Northeast Portland

Is the city of Portland giving away 'the store' in a land deal?

Is the city of Portland giving away 'the store' in a land deal? »Play Video
The city of Portland is selling this Northeast Portland property to a developer that plans to build a grocery store.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The city of Portland plans to sell a property it purchased for more than $2 million to a developer planning to build a grocery store.

But the city is selling it for around $500,000.

The property sits at Northeast Alberta Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The city has been looking for a company to invest in the lots as part of a development commission’s effort to revitalize MLK Boulevard.

A company did step forward to accept the large subsidy, but the city won’t say which one because they had a confidentiality agreement before the company would further explore the project.

Scott Sonners lives next to the vacant lots. He said a visitor came to his door about a year ago and spoke about the property and a possible development.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would take property in such a growing, booming location and give somebody a humongous subsidy,” said Sonners.

  • The city paid $2,055,000 for the property.
  • An appraisal says it's worth $2,870,000.
  • The assessed value is $3,280,000.

But the Portland Development Commission wants to sell the property for just $502,160.

So why wouldn’t the PDC hold out for a company that doesn’t want such a big subsidy?

“There’s a couple things,” said PDC spokesman Shawn Uhlman. “Number one, we’ve had this property for a number of years. There have not been a big number of inquiries as to what could be done here without a comparable subsidy or something else taking place."

Ulhman says the property sits in an “under-served area” where there is a lack of grocery stores, even though there’s a Safeway store a half-mile away and other grocery stores in the area.

"We're saying it all is a balancing act. We're saying we're addressing a community need," said Uhlman.

The PDC is expected to vote on the deal at a meeting on Wednesday.

Rex Buchanan says he’s excited about a new grocery store in his neighborhood. He says he sees good things ahead, despite the large subsidy.

“It’s substantial, that’s concerning,” Buchanan said. “But in the end it gives back to the community, two or three-fold. I think it’s worth it.”

If you have a story you think the On Your Side Investigators should dig into, send them an email to investigators@katu.com.