cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

kupie corner . june 13 . 2006

I've spent a lot of time thinking about local developer Peter Perrin. It all started at Seven Corners, the firebrand of a development near 21st and Division in Portland. There was a lack of communication with a notoriously difficult neighorhood association. There was a Starbucks that seemed to directly counter everything the community had begged for. There was an odd, inept, but certainly media-savvy firebombing.

Peter, really, thought he'd been mistreated. When I was in that crazed and manic stage with Truman's pregnancy, about to burst, he called. He'd never been consulted, you see, on the previous bad press. No one had interviewed him before painting him as the villain. He did care. He wanted to talk.

We didn't, really, talk. We spoke briefly but I failed to make a date with him. I blamed it on the terror of almost-birth and was happy when he followed up with the neighborhood association. I even lauded his communication ability. There was no lack of communication, no hesitance. Starbucks was interested in our 39th and Holgate corner, they did sign a lease to go under the old Kupie Cone sign.

It's all about the sign, really. We love that sign. I walked past it so many times, gazing at it, wishing it would one day return to its former glory. It had been there forever, or close to it, and I could taste how good those ice cream cones must have been, when there was still a Kupie Cone on that old rundown lot. I even offered, on my blog, for Peter to leave the sign in my yard, only a few blocks away, if he didn't want it.

He did want it, it turned out. He wanted to reinstall it. He developed the property, made it bland and Starbucks-y, installed a serviceable terrace in the right-of-way. He ran electrical conduit out to a special location on the north end of the terrace, just for the sign.

Last month, he visited our neighborhood meeting on a right-of-way matter. He mentioned the sign. He'd contacted the local arts council, and meant to pay to have the sign "recontextualized" so he'd be permitted to install it in the public space. It would cost a lot, probably, $10 to $20k.

Oddly, at the same time, he'd already agreed to sell the property to a couple who was relocating to Portland (and, it seems, knew nothing of the famous and dearly beloved sign). We only found out yesterday, in a coincidence of timing, that the sale for the property is to go through next week. The City Council meeting to approve the sale is tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning early, I'm calling Peter. I'll be asking, hey, what's up with our sign?. Let's hope he decides to follow through on his promise to pay for the recontextualization, as it's certainly not a premise of the sale. Let's hope. And in the meantime, let's remind Portland that we really, really love our sign, and aren't entirely happy when the sign isn't kept in the loop.

Update: Peter finally called me back, but not before I met with the most condescending attorney on the face of the earth (no, really, that might be a stretch, there is lots of condescension in the world of the juris doctorate) and his not-quite-as-condescending (but, nice) client, the buyer. He, apparently, felt the need to explain why he was buying the property (for the rental income, not, as I bit my lip to keep from asking, for all the free Starbucks he could drink?) I do understand about closing dates and taxes and lockup periods and residuals. I guess I just look like an idiot. [Update: he later apologized for his attorney.] Anyhow. Peter.

Peter Perrin agreed to donate the sign to the neighborhood association, and provide some sort of financial assistance in creating a public art project around it. Now we just have to get the city, and the regional arts council, on board. That's sure to be a challenge.

So my advice to you neighborhood rabble rousers out there: call the developers and the attorneys, show up at the city council meeting. Even the threat of testimony was enough to bring everyone to the table. And wear your most expensive Italian suit, and wear a button that says I understand Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. And everything will be o.k.

read the previous post . knitting along with larissa for the state fair . june 10 . 2006