Portland's Opportunity Zone Designations Raise Eyebrows
Noah Buhayar and Lauren Leatherby begin this story with an anecdote about a forthcoming $206 million tower in downtown Portland that will feature "ground-floor retail, six floors of offices, and more than 200 luxury apartments."
"Amenities will include a yoga studio and roof deck. But the centerpiece will be a swimming pool that cantilevers out of the eighth floor." The developer says the building will offer "the finest for-rent product in the city."
"It’s also eligible for a U.S. tax break meant to help the poor," write Buhayar and Letherby, referring to the federal Opportunity Zone program.
The question of whether the Opportunity Zone program enacted by the 2017 GOT tax reform bill is actually a benefit to low-income and vulnerable communities is already open for discussion. Most recently, the neighborhood surrounding the Mall of America site in Minnesota came under scrutiny for its inclusion in the program. Before that it was the planned site of Amazon's new headquarters in New York. But Portland's designations raises the stakes a notch.
"Oregon did an audacious thing," write Buhayar and Letherby: "It selected the entire downtown of its largest city to be eligible for the law’s suite of benefits, as well as neighborhoods such as the Pearl District, where new high-rises loom over old industrial spaces converted into 'creative' offices and boutique furniture stores sit near juice bars serving açai bowls. The Central Eastside, an area that Portland’s alt weekly crowned the city’s 'best food neighborhood,' is also included."
According to analysis by Real Capital. Analytics, Portland's use of the Opportunity Zone program to spur investment in an already-high-demand part of the city is an outlier compared to the rest of the nation.