At the request of Metro Council, the Portland Expo Center development opportunity study was launched in early 2020 to assess the value and opportunities for the greatest public benefit of the 53-acre property and venue. The center has significant capital needs and no identified funding source to meet these needs over time. This study will identify development options that could complement, support or replace the current event center's operations. Any potential future for Expo needs to be financially sustainable. Since this study began, COVID-19 has significantly added to the center’s financial challenges.
While the COVID-19 pandemic brought uncertainty and disruption, Metro has prioritized the continuation of this project. Since early spring, Metro staff have worked to adapt event spaces like the Expo Center to both serve in the region’s COVID-19 response and also meet changing client needs. The goal of this project has not changed, and remains a collaborative process focused on assessing potential futures for the Expo Center.
Portland’s gathering place
The Portland Expo Center attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year to 100+ public trade shows and community events like home and garden, automotive, RV, antique, outdoor shows and concerts. Over the past five years it has generated an average of approximately $50 million in economic impact annually. The center has 330,000 square feet of exhibit space in five exhibit halls on the 53-acre campus. The Portland Expo Center is committed to sustainability with the largest stormwater green wall in the country, treating 10,000+ cubic feet of runoff. The Hall D and E roof restoration project saved tons of material from being sent to a landfill and replacing parking lot lighting with LEDs reduced electricity usage significantly.
Historical and cultural significance
Many communities in the greater Portland area and our region have unique and important historical and cultural ties to the Expo Center and the land it’s built upon. The nearby Vanport Floods and WWII Internment at the Portland Assembly Center have had lasting impacts on the African American, Indigenous and Japanese American communities. Metro and the Portland Expo Center recognize the past events and injustices that took place on or near the center. Expo works with Vanport Mosaic and the Nikkei Legacy Center to ensure these occurrences are never forgotten.
How will the project engage stakeholders?
Throughout the process, Metro has been engaging with key stakeholders and partners, including communities with historic and cultural ties and business interests. These include the African American, Indigenous and Japanese American communities, as well as Expo clients and business stakeholders in order to refine the project guiding principles. The outcome of initial stakeholder engagement is the guiding principles (see below). Each potential future will be evaluated based on this community-driven, collaboratively crafted framework. Opportunities for input will continue during the request for expressions of interest submission process, with a survey and public meeting.
Metro staff and project consultants, Cascadia Partners, will refine the project submissions to a list of up to five potential options based on feasibility, and a committee of community stakeholders will review the submissions and assess how each one aligns with the guiding principles. Metro chief operating officer Marissa Madrigal will review the community stakeholder report and bring her recommendations to the Metro Council and Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission.
Metro and Cascadia Partners convened a series of workshops where stakeholders participated in group exercises that clustered collective ideas for guiding principles into common themes. As a group, participants moved the common themes into draft guiding principles. The guiding principles that came out of these workshops are:
- Honor, respect and preserve cultural, land, water and historical significance to inform future generations; do no harm moving forward.
- Require purposeful inclusion of communities who have persevered and are thriving, despite the action of colonization and/or the harmful impacts of policy and practice.
- Maximize community benefit and connection for future generations; prioritize investments in stronger communities that are community led and culturally responsive.
- Ongoing engagement and transparency.
- Seek opportunities for cultural expression, art, storytelling and learning.
- Seek sustainable and climate resilient solutions.
- Center inclusive, cultural and economic sustainability and wellbeing.
See the documents below for more detail on the engagement process, development of the guiding principles, and project objectives. A new, interactive project website was launched in early 2022. It includes detailed information about the RFEI submission process, a survey to collect feedback from residents of the region and more.