No Joy in Mudville

And the winner is…Lents?

By Sam Holder May 14, 2009

The new Beavers stadium is homeless:

How about Lents Park? Nah—we need it closer to the city center. OK, knock down Memorial Coliseum? Nope. How about behind the Coliseum? Won’t fit. OK…um…how ’bout Lents Park?

The baseball stadium debacle reminds me of middle school. Invariably there is that guy who will hedge his romantic bets—that is, he pulls out all stops to land the school hottie, but simultaneously strings Mousy Molly along. Worst case, he’s got a sweet girl with chestnut–brown locks to take home to Mom for meatloaf and wholesome conversation. But best case, he’s got the busty blonde with a "fast" reputation, and a chance to partake in the morally questionable goings–on hidden in dark corners at school dances.

Well, it’s time to take Lents home and make an honest woman of her.

But residents in Lents are frustrated by Portland’s top brass playing the tease and deny game. Even worse, the price tag for the new stadium has neighborhood leaders reaching for the Tums. Merritt Paulson, the Beavers owner, promised to provide 12.5 million to help construct the stadium in the Rose Quarter: "I can’t see doing anything like that anywhere else other than the coliseum site…That’s such an unusually good site that we really extended ourselves in terms of personal protections," he said. Not so in Lents—Paulson has scaled back his personal contribution and proposed that the Lents Urban Renewal Area pick up eighty percent (forty-two million dollars) of the bill.

The discussion over whether the Beavers stadium will turn Lents and its humble streets into an "unusually good site" is the crux of the problem: Paulson and Co. promise the revenue derived from the spectacular new complex will more than accomplish the Urban Renewal Area’s revitalization goals; neighborhood leaders worry that the redistribution of funds will further depress the already suffering affordable housing market. The Oregon Opportunity Network weighed in today with a press release arguing that "almost half of Lents residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and fewer than 25% of Lents residents can afford market rate homes built in Lents."

But short on stadium site options, Paulson and city leaders are pushing hard to ink the deal with Lents. (Perhaps impatience runs in the Paulson family—remember Daddy Paulson and TARP a few months back?)

Residents and advocates for urban investment in Lents have much to hope for. Despite suffering from one of the highest foreclosure rates in Portland, first–time buyers are still planting their flags in the neighborhood soil. And despite its violent history and struggle with the scourge of methamphetamines, violent crime numbers have fallen considerably since 2005. The next step is throwing money behind that momentum. A green light for the Stadium means plans to revitalize the Town Center, improve traffic safety, and stimulate small business growth all get the axe—at least for the next five years.

So what do you think? Do you agree with Paulson and city leaders that the new stadium is a viable alternative in lieu of Lents’ slated revitalization initiative? Or, do you subscribe to Stanford economist Roger Noll’s theory that the Stadium’s concession revenue will not bleed into the community? Has Lents—like poor Mousy Molly—just won the Good Enough Award?

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