Over the past five years, Brady has watched as an increasing number of national chains left the island.
The island’s only full-service grocery store, Safeway, closed in 2018, forcing residents to buy groceries at Target, a Chevron mini mart, Mexi-Frutas PDX, a Mexican produce store open from Friday through Sunday, or go off the island. Additionally, the Walmart in Delta Park closed earlier this year, making the nearest grocery stores to Hayden Island the Fred Meyer in North Portland and at Grand Central in Vancouver.
Popular restaurants Stanford’s, Cracker Barrel and BJ’s shut their doors, too. Stanford’s and Cracker Barrel cited safety issues, including theft and threatening behavior from people outside the restaurants for their closures.
None of the businesses that left cited the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement as a factor, but Brady worries that construction on the estimated $6 billion megaproject could keep replacement businesses away.
“The resources for us are limited,” Brady said. “It’s difficult to envision big businesses and big grocery chains committing to Hayden Island.”
Interstate Bridge Replacement Program Administrator Greg Johnson said he believes the bridge replacement will actually unlock some of the island’s potential.
“I think the potential of the island can only be enhanced by this project and having a beautiful modern bridge will make this only that much more attractive for folks to say, ‘Yeah, I want to come down there and see this,’ ” he said.
Portland’s only island community was home to slightly more than 3,000 people in 2020, up 800 from 2010, according to Portland State University’s neighborhood profiles. The median household income is $92,000 a year. An estimated 13.5 percent of the island’s population has a disability.
A large manufactured home and RV park community sits northwest of the island’s commercial area — with many units looking out at the Vancouver waterfront across the Columbia River.
On the island’s east side are condominiums, apartment complexes, floating homes, and some seven-figure standalone homes, according to Zillow.
Brady and other residents were drawn to the island because of its natural beauty, access to the Columbia River and rich history.
In spite of the island’s lush greenery, the island’s primary draw for Clark County residents is the sales tax-free shopping and Oregon lottery games.
Especially on larger purchases, driving across state lines to Target, Best Buy or Home Depot can save Washington residents tens, if not hundreds of dollars, in taxes — not to mention there is no Best Buy in Vancouver.
The island’s big-box stores are often the closest options for those in North Portland and parts of Northeast Portland, too.
According to data from the Oregon Lottery, of the 30 locations with video lottery in the 97217 ZIP code, encompassing Hayden Island and parts of North Portland, the locations with the highest video lottery sales in the past year were all on Hayden Island. Sales range from south of $2 million to $1.2 million.
Access from the island to I-5 will also be limited with a new partial interchange. There will be direct access to Hayden Island for drivers coming to and from the north, however, those looking to access the island to and from the south will have to use a new local access bridge to North Portland.
“Taken all together, the way people get to and from the island will be dramatically improved,” Mapps’ office said.
Although the city of Portland’s plan for Hayden Island was adopted in 2009, much of it is dependent on replacing the existing bridges over the Columbia River and on redevelopment of the shopping center, Mapps’ office said.
The plan envisions future redevelopment of the Jantzen Beach Center into a transit-supportive mixed-use project that would include new housing, according to Mapps’ office.
“After decades of being an assortment of disconnected neighborhoods and a collection of opportunistic land use and transportation decisions, the time is right to intentionally make Hayden Island and surrounding communities a place where neighborhoods are connected, businesses can thrive, people can access the Columbia River, and people want to visit and stay,” Mapps’ office said.
Be Friend, a Hayden Island resident and the neighborhood group’s representative to the Just Crossing Alliance, said their biggest concern about the replacement bridge is that it will be difficult to walk on.
Friend said that an elevator would help, but worries that it will still be too steep for some.
Johnson did not say if there would be an elevator to the light rail station or a shared-use path at Hayden Island and said that it will be further developed as the program advances.
Friend shares Brady’s worry that construction will make it difficult for businesses to survive.
“I think all of the commerce on the island is going to wither,” Friend said.
The bridge replacement program is committed to minimizing and mitigating construction impacts, Johnson said.
“To minimize local and regional traffic disruption and maintain acceptable levels of safety and mobility near IBR program work zones, including on Hayden Island, the program will employ a number of traffic management, project scheduling and project delivery strategies,” he said in a statement.
Currently at a 10 percent design level, the program will have more details about specific construction activities and an analysis of potential impacts when the draft supplemental environmental impact statement is released later this year.
Connection with history
Commerce is why many flock to Hayden Island, but if the bridge replacement affects that, Brady hopes that it could be offset by highlighting the island’s history, culture and art.
He hopes there will be a place to learn more about the history of the island, from the I-5 Bridge to the competing amusement parks in the 1930s — did you know that at the Lotus Isle amusement park, an elephant got scared by a low-flying stunt plane and destroyed a few pavilions? — and that the Jantzen Beach carousel, one of the largest in the nation, will be back in service on the island.
“Currently, Hayden Island is an example of the challenges,” he said. “I believe we can be an example of the solutions.”
This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.