PORTLAND – Trader Joe’s backed out of a development plan for Northeast Portland Monday after the project was widely criticized as gentrification.
Monday, Trader Joe's announced to the City of Portland and California-based developer Majestic Realty Co. that it would no longer be a part of an $8 million retail development planned for a long-dormant corner at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street.
The city agreed to sell the land, worth between $2.5 and 2.7 million, for only $500,000. The city said the discounted price was needed to get the development in the area jump-started. Trader Joe's was to be the anchor tenant. The plan would have included two buildings, four to six retail stalls and 100 parking spaces.
The Portland African American Leadership Forum and a handful of locally owned grocers criticized the deal as a taxpayer giveaway. PAALF said the development would also exacerbate gentrification.
Inner North/Northeast Portland was once a black majority neighborhood. But over the last decade African Americans have found themselves in a minority in the area as waves of new residents and investments have poured into the area.
"The City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission have a history of broken promises and back room processes that have resulted in the gentrification of African Amercians—and our community has suffered," said former state legislator Avel Gordly on Monday. "The Majestic deal is just the latest in a long history."
Cyreena Boston Ashby with PAALF said that since 2000, around 10,000 African-American residents have left the area.
Trader Joe's said Monday, it got the message.
"We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple," Trader Joe's Public Relations Director Alison Mochizuki said. "If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question."
PAALF said it wanted to hold a series of public meetings to come up with a new community vision for the corner. The group wants affordable housing to be built on the site, among other things.
"We have, from day one, insisted that low-income housing be a part of the development," said Steven Gilliam with PAALF. "This was about the displacement of our people from inner Northeast Portland."
However, some residents said Monday that they are part of the neighborhood too, and now feel shut out.
"I don’t know which neighborhood they’re talking about, because we are the neighborhood," said King Neighborhood resident Sally Damewood. "I live three blocks away and we’re all for it. Where’s our voice? It’s like we’re just being cut off."
The city has tried to get a development plan off the ground at the corner in question for almost 14 years. Dana Haynes with Mayor Hales' office said the news has left the city in a lurch.
“In all, we view today’s news as a loss for the city and particularly for Northeast Portland,” said Haynes. “It is too soon to say what comes next for this site.”
Tim Gordon contributed to this report