Portland explosion aftermath: ‘Emotions running high’

Met with PBEM, Mayor Hales, NWP and construction company involved

A gas explosion took place at NW 23rd and Glisan in Portland on Wednesday morning. October 19, 2016, (KOIN)
A gas explosion took place at NW 23rd and Glisan in Portland on Wednesday morning. October 19, 2016, (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two weeks after a gas explosion rocked NW 23rd Ave., nearby business owners and residents are still trying to pick up the pieces.

Wednesday morning they met with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM), Mayor Charlie Hales, NWP Services and Loy Clark at the Nob Hill Business Association Meeting to discuss the problems they’re still facing.

“I feel like emotions are really running high,” said Arianna Arbutis, who works for The Hip Hound on NW 23rd and Glisan. “This is people out of work, this is people out of their livelihood, this is people out of their apartments.”

Mayor Hales addresses businesses owners at the Nob Hill Business Assocation meeting. November 2, 2016 (KOIN)
Mayor Hales addresses businesses owners at the Nob Hill Business Assocation meeting. November 2, 2016 (KOIN)

Business owners shared stories of the difficulties they were having getting back up to speed after the explosion, with some still unable to go back to work at all. PBEM and Mayor Hales said they want to help the neighborhood recover and rebuild.

“We want to get right on some of those immediate problems as soon as we can to resolve those issues,” said PBEM spokesperson Felicia Heaton.

Some of the immediate suggestions were to organize shopping nights and to ease parking fees in an effort to bring more traffic to the neighborhood. The city is also looking for long-term solutions.

“It’s not just going to be a one week or one month affair,” Mayor Hales said. “It’s going to take a long time for these businesses that have been displaced to get back on their feet.”

One of those businesses is Artwork Rebels Tattoos, which was destroyed in the explosion. Owner Jason Kundell says he can’t find a new place for his business, because on top of higher rent prices, some places have turned him away simply because of the nature of his business.

“I’m sort of having trouble all the way around from it and I’m kind of waiting for the city to step up,” Kundell said.

While he and the rest of the surrounding businesses wait for the city’s help, the neighborhood is rallying itself. They’re organizing a shopping day Saturday, November 12, as an all-day fundraiser to get businesses back on track.