From Urban Works via food critic Patrick Coleman over at the Portland Mercury, Uwajimaya has signed a letter of intent for the old town site. We first broke the news back in February of 2008, but then the economy tanked and I thought the whole idea was but on hold. Frankly, I’m surprised (but glad) to see the idea resurrected. The store would be placed across the street from Ping restaurant. Keep in mind that a letter of intent is just that, but the deal is far from done, and some things could still derail the project.
PDC is supporting this project with a $100,000 pre-development loan to assist Uwajimaya and Sockeye Development LLC, with the feasibility of building on the surface parking lot between NW 4th and 5th, and Couch and Davis (otherwise known as “Block 33″) ,and “Block 32″, just to the South.
While no solid plan has been presented to the City, the project looks like it might be modeled on the successful rehab of the flagship 50+ year old Uwajimaya in Seattle’s International District. Ideas include up to 160 units of mixed income housing above the store, an underground parking lot below, and the possibility of a “phase II” additional high rise housing and retail development in the future.
The Seattle Uwajimaya has been credited in helping spur renewed interest and investment in the immediate area, and increasing the number of middle income residents in that neighborhood.
In 2008, Peter Englander, the PDC Development Manager in charge of the Old Town/Chinatown Urban Renewal District, stated in an email to us that “PDC is very supportive of this project and have been in discussions with Uwajimaya for over a year”. Additionally,
“…the Downtown Portland location is unique because of its location in Old Town/Chinatown as well as proximity to the Pearl District. The Portland site will also benefit from direct access to regional light rail on one side and a future Portland Streetcar line on another. This will afford the opportunity to both serve the larger Downtown as well and customers from throughout the region. In addition, Uwajimaya is really excited about opportunities for a strong street presence for the store and expects that the store will literally open onto the street along Fifth Avenue, perhaps with roll up doors and vendor carts.“