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As Portland grows, some have words of warning about 'irresponsible' development

Even with new housing going up in Portland, some people are worried about what's happening to the city's neighborhoods. (KATU Photo)

The signs of a changing and growing Portland are everywhere.

Residents can see it in the numerous apartment buildings and high rises under construction. Drivers can see it in the highway congestion that seems to get worse by the day. But some familiar with urban planning are focused on something different. They're worried about what's happening to the city's neighborhoods.

"Redevelopment can create, and has historically, concentrations of poverty," said Brian Renauer.

"The effects of new buildings are much greater than just whether you like or don't like the design," said Lisa Bates.

Renauer is a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Portland State University. Bates is an associate professor of urban studies and planning, also at PSU. Both spoke to KATU News about the unintended consequences of redevelopment, rehabilitation, and revitalization.

"Where you saw vacant lots not too long ago, maybe just 10 years ago, and now you see the kind of new, shiny 'insta-neighborhoods' we sometimes call them," said Bates.

It's clear the city is booming. But the good times aren't materializing for everyone. In fact, they can signal the beginning of the end.

"Here's the caution about redevelopment that I see," says Renauer. "It's an issue of balance."

"We think as planners that we want to go in and sort of make that neighborhood better for those people, but that often happens in a way that makes those people unable to live there anymore," said Bates.

It can lead to the very issues Portlanders have been grappling with. Rising rents, home prices, and property taxes have vexed those who live there. Gentrification has taken over some neighborhoods.

"Neighborhoods like Mississippi, Albina, and Alberta areas, for example, that were part of the traditional African American communities in Portland," said Renauer.

Both Bates and Renauer point to historic African American displacement in North and Northeast Portland as the prime example of where redevelopment failed. They hope lessons can be learned as the city continues to grow. They want city leaders to look out for those who've always called their neighborhoods home, whether they own a home or not.

"More likely, they're renters," said Bates. "So what can we do in terms of preventing displacement for folks who are renters by preserving existing affordable housing and creating new affordable housing opportunities."

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