The Massive Post Office Makeover Will Transform Northwest Portland

The project will reshape a whole neighborhood off the Broadway Bridge. It will, admittedly, take a while.

By Zach Dundas April 24, 2018 Published in the May 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

0518 post office annotated o9nyxx

In 2016, Portland paid $88 million for 14 chunky Northwest acres currently occupied by the aging US Postal Service hub. In Future Portland, the USPS cozies up to Portland International Airport way out in Northeast. Its old home becomes a radically shinier neighborhood. Which will be ... ?

The surroundings offer a Busytown play set: trains, bridges, parks, grand façades, dusty lots. Prosper Portland, the city’s cheerfully rebranded urban renewal agency long known as the Portland Development Commission, sees the post office as the centerpiece of a “Broadway Corridor” remake. (This spring, three developers faced off for the job of advising the overall plan.) With a literal generation of building in store, Prosper takes a very New Portland tack to its vision for the area, which totals more than 30 acres.

“We’ve approached the project through an equity lens,” says Sarah Harpole, the agency’s project manager for Broadway Corridor. “We’re working to be intentional about who benefits. There will be the physical attributes of the project, but who will live and work here?”

1. See Ya Later, Mr. Postman

The city has coveted the USPS HQ since at least the ’90s. Current visions call for 2,400 new homes, 30 percent of them affordable—the Portland Housing Bureau bought a stake, along with Prosper.

2. North Park Blocks

Can 1869’s North Park Blocks get a 21st-century addition? Prosper’s Shawn Uhlman ponders: “How do you celebrate the Park Blocks, then transition to the other boardwalks and open spaces in the area?”

3. Players

The transitional quarters for the houseless at Bud Clark Commons and the internationally ambitious Pacific Northwest College of Art are just two of the significant players that will shape—and be shaped by—the corridor’s evolution.

4. Motion

Behold, a veritable knot of transport: Amtrak, MAX, streetcar, Greyhound, TriMet bus, cycling lanes, and the ever-more-congested Broadway Bridge.

5. Union Station

The 1893 depot will get some zhush: think shops and restaurants. “It will retain its transportation function,” Harpole says. “But there should be lots of reasons to go to the station.”

6. Under the Bridge

“What emerges there will be important,” Harpole says. “It’s an interesting space. It could work really well, or it could ... not.” Currently a sorta Mean Streets vibe prevails.

7. The Plan Whisperer

In April—after feedback from a public forum and the Broadway Corridor’s sizable steering committee—Prosper picked the Denver developer Continuum to help guide the project’s initial planning phase. Arguably best known for a glossy makeover of the Mile High City’s central train station, Continuum will advise the urban renewal agency, which in turn will work with ZGF Architects. Once an overall Broadway Corridor plan comes together, Continuum has first dibs on negotiating to develop the USPS site itself.

8. Getting High 

To pack in people—plus 4,000 jobs—the city popped the cork on the Post Office 75-foot parcel height limit, maxing out at 400 feet tall.

9. Fusion

Whatever it becomes, the area will knit together the Pearl, Old Town, Rose Quarter, and the formative Green Loop.

Show Comments