Forty-five St. Johns residents attended an “urban renewal training” on June 23 hosted by the St. Johns Neighborhood Association, the St. Johns Main Street Coalition, and the Portland Development Commission that presented resources, tools, and ideas available to those interested in small business development in the St. Johns area.

If St. Johns becomes part of the proposed expansion of the Interstate Urban Renewal Area, business owners will have access to tax cuts, storefront improvement grants, loans, and other resources designed to help improve existing businesses, open new ones, and further revitalize the town center.

One of the biggest concerns in the St. Johns neighborhood, a diverse, low-income and working middle-class area, is job and small business growth.

“This is the beginning of a multi-year process that will allow the St. Johns/Lombard Plan to become a reality,” says Babs Adamski, the president of the neighborhood association.

The St. Johns/Lombard Plan was adopted in 2004 by the Portland City Council with the intent of revitalizing the St. Johns town center and N Lombard over the next 20 years. The plan made a number of recommendations, including building mixed housing near the neighborhood’s eastern boundaries, realigning Burlington and Philadelphia streets to make the town center more accessible and aesthetically pleasing, and create more pedestrian-friendly walking areas.

Adamski says many of the projects have never been funded, but she still calls the plan “a living document,” and its overarching goals and proposals have guided what work has been done to revitalize the area.

The St. Johns Neighborhood Association currently supports the expansion of the Interstate URA, but Adamski says that support is contingent upon seeing the projects in the St. Johns/Lombard Plan through.

“We’re looking to the URA expansion as one way to get resources to get the public works accomplished,” Adamski says. “We would like to see all of the things that have been outlined in that plan funded. It’s not a huge list. It’s reasonable to think that money could be dedicated for these projects.”

The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission had a hearing on Tuesday, June 28 in which it recommended that the Portland City Council adopt the proposed amended and restated Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Plan, along with any other recommendations of the Commission. The city council will have a public hearing on the expansion in late July.

Adamski remains hopeful but cautious. “I don't feel like I can go on too much about what can happen until it actually goes in front of city council.”