The Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative can be a lot to process… here are some common questions and answers.
Who is running the NPI?
In a broad sense, the initiative was introduced by the Portland Development Commission, which has created some baseline standards for participating communities. Beyond these standards, however, each district is responsible for managing its own initiative.
What are the conditions that PDC places on participating communities?
There are two categories of expectations presented by PDC:
One revolves around process — participating communities are expected to include representatives from all stakeholder groups and to function openly and transparently. The initiative should incorporate input from all members of the community, and take special care to include members of diverse and historically underrepresented stakeholder groups… we need your voice.
The second category of expectations concerns investments. NPI funds are to be used for permanent, built improvements to the identified investment area. Selected investments must be made with the goal of strengthening district prosperity through economic development. There are definitely opportunities to find synergy between the initiative and projects not directly related to economic development, especially as the community organizes around the NPI — that said, the city funds earmarked for this initiative must be directed toward enhancing the economic competitiveness of the business district.
How will we make investments?
In a word, collaboratively. Together, community members will create a vision for the district and then craft a strategy to help achieve the vision. This will assist in setting priorities for investments. Decisions will be made in accordance with community desires. This is why we need community participation.
What are some possible projects that could be funded by the NPI?
As stipulated by PDC, projects funded by the initiative must be permanent, built improvements to the district. Small projects might include bike racks, landscaping, or district signage. Medium-sized projects could include improved lighting, moderate storefront improvements and minor interior improvements for businesses. Large projects could include major storefront renovations and funds to assist major site redevelopment.
When can I expect to see results?
The NPI is designed to build steam over its several year duration. The first year of the initiative is spent planning with community members. In 2014, funds officially open for community use. The amount of funding grows each year, so Year 1 funding could range from $25,000-37,000, whereas funds could reach $125,000 in later years. Tangible changes to the district will likely correlate with this funding.
That said, there is nothing that prevents the community from leveraging the initiative to attract other partners in addition to PDC or to promote interest in the area.
So, where does the money for the NPI come from? Will it increase my property taxes?
No, the NPI will not increase your property taxes — at least not more than they would increase naturally. It is essentially funded by redirecting local tax dollars from the larger city pot back into the district. In this sense, your tax dollars are being spent on your community. As always, a portion of your taxes will still go to fund schools, roads and other city services, but a very small slice will be dedicated to the improvement of 42nd Avenue as a community commercial district.
Will the NPI help or hurt efforts to get new sidewalks built in my neighborhood?
There is no reason that the NPI would hurt a neighborhood’s ability to build new sidewalks — it does not divert funds from sidewalk construction. It might even help make the argument that sidewalks are needed. As the commercial district grows with community-serving businesses, pedestrian connections from residential areas to the district will become more important, and demand for sidewalks may strengthen. Whether built by the city or by private parties making site improvements, increased interest in 42nd Avenue as a walkable community commercial district can help drive improved pedestrian connections in the area.
What’s the catch? Does the NPI require anything of the community?
The NPI funds are to be used solely for built improvements to the commercial district, and cannot be used for programs or staff people. PDC expects each participating community to hire a staff person to manage the day-to-day of the initiative and to serve as a resource for economic development in the area. To facilitate this, the community is expected to raise $15,000-30,000 annually, which PDC anticipates matching dollar-for-dollar.
This might sound like a lot of money, but community members have successfully raised commitments in excess of $30,000 per annum in the past for the Portland Main Street Program — in many ways, the NPI is a better deal for 42nd Avenue than the Main Street Program, as the city is providing much more funding proportionate to the funds raised by the community. We’ve done this before and this is an even better opportunity… we can do it again.
Of course, the other requirement is that community members engage and take ownership of this process. The idea behind the NPI is to connect district prosperity with an improved quality of life for all community members.
Won’t the NPI just gentrify 42nd Avenue and cause the displacement of lower-income and underrepresented people?
Displacement is a significant concern for the community. The area around 42nd Avenue is made of people from a wide variety of socio-demographic groups and preserving this diversity is central to the aims of the initiative.
The area around 42nd Avenue is relatively affordable when compared to its southern and western neighbors, but things may change. The community can take a passive approach and hope that future investment in the district serves existing area residents, but that leaves a lot to chance. The NPI is a more proactive approach to community economic development — it provides leverage to bolster district businesses and ensure that new businesses serve existing community members, and are not solely created for people outside of the community. For this reason, it’s important that everyone is involved in the NPI decision-making process, so that we can assure investments yield benefits for the entire community.
If you’re as concerned about displacement as we are, the best way to have a positive impact is to take action. Community partnerships and mindful, inclusive economic development are the strongest counterbalances to the forces of displacement.
How to I get involved?
Start here — tell us about yourself, and we’ll definitely be in touch.