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PORTLAND-Plans are once again being bandied about for more extensive redevelopment of the 37-acre Rose Quarter area, a would-be thriving entertainment district between this city’s 24-hour downtown and its eastside office and retail center, the Lloyd District. The Rose Quarter has been dormant since billionaire Paul Allen’s initial round of construction built the Rose Garden Arena for Allen’s NBA team and One Center Court, the office building that holds Allen’s Portland-based companies. As a result, when there’s no concert or basketball game on the property, the area is a ghost town that has outlasted several restaurant and retail operations.

Now, however–though it has happened before without results–a team of consultants from around the nation is working on a plan to complete the development, one way or another. The grandest plans call for the razing of Memorial Coliseum, the Portland Trailblazers’ old facility, as well the addition of a baseball stadium on city school district property just north of the Quarter. Tearing down the Coliseum would open up the equivalent of four city blocks, planners say. The other option being presented at public hearings recently is one that retains all existing buildings, but possibly renovates them for other uses.

Both scenarios talk about better pedestrian access, a remodeled light rail transit station, more park space and better access to the nearby Willamette riverfront. One possibility spoken of in both plans includes hiding the nearby riverfront railroad tracks in a tunnel topped with buildings and more park space. How much it would cost to implement either plan or where the money would come from are not addressed in the current proposal. Another round of public and private meetings will be scheduled when the planning team gets back together in Portland in March with a proposed final version, which ultimately will have to be approved by the Portland Development Commission, owner of some of the potential redevelopment parcels, as well as the City Council.

This is the third such plan since Paul Allen said he could turn the Rose Quarter into a 24-hour, mixed-use entertainment district. Excitement around the original plan brought in major restaurant and retail concepts like Cucina Cucina Italian Cafe, TGI Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill and Nike into the Quarter. The 1995 Rose Quarter master plan laid out the strategy for creating the district, but those involved in the process say few if any of the proposals were ever implemented. Consequently or coincidentally, all of the aforementioned retailers have ceased operations save for Cucina Cucina, which real estate sources say is either paying a discounted rent or able to make it work by using employees from it’s nearby Tigard location, said to be one of the company’s best performing stores.

In 1998, Allen hired Schnitzer Development Corp. to produce a report on development options for the 37-acre Rose Quarter. The report, which has never received public scrutiny, reportedly contained specific development options laid out for each piece of property. It is not known whether the plan also included proposals for the grain silos adjacent the hotel, which Allen has tried to purchase from the Louis Dreyfus Corp. on more than one occasion.

Allen has development rights to all of the city-owned property within the Rose Quarter, and also owns the former Red Lion Coliseum Hotel on the nearby riverfront now being managed for Allen by the DoubleTree Corp. Specifically, Allen has air rights above the two parking garages on the north side of the Coliseum, a half-acre parcel west of the garage structures, another half-acre parcel on the south side of the Coliseum and the Coliseum itself.

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