The residents of Portland have long been pioneers in the smart-growth
movement. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Buckman Heights Apartment project. This
project, which mixes affordable apartment units with townhouses, is close to public
transportation, and has easy access to shops and jobs.
This project follows the cardinal rule of real estate and smart growth: Location,
location, location. Prendergast & Associates, the developers, have transformed a
vacant inner-city auto dealership into a walkable, bikeable neighborhood with easy access
to a range of existing services.
The apartments and townhomes they created incorporate a huge array of "green
building" elements, from energy-efficient windows to low-chemical carpets to recycled
content in the building materials. One building has a 2,000 square-foot roof planted with
native grasses. The developers have also designed a groundbreaking stormwater filtration
Whenever residents need to leave their homes, they have easy access to jobs, shopping
and recreation through a range of transportation options. Most live only about 5 to 15
minutes away from their jobs, which they can get to via four high-frequency bus lines,
light rail, bike lanes and pedestrian routes. Residents can even take advantage of two
on-site CarSharing Portland cars -- part of a program to provide as-needed access to
automobiles. The Buckman Heights project proves that, given time and effort, good things
can grow in an asphalt jungle.
(Portland) Developers Push Growth Limit
Despite urban growth boundaries and strong land-use laws, sprawling
development is creeping along the Tualatin Valley Highway in Oregon. At issue is an
ongoing battle between developers and smart-growth advocates about the best way to manage
the region's high-technology-fueled growth. Developers want to add over 450 acres of prime
farm land to the region's growth plan -- smart-growth advocates want to stick to the
Genstar, a Canadian company with its U.S. headquarters in San Diego, has an option to
buy a plot of land that has been designated for potential future addition into the
buildable area for about one-sixth the market value. Genstar is trying to convince the
Portland area's regional government to allow them to start building a 4,000-unit housing
complex -- the largest ever built in Oregon -- on the site right away.
If the proposal is approved, the amount of prime farm land in the urban reserves will
be reduced to 2,017 acres, down from the 3,086 acres that was originally slated to be
preserved. It would be the first time that prime farm land has been added to the region's
buildable area since 1979.
The urban growth boundary concept has made Oregon one of the most livable states in the
country. But piecemeal, poorly planned additions threaten the region's quality of life.
Hopefully, residents of Oregon won't let their communities slide down the slippery slope
to suburban sprawl.