After $96 million, Lents wants results

The Lents neighborhood in Southeast Portland, Jan. 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The Lents neighborhood in Southeast Portland, Jan. 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sick and tired of being called “Felony Flats,” residents of the Lents community want accountability after $96 million was spent to revitalize an area that still looks run down.

Standing on the corner of SE Foster and 92nd Avenue, Nick Christensen explained why he loves this area so much.

“I love how it really reminds me of the place I grew up in,” he said. “”People of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, people who haven’t lived in Oregon for a long time and people who lived here for their entire lives.”

But for as long as he’s lived here, this neighborhood struggled to shed its reputation.

“We’re looking at 108 years of promises of ‘This is going to be a healthy area, we’re going to improve it and it’s going to be great and Portland is going to help you get there,'” he said. “But we’re still struggling.”

Lent’s downtown center is a sore subject and he said its location off the freeway doesn’t help. But the $96 million of taxpayer money spent over 15 years hasn’t delivered what he and others would like.

Some of his frustration is with the Portland Development Commission.

“You always had a lot of ideas that if we just do this and something great will happen on the site and they get three-quarters of the way done doing this, whatever this is, and change focus,” he said.

The PDC’s Shawn Uhlman doesn’t disagree.

“I think a lot of the criticism that we’ve received about what’s happening in Lents is fair and when you go out there and look at it from redevelopment, there aren’t a lot yet,” Uhlman told KOIN 6 News.

He said the $96 million included improvements to infrastructure, housing and light-rail expansion. But the Great Recession stalled the effort.

The PDC now believes the area is poised for progress.

“Somebody has to come up wiht a longterm vision and stick with a plan to make it a reality,” Uhlman said, “and that’s going to involve some risk.”

Christensen said he’s been deeply disappointed by commitments from private investors and banks not approving loans for developers — citing the lack of college degrees.

But a brewpub, ZH Brewing, is coming, and other deals not yet publicly announced are in the works.

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