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PORTLAND-By the middle of next month, Oregon Health Sciences University and private investors including developer Homer Williams will have an agreement with the city for $1.4-billion of development on 31 acres of riverfront on the southeast shoulder of Downtown Portland. The acreage is known as the central district of a larger, 130-acre area along the river called the South Waterfront area, which in turn is part of the larger, 409-acre North Macadam Urban Renewal Area.

The central district is located between the Ross Island Bridge and Bancroft Street in the middle of the South Waterfront area. Under the agreement, the district will be filled with high rise buildings providing mostly view-rich high-end condominiums that city officials hope will lure the wealthy back from the suburbs, strengthening the tax base and helping the city to afford the public money that will be spent to pay for the necessary infrastructure to move people in and out of the new district. The area also will include a satellite campus for Oregon Health Sciences University, which is landlocked atop Marquam Hill, which rises immediately west of the South Waterfront area. OHSU’s existing campus will be connected to the South Waterfront by an aerial tram and the district as a whole will be connected to Downtown by an extension of the city’s streetcar line.

Preliminary plans call for 2,700 condominium and apartment units in the 31-acre central district, or 120 units per acre, which is about three-times as dense as the apartment district in Northwest Portland. The condominium towers will rise between 250 feet and 325 feet, making them some of the tallest buildings in Portland. The height is in part in exchange for the extension of the city’s public riverfront greenway into the area and in part a way to maximize tax revenue from the condominiums, as the apartments will likely get tax breaks and OHSU’s development will not be taxable at all as it is a nonprofit entity.

The agreement outlines $440 million in private investment in direct new building development for the first phase of the three-phase central district agreement and $103 million in public infrastructure projects. At build out, possibly by 2020, the Central District will have received $1.3 billion in private investment, according to the Portland Development Commission, the city’s urban renewal agency, which is directing the development and hammering out the necessary agreements.

The city council last week delayed a decision on the central district development agreement and promised to include more housing for low-income residents in future phases of the project. The council expects to approve the development agreement at the end of the month and the Portland Development Commission should accept the final changes on Aug. 13. There are as yet no development agreements in the works for the acreage north and south of the central district. The land to the south of the central district is held under myriad owner ownerships. The land to the north, which extends from the Ross Island Bridge to Riverplace, is owned by the Schnitzer and Zidell families.

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