Strictly Business: Bashing of Jantzen mall unjustified

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Don't count on new Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to invite out-of-town guests to Jantzen Beach, one of the most popular Portland destinations for Vancouver residents. Hales puts the island's "strip malls and lottery bars" on his list of embarrassments for a city that relishes its Portlandia vibe.

In a question-and-answer interview with Willamette Week, reporter Aaron Mesh asked Hales for an example of "something that Portland shouldn't celebrate." Hales took a swipe at Southeast 122nd and Division, a commercial district of wide streets and sprawling shopping malls," as an example of a place he won't be bragging about at a "smart-growth" conference. He went on: "Ditto about going to conferences and bragging while Jantzen Beach is a bunch of strip malls and lottery bars," Hales declared. "We have a lot of work to do to make the hype about how livable Portland is true citywide."

Setting aside the tortured syntax, Hales makes a legitimate point that Portland's reality is far from its hype. But it is striking that Hales would single out Jantzen Beach at a time when the mall is in the midst of a $50 million renovation that is finally injecting life into what's long been a dreary landscape of big-box stores and an outdated enclosed mall.

The emerging development includes bike paths, extra-wide sidewalks, bioswales and abundant landscaping, on-street parking and plenty of pedestrian pathways through parking lots. A stroll among big boxes is hardly a walk in the park, but more people will be shopping on foot when light rail makes a stop on the island — if it's ever built.

Hayden Island will never have the feel of Portland's Northeast Alberta Street or other Portlandia favorites, but we all need something at a Home Depot or a Target at some time. Hales should start looking elsewhere in his city for embarrassing places to avoid. There are plenty.

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Every January, The Columbian hosts an economic forecast breakfast that offers speakers to discuss the local business climate, followed by breakout sessions on key business topics. The breakfast has become a major community event, attracting hundreds of business leaders, small-business owners and government officials to the downtown Vancouver Hilton. This year's breakfast, with Riverview Comminity Bank as lead sponsor, is coming up on Thursday, Jan. 24.

After two years of national speakers, we're returning this year to a local focus, but with a variation: instead of a single keynote speaker, we'll have three speakers to give attendees several perspectives on our future.

Economist Randall Pozdena of the ECONorthwest consulting firm will offer his analysis of business and economic issues affecting the state of Washington that will influence the Clark County economy this year. Thomas Potiowsky, Portland State University's economics department chairman, will present his outlook for the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area. Scott Keeney, president and chief executive officer of Vancouver-based nLight, will offer his insights as a successful business leader and a top education advocate.

Our small-group breakout sessions have new topics and numerous first-time speakers. The panel "Where We Live, Work & Shop" will focus on commercial, residential, and retail industries. "Building Basic Industries" will look at Clark County's economy in areas of trade and health care. "New Areas of Promise" will discuss emerging business and employment opportunities.

Tickets are $50 and they're available through the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce at http://vancouverusa.com or 360-694-2588.

Gordon Oliver is The Columbian's business editor. 360-735-4699, http://twitter.com/col_goliver, http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/strictly-business, or gordon.oliver@columbian.com