Portland trailblazers

By Jeff Roedel | Thursday, October 25, 2007

More than 150 local business leaders and city officials inspected and dissected everything from public transportation and green space to economic development in Portland, Ore. (and partied hard, too, we hear) for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s 2007 Canvas Workshop. Most were over 40, so 225 huddled three of the younger delegates the morning after they returned for their fresh takes on the City of Roses.

Michael Lang, 28, is regional development director for Commercial Properties, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s real estate development arm.

Michael Lang  

Michael Lang

Jared Loftus, 26, owns Tiger District, a shop specializing in all things LSU.

Chad Ortte, 25, is an agent with Donnie Jarreau Real Estate.

Lang: How a lot of Portland’s large capital projects start is they are able to put together federal, state and local dollars with everyone working together. On the real estate side there are a lot of public/private partnerships. But the main thing is Portland has the most buildings LEED certified for sustainability by the U.S. Green Building Council. Some of these had green roofs that help cool the building.

Loftus: And the buildings were visually appealing, too. The architecture, I thought, was really nice. Going on this trip I wanted to see what they are doing that’s making us come to them. I would really like to live in a city where I have the option of mass transit.

Lang: That’s what excites me, and what our generation is going for: green spaces and mass transit. It is feasible for Baton Rouge. As I understand it, in the CDB, Baton Rouge does not have one LEED building.

Jared Loftus  

Jared Loftus

Loftus: Portland didn’t get all these LEED buildings overnight. It has to start somewhere. Portland has a progressive “Build it and they will come,” attitude.

Ortte: They had multiple “entertainment” districts. And we can have that, too, with downtown and the Perkins Overpass area. They allow for the density of mixed-use projects, and have affordable housing in those hot districts. Overall there was a cohesive effort between government and developers to make it happen.

Lang: The Pearl District was the big one. And what was cool about those areas was that it was always retail on the bottom floor like Banana Republic and Anthropologie, then 100 units of residential above. People were walking everywhere, lots of restaurants.

Chad Ortte  

Chad Ortte

Ortte: The companies they have [Nike, Addidas, Intel] are active in trying to bring in more business to the area, which brings more young successful people.

Lang: They also have at-large council members.

Loftus: That to me eliminates the turf wars. One thing I wanted to say is that we have a great mayor in Kip Holden. We got some quality time with him on this trip. But we need more than a good mayor. We need a good (Metro) Council and other civic leaders to make positive things happen.