Friday, September 16, 2011

City to reject JPMorgan Chase's plan for Hillsdale

JPMorgan Chase’s efforts to open a branch here in Hillsdale has received a major blow.

The City of Portland, through its Bureau of Development Services, has informally told Chase officials that the bank’s proposed plans for the branch will be denied. Douglas Hardy in the BDS Land Services office, shared his conclusion with Chase and Hillsdale neighborhood leaders.

While the formal reasons for the rejection haven't been drafted, the bank's proposed "adjustment to zoning" was expected to be found incompatible the City Council-approved Hillsdale Town Center Plan.

The plan, approved in November 1997, resulted from hundreds of hours of citizen volunteer effort.

The Hillsdale Neighborhood Association, which unanimously voted to reject Chase's plans, submitted its formal letter of objection to BDS yesterday.

Chase had wanted to build a building with less than half the footprint required by City code. The resulting extra space was to be used primarily for extra parking.

The Hillsdale TC Plan calls for pedestrian, bike and bus-transit orientation on new projects.

The City’s denial leaves Chase with three options.

1. Proceed with the current proposal, have the City formally reject it and then appeal to a citizen board. If anything, the board seems less likely to approve the plan.

2. Revise the old plan and resubmit it. But Chase is already on record as saying a larger branch won’t work on the site. (Chase’s neighborhood opponents want a large multi-use building on the site, but Chase has maintained that it isn’t in the business of “development” and building a multi-use structure that would have space for other businesses).

3. Drop plans for building a branch on the old gas station site and back out of the lease deal.

My guess is that Chase will take the third course and pull out of the Town Center. It will still have a Hillsdale presence at a nearby branch at the Burlingame Fred Meyer when the shopping center reopens in late October.

If Chase does drop its Town Center plans, the Hillsdale Main Street program must step forward and do what it was designed to do: Revitalize the commercial area, including this vacant site.

Main Street must help the property owner, Wardin Investments, lease the site to a developer sensitive to community desires and aware of the Town Center Plan. A Hillsdale consortium of investors and businesses would be best.

Meanwhile, a group of us have convened to try to attract a credit union to Hillsdale. If we do, we might (note I said “might”) have a source of funds for an investment consortium. A credit union branch might also be an anchor tenant among two or three businesses in the new multi-use building.

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