Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chase: Too big to succeed in Hillsdale?

Last night’s Hillsdale Neighborhood Association meeting (above) bored in on Chase Bank’s efforts to build a branch in Hillsdale.

Three Chase representatives present got an earful. Indeed, throughout the day in various conferences and meetings, the Chase reps heard why Hillsdale isn’t exactly welcoming the big bank’s plan with open arms.

“You kind of caught us off-guard,” said Chase VP Greta Pass.

And therein lies the problem.

Will the Chase bureaucracy and line-of-command be able to respond to what the bank’s little delegation learned on their visit?

The fact is that Chase is up against a seasoned, savvy group of local folks, several of whom are no strangers to land-use law in Oregon.

Many have been devoted to planning Hillsdale’s future for two decades.

As they see it, Chase, which carries a lot of baggage to begin with, has acted as if Hillsdale were some sleepy, rube-inhabited burg.

With no advance word to anyone in the community, the bank is asking the City for an “adjustment” in the zoning that the local group helped hammer out 15 years ago. Chase wants approval for a building less than half the size required by zoning.

The reason? More parking for home-bound commuters.

But several Hillsdale plans (and there have been at least four) have noted that Hillsdale is a transit district (with seven bus lines) that should invite bus riders, not more cars. It is also a pedestrian district that sorely needs more and better sidewalks and pedestrian connections between businesses on the north side of Capitol Highway, where the bank wants to be.

Planning documents also call for higher density next to the bus lines. Accordingly, they recommend mixed-use buildings of more than one story.

Either Chase officials didn’t read the plans or ignored them. Chase wants one use (a bank, even though two others are just feet away.) It also wants a single story.

A Wall Street outfit of this size is apparently use to ram-rodding its proposals through planning agency bureaucracies. Why scope out the community in advance?

So Chase is off to a bad start.

The question now is whether this big corporate ship wants to change direction in the suddenly choppy waters of Hillsdale.

The HNA last night asked Chase to delay its “adjustment” filing for two months. The Chase delegation said they would have to take the request to “superiors.” Not a good sign.

But it’s a start. If the superiors turn out to be truly superior they will accept the recommendation. If they don’t, HNA has vowed to oppose the “adjustment” request.

Assuming Chase higher-ups agree to the delay, both the bank and the community need to use those two months to sit down and come up with a project that both sides can accept.

It’s a great opportunity for Chase to craft a “Hillsdale Initiative” that can be replicated throughout Oregon, where the bank wants to build three or four dozen branches in the next few years.

As Chase’s Greta Pass told the group last night, Chase considers itself “under-branched” in Oregon compared to its competition.

She also told the group that her bank wants to be a “good neighbor.” Whether Chase is seen as “good neighbors” on ribbon-cutting day and those that follow, depends on what Chase does now — long before ground is broken for construction.

Will Chase suddenly be able to “act small” the way competitors like Umpqua and a few other banks and credit unions do in Portland?

Or is Chase simply too big to succeed in Hillsdale?

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

My Cyber-Zombie

A couple of days ago I deleted a blog I posted here. Some readers had found it offensive. Belatedly, I regretted ever hitting the “post” button, but, fortunately, blogger's “delete” button erased my post — or so I thought.

In the post, I compared the appearance of a proposed JPMorgan Chase bank branch for our neighborhood to the ominous appearance of a certain concentration camp's entrance.

I added pictures of both to drive home the point and the vague similarity in appearance.

At best, the reference was a cheap shot. At worst it was an odious, outrageous comparison. Somewhere in the middle it was in poor taste, however true.

When I alerted a well-known local blogger to the community’s reaction to Chase's desire to open shop here, he discovered my deleted post and managed to exhume it.

As best I can figure, he dredged it back to life from someone’s trash cache.

In any case, the "dead" post now lurching around cyber space has been read by more viewers than it ever was in life.

Call it a cyber-zombie. Grim, haunting, shocking to some and embarrassing to me, it has taken on a life after death.

There’s a morbidly familiar lesson here. Once loose on the internet, any message is impossible to contain. There’s even an ad on TV these days of a guy who makes the mistake of unintentionally “replying all.” The only solution is for him to dash around snatching computers from the hands of his friends and colleagues.

Fortunately, my error was not that egregious and I did apologize. The apologetic post survives.

I suppose the lesson I’ve learned was worth the penalty of my on-going discomfort.

The lesson? In cyberspace, "deleted" messages can become more alive, famous and dangerous once they have been “killed.”

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