Representatives of the Portland Trail Blazers and Portland Winterhawks minor league hockey team announced a partnership last week in the drive to convert Memorial Coliseum and Rose Quarter into an active entertainment district.
Shortly after the partnership was made public, Trail Blazers president Larry Miller spoke to a full house at the Oregon Association for Minority Entrepreneurs regular social, "Coffee and Issues."
Miller said he's encouraging public participation and wants to make sure their vision to transform the Rose Quarter into a part of town that draws people 365 days a year, not just when a concert or sporting event is held, to be accepted by the public.
"We'd never bring something to Portland that didn't work for Portland," he said in response to a question about the fear that the district would be filled with national chain stores and restaurants.
Miller and the Trailblazers are partnering with the Cordish Development company to create what they are calling "Jumptown" – the name once ascribed to much of the neighborhood destroyed by Interstate 5 and the Rose Quarter development. The neighborhood, inhabited by many of Portland's African Americans, was home to a number of a jazz clubs, pool halls and other entertainment establishments.
"This can spur development on this side of the river," Miller said.
Their plan calls for the development of a "boutique hotel," retail space, offices, restaurants, clubs and possibly condos in several undeveloped areas of land in-between parking structures, the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. While the Coliseum and the parking lots are city owned, they are operated by the Portland Trail Blazers' parent company, Portland Arena Management.
Miller and the Trail Blazers want the project to use local construction companies that include a percentage of minority, women-owned and emerging small businesses. He also wants the project to be sustainable, bike and pedestrian friendly.
For Doug Piper, president of the Winterhawks, renovating Memorial Coliseum is a matter of life and death for the minor league hockey team. It could also affect many concerts and other events held at the aging Coliseum, which can often not be held at the Rose Bowl.
"If they don't do anything (to Memorial Coliseum), we have a real problem," Piper told The Skanner News. "It's a great hockey building, it was built for it."
Piper says he would like to see the spectator bowl inside the Coliseum reduced in size to better suit the number of Winterhawks fans. A smaller bowl would also better attract music shows. Piper says the construction of group viewing areas, better lighting and sound and upgraded bathrooms would create a facility better suited to modern events.
Miller says a renovated Coliseum could also be built to accommodate a training facility for the Blazers and visiting teams, which would replace the current facility in Tualatin.
Their plan would not disrupt the basic architectural integrity of the building. The glass box structure and the spectator bowl were built independently of each other.
"We think the building is pretty cool," Piper said.
Funding for the project would have to be approved by City Council. It's also unclear how much of the cost would be shared by private parties on upgrades to publicly owned buildings.
"Timing is never good," Piper told The Skanner. "Big expensive public projects are big expensive public projects. We'll put the best options on the table and find out what people want."
The city is currently requesting project concepts for the future of the Memorial Coliseum. You can submit your idea through their website, at www.rosequarterdevelopment.org. Concepts are due by Jan. 8 and will be discussed at the Rose Quarter Development Project Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting on Jan. 26 held at the Coliseum.
For more information about the Trail Blazers' idea, visit www.imaginejumptown.com.