Fire Station 1 (FS1) sits between Ash and Ankeny Streets, where it looks east across Naito Parkway to the Willamette. The building needs some seismic upgrades, which might cost as much as $1 million.
Perhaps to save the cost of the upgrades, for the last 18 months the City’s been looking at buying the Import Plaza – Globe Hotel block at NW First and Everett, building a new fire station there, and turning the current FS1 location over to a developer, to build 150 condos on the site. The cost would be about $26 million, minus whatever the City can get from selling the old site. (Several millions, no doubt, but a lot less than $26 million: the land value of the most valuable block downtown is only about $9 million.) Let’s say that’s $3 million.
So for a net public investment of $23 million, the City will have a new fire station about the same size as the old fire station, in about the same place as the old fire station, and serving about the same area as the old fire station. A private developer will have built 150+ units on the old site.
The City hopes to pay for this by tapping a pot of money that can be used only on downtown projects, not from general fund dollars.
Here’s an idea: Spend the first million to upgrade FS1. That leaves $22 million (net) to spend on building housing, which at $120,000 a unit pays for more than 150 units that the city would own—not a developer.
Or how about this: Spend the first million on upgrading FS1. Spend the rest of it on other downtown projects, such as: (a) rebuilding Naito Parkway, (b) building the park on the Nordstrom parking lot, (c) cleaning up O’Bryant Square, (d) building a neighborhood police station in Old Town, and (e) redeveloping the Police Block annex (that eyesore at Third and Pine).
A lot of things in downtown Portland could use $23 million. Spending it to move a fire station three blocks north doesn’t make sense.
One final note: to move FS1 to the Import Plaza site, the city needs to buy it from the Naito family, who thirty years ago started the redevelopment of Old Town when they renovated Import Plaza. The council recognized their hard work when they renamed Front Avenue to be Naito Parkway a few months after Bill Naito died. It would be ironic if the City kicked his family off the block that started it all, simply to make room for another developer a few blocks south.