The Council hearing on proposals and the process for re-purposing the Memorial Coliseum ran over four hours yesterday. Concerns and suggestions were aired, with both a Majority and Minority Report from the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC). The vote at the Committee was 26 - 5. The project web site is here and the finalist proposals are here (scroll down the page to find them).
The Council voted 4-0 (Commissioner Saltzman had to leave before the end of the hearing) to accept the report and recommendations, and award three finalists $40,000 each from the Oregon Convention Center urban renewal funds to continue refining their proposals.
The following are the gist of my comments when I voted. Commissioner Fish had already covered concerns about the integrity of the process considering the Trailblazers' Operating Agreement for the Coliseum which gives them the right to manage spectator facilities. Those issues were well covered in the hearing. The Blazers said that they are willing to allow others to manage non-spectator programming if that and another finalist is chosen.
I didn't have my speech prepared ahead of time, so the following is from my scribbled notes and isn't verbatim what I said. Hopefully it's close.
Thank you, Mayor Adams, for personally leading this public involvement process. Thank you to the members of the Advisory Committee who have provided hours of volunteer time and a highly professional and comprehensive report. Thank you to the many citizens who gave your input during the process and over the past week. Your advice has helped guide my decisions.
With this vote, the Council chooses three projects from the 96 proposals to move forward. It invests $120,000 in urban renewal money to enable these three proposers to continue providing input for a few more months. I understand this approach was used in the Centennial Mills project and was thought to work out well. $120,000 is a lot of public money. $40,000 is not much in relation to the amount of work the proposers are dedicating, but it does provide compensation for continued participation and I believe it is appropriate for the City to pay for work being done.
We do need to make a decision on what should be done with the Coliseum. The Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area expires in 2014, and it is the only likely source of public money to fund the improvements for the Coliseum. The development agreement for the rest of the Rose Quarter expires at the end of this year. We need to make the choices for the Coliseum soon.
The Minority Report is very helpful. I heard four requests from their representatives this afternoon.
1) Hold off on putting out the RFP (request for proposals). I don't believe that is prudent, for the reasons I just outlined. But all the other suggestions I believe are taken care of.
2) The Stakeholder Advisory Committee should advise on the rest of the Rose Quarter. Mayor Adams said during the hearing he intends to do this, and some indicated willingness to serve. I hope there is room to consider if there any other stakeholder representatives who have not been included so far should be added. Again, thank you for your service.
3) Establish baseline data - this request was taken care of in the amendment passed at the beginning of the meeting.
4) Figure out the Urban Renewal Area issues (funding and boundaries). This is being addressed and we will hopefully have answers or at least much more information in a few months.
So with that said, I want to tell you my main principles and values for the Coliseum, to inform the process as the proposals continue to develop.
My highest priority is that the Coliseum honors Veterans. This should include space within the building for veterans to meet, and perhaps a service center to direct veterans to resources and agencies providing services.
My second highest value is the architectural integrity of the Coliseum building, including the bowl. The integrity of the Glass Palace and the bowl is very important to me.
Regarding seating, I believe maximum flexibility is important. I want the Coliseum to be able to accommodate larger events. I used to attend Portland Fire games in the Rose Garden, sitting in seats costing $7 far closer to the court than I will ever be able to afford for Blazer games. They used curtains to make the event more intimate. I'd like to see similar flexibility here.
There should be non-sports activities in the Coliseum. Community non-athletic activities should be part of the projected programming and design, for instance arts and education. This shouldn't be a place where if you're not interested in watching sports or playing sports, you're out of luck.
Programming should include all ages, including seniors and a day care center. Whatever the uses, day care should be provided.
I don't support housing in the Coliseum. I agree with those who testified that affordable housing should be provided "on site". I think it would be better nearby in the rest of the Rose Quarter or in close proximity.
Funding is a major issue. There likely won't be much public money available for redevelopment or operations. Whatever is chosen after this next phase needs to be sustainable and can't count on public subsidies.
With these values in mind, I am looking forward to the next phase of this project, and I am pleased to vote Aye.