The Once-and-Future Thing: Updates on 8 Portland Would-Be Projects

Checking in on some big dreams that never quite came to fruition ... at least not yet.

By Julia Silverman Illustrations by Hawk Krall March 23, 2022 Published in the Spring 2022 issue of Portland Monthly


Apologies to One Carrie Bradshaw, but as Portland starts emerging from the fog of the pandemic, we couldn't help but wonder what had happened to some of the ambitious dreams and schemes that were in the works before the world shut down. Turns out, some of them have gone up in smoke, some were just on hold, and some are in limbo—but, hey, at least there's a Shake Shack in Beaverton now, right?

Going Public Years ago, when the proposed James Beard Public Market—named for the Oregon-born dean of American cuisine—was first conceived, the plan was to put it smack in the heart of downtown. When that didn’t pan out, the focus shifted to the South Waterfront. Now, after nearly 30 years of planning, its ever-optimistic backers tell us they are scouting locations on the east side, from Albina to the OMSI district to whatever it is the Lloyd Center is going to become. They are confident that 2022 will be their year; they just need money, a location, and political buy-in (in other words, the exact same things they’ve needed for the past 30 years). Verdict: Hate to say it, but we aren’t holding our breath.


Shake It Off First In-N-Out Burger came for the I-5 corridor. Then, two years ago, word filtered in that a Shake Shack was planned right across from Powell’s Books. Fast-forward to 2022: The only thing directly across from Powell’s remains that weird sculpture that looks like an upside-down shuttlecock. In the meantime, Shake Shack is fully open in ... Beaverton. Still, closer-in fans of the famed chain can take heart: a spokesperson for the city’s Bureau of Development Services says Shake Shack recently filed applications for sign permits and holds an open application for permission to do a commercial remodel kitty-corner from Powell’s. Verdict: Order up ... in the air.


Seoul, Mate? During the spring 2021 lull in the pandemic, Delta Airlines announced plans for a direct Portland-to-Seoul flight, allowing K-pop stans to dream big beyond H Mart and Tacoma’s Olympus Spa. Nearly a year later, you still can’t get straight to Seoul from here. Blame the ever-changing pandemic goalposts: A new report by an aviation tracking site says the service has now been pushed back until mid-September (and a planned PDX-to-Tokyo route is on hold until the end of October). Verdict: In the endemic era, we’re still 유망한. (That’s Korean for hopeful.)

Batter Up Baseball is traditionally the slowest moving of the pro sports, but this is ridiculous. Portland has been MLB’s perpetual bridesmaid for decades. We’ve been in line for the Marlins, the Expos, an expansion team. Remember when Russell Wilson and Ciara were announced as backers of the Portland Diamond Project? Last time we looked there was still no team here, and the latest prospects, the Oakland A’s, seem to be far more interested in the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip. Verdict: An endless seventh-inning stretch.

Casino Royale Twelve years ago, voters in Oregon gave the thumbs down to plans to put the state’s first privately owned casino at the site of the former Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village; two years later, a do-over vote got the same result. Now the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, which purchased the property in 2015, is pitching the casino plan anew, this time with a design-forward architectural plan featuring a sweetgrass eco-roof. The mayor of Wood Village tells us he’s on board and excited about the jobs it could bring to eastern Multnomah County. But there are layers of government approvals to obtain, including hard-won permits from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Meanwhile, the Ilani Casino Resort, run by the Cowlitz Tribe, opened in 2017 just up I-5 in Ridgefield, Washington, meaning Portland-area gamers already have quick access to the tables. Verdict: A roll of the dice.

Rock Out Plenty of developers have eyed the undeveloped Zidell Yards lot along the South Waterfront—33 acres of prime riverfront, in a city that doesn’t have much of that left. Live Nation’s plans might have been the most glam; the performance venue giant wanted to turn it into a temporary 10,000-seat amphitheater, flanked by a public plaza and a Breakside Brewery taphouse. But Alan Park, the operations manager at the Zidell Companies confirms to us that the plan is DOA, though the site will play host to some one-off events in the coming months, like April’s One Moto Show. Verdict: Venture out to the new McMenamins outdoor venue at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove instead.

Gum Up the Works Public officials in Seattle have spent years trying to get rid of the city’s repulsively unsanitary gum wall, a storied surface near Pike Place Market onto which visitors stick their chewed-up gum. So naturally, a couple of tattoo shop owners in Portland figured we should have our own version. Back in 2017, they threw a gum-chewing party, in hopes of establishing our own gum wall at NW Third and Couch. A walk by the location confirms that the effort didn’t stick (get it?); meanwhile, the tattoo artist who organized it has decamped for Hillsboro. Verdict: This bubble has popped.

Slide, Baby, Slide Look, this one was never going to happen. But for some reason, a now-obscure gubernatorial candidate’s harebrained idea to build a massive water-propelled slide that would whoosh commuters from Vancouver into downtown Portland—thereby relieving perpetual I-5 traffic jams—somehow has permanent space in our brains. Verdict: Can we interest you in a yacht tub that putt-putts up and down the Willamette instead? (Yup, it’s a thing.)