PORTLAND, Oregon — Remember the big food cart pod at Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street in downtown Portland?
Back in 2019, the carts got booted to make way for a Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Finally, two years later, they're set to open in a new home a few blocks away from their original spot.
We can all agree that downtown needs life pumped back into it. The new Ankeny West food cart pod could be one way to resuscitate it.
"With COVID we're probably going to see a lot of our independent restaurants gone. So what is the best way to rebuild that restaurant scene? Food carts," Friends of Green Loop Executive Director Keith Jones said.
The food cart pod is planned for a park at the south end of the city's North Park Blocks. It would revive the run-down park and get people back to work.
"The carts have been waiting a long time for this to happen," Jones said. "There's not a day that's gone by though that we haven't been working on it."
"It's going to benefit Portland. Because it's just a wonderful place," Number 1 Bento Korean BBQ co-owner Jane Kim said.
It can fit 22 carts to start, with room to expand.
"Our dream is to have a famous food cart in Oregon. That is our main goal," Kim said. "Making money is one thing but I love it, I enjoy it. I am very excited."
Number 1 Bento is one of dozens of immigrant and BIPOC-run food carts that were once down the street from Ankeny West on Alder Street.
Currently, Kim and her husband operate the food cart at Southwest 6th Avenue and Columbia Street. They aren't making nearly as much as they were in the previous location.
"But I'm trying to hang in there so I can pay my worker," Kim added.
Jones helped find the pod a new home and money back in 2019.
Before moving permits had to be filed and power put in. The food carts are going in the street and right-of-way, which needs to be approved by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).
"Originally a lot of issues were around getting that electrical infrastructure in place and permitting," Jones told KGW.
They were so close – when the pandemic paused plans. Jones says the funding they had secured fell through.
Fast-forward to this week, when Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he set aside funds for the pod in his proposed budget. If passed, Jones says they could see the money by July 1.
They're trying to find a way to get contractors on site earlier than that date.
That's just one of the hurdles they'll face. Without their main customers – tourists and office workers – the carts could get off to a rough start in the new spot.
"The idea here is: let's get this up by the Fourth of July. Then it's ready for when people start coming back," Jones added.
He wants to stay cautiously optimistic.
"Until there's carts actually on the location and we're in business, I am not going to feel comfortable."
Kim, meanwhile, feels reinvigorated.
"We're going to do whatever we can to make this a wonderful place for food carts. So Portland can be proud of our food carts," Kim said.
The food cart pod has a permit to use the park for three years and is essentially a pilot program. If it works out, Jones says the city could do the same in other parts of town.