ever done for anyone else."
"This city does not support Black people," Smith says. "If you are Black, you'd better get ready to move to Gresham, because that's what's happening."
Members of the PDC's staff, who have worked for years on the Martin Luther King revitalization plan, are also emotional over the loss of Hannah Bea's.
In response to The Skanner's request for an interview on the issue, a team of five PDC staff assembled to field questions on Smith's business, and the wider King Boulevard plan.
"We've done everything possible to ensure she sustained her business and grew, but she just couldn't pull it through," Atiemo said.
Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area Manager Sara King said she's worked on the revitalization plan for years, and that, because staff is well aware of the PDC's distant past, it's been a labor of love to turn the agency's legacy around.
"Since 1998 we've given a lot of storefront loans, business loans and development operations strategy loans," she said. "Ideally they were crafted to help small businesses, properties that have been there for awhile. We've tried to make small minority and women-owned businesses our focus."
Indeed, many African American community leaders helped craft the plan over the years.
At the PDC Board of Commissioners June 11 meeting, staff laid out the plan in detail. The board approved it that day.
First conceived 15 years ago as part of the Convention Center Urban Renewal Area, the King Boulevard plan limped along until November 2005, when the agency's Board asked its staff and the mayor's office to take another look at the process.
They were charged with judging the revitalization's success and, if possible, speeding it up.
The directive kicked off a chain reaction of meetings, reports, and community and business involvement projects that stepped up investment in the street.
Staff then set out their progress report into a flyer and a video, and set off to gather local residents for community input.
Their public meetings this past spring generated two major observations about the King Boulevard revitalization: rising commercial rents make it difficult to preserve existing minority, women and emerging small businesses to the area, or attract new ones; and locals are frustrated that tax-increment financing can't be used to fund rent subsidies or a business resource center.
Meanwhile, Smith and her celebrated chef, Saan Patterson, host an "after-party" on Saturday, June 28, at the corner of N.E. Shaver and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. From 4 p.m. to midnight.
It's expected to be a huge event, coordinated by the Rev. Renee Ward, who is actively encouraging poundcake fans to order another cake in advance, before the café's expected July 3 closure.
Expected guests include musicians Patrick Lamb, N-Touch, Angel Bagley, Asa Pritchard, Kirk Green, Linda Hornbuckle and Janice Scroggins, as well as civic leaders including Sen. Avel Gordly, Councilman Jeff Cogen, and Joann Bowman.
In a written statement, Smith said, "We invite everyone to stop by for a slice of cake and a special thanks to everyone for their patronage over the past years."