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October Lunch Recap

The New MAX Orange Line and Its Impact on Future Development

by Brenda Mejdell - Unico

This Month’s Panelists:
Dave Unsworth -  Director of Project Development and Permitting
Jillian Detweiler – Policy Director in the Office of Mayor Charlie Hales
Alex Michel – Creative Director at Zidell Yards
Nancy Stueber – President & CEO OMSI

The MAX Orange Line’s opened to the public on September 12th connecting 7.3 miles from PSU down south to the waterfront and over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge.  Tilikum Crossing is the only bridge of its kind in the U.S.  The bridge also carries TriMet buses, the Portland Streetcar Loop Service and emergency vehicles, and is open for public use by bicyclists and pedestrians. Use by private motor vehicles (except emergency vehicles) is not permitted. Rerouting of TriMet bus routes onto the new bridge from more-congested crossings will shorten the travel time for riders on those routes. There are bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the bridge and are 14 feet wide.

The new MAX route is the first major extension of the light-rail system since the Green Line started rolling to Clackamas Town Center in 2009. The new $1.4 billion, 7.3-mile Orange Line connects downtown Portland with downtown Milwaukie through Southeast Portland. It adds 10 new stations to the MAX network, and a trip takes about 26 minutes.

Dave Unsworth discussed the reasoning for the MAX Orange Line/Tilikum Bridge to be constructed initially was to help ease congestion.  When investigating the possibilities of widening McGloughlin, they soon found that the neighborhoods surrounding the area were opposed.  Also, widening the bridge enough for cars to travel would have increased the costs by double.  The project created 14,000 jobs which 7,065 were direct jobs.

Jillian Detweiler (Tri-Met) is the director of Real Estate at the City of Portland.  We learned that 216 acquisitions, many temporary, took place during the project.  Over 5 million square feet were acquired through the transactions.  There were 105 businesses and 17 residential sites relocated during the project.  Part of the reason that the project came in under budget by 40 million dollars was that most of the relocations and acquirements happened during the economic downturn in 2008-2009.
Alex Michel expanded on the creation of an “Innovation District” by connecting OHSU/ South Waterfront to the OMSI area.  There are now bike paths connecting all of the South Waterfront to the Eastside of Portland.  The first organic grocery store will be going into the South Waterfront area, along with an additional new 9 buildings over the next 10 years.

Nancy Stueber commented what a great engineering learning process it was to watch while the bridge was being built. The 20 year vision map for OMSI is to stimulate people into action, creating partnerships and developing districts for the city around innovations.  OMSI believes that education will change in the future to involve communities to contribute to news ways of learning. The innovation district should create jobs, create action and create new ideas.

Debbie Kitchin

Debbie Kitchen has 19 years of experience in general contracting, commercial renovation and tenant improvements including residential remodeling.  Currently, Debbie co-owns InterWorks, LLC with her husband Jim Kitchin.  Together they have grown the company from one employee to many and increased revenues five fold.  Debbie’s role has included management of the finance, human resources, marketing and administrative functional areas.  The company has an excellent reputation for sustainability, quality and solving the most difficult problems for their clients.  They have won numerous industry awards at the state, regional and national levels.


Debbie has served on the Board of Directors of the Energy Trust of Oregon for the last 11 years.  She is in her second year as President of the Board.   ETO is an independent nonprofit providing incentives and technical assistance for energy efficiency and renewable energy to residential, commercial and industrial customers of 4 Oregon utilities.  Debbie’s company is a supporter of ReFIT, a charity that helps remodel homes for low-income seniors and disabled people as well as a long-time supporter of Habitat for Humanity.  Debbie has helped raised funds for New Avenues for Youth by participating on a team in the Free Scoop Day at Ben and Jerry’s for the last few years.


Aside from InterWorks, LLC Debbie has served as Chair of the Portland Business Alliance, the largest business organization in the state, with over 1800 members.  She has advocated for large and small businesses before City Council, with Metro, Multnomah County, at the State Legislature, federal government and with two governors.  During her years on the Board of Directors, she also served 5 years as chair of PBA’s Small Business Council.   During that time, she started a very successful scholarship program for small business owners, wherein the PBA sponsors a class at the Small Business Development Center.  The program is in its 4th year and has been demonstrated to be one of the most cost-effective ways to add jobs and investment for small businesses.  More details:  http://portlandalliance.com/programs/scholarship-program.html .  Debbie has served as a mentor for 4 years with Leadership Portland participants.  This program is for emerging young leaders in Portland’s business community.  She has also served as a mentor for small business owners and new members of the Board of Directors.  She has promoted efforts to develop the future workforce by speaking to students in high school classes, participants in the REAP program and participating in mock interviews for students.


Debbie is also President of the Board of Directors of the Central Eastside Industrial Council.  The business district is one of the fastest growing and most successful areas of the City.  Key initiatives during her tenure include the Southeast Quadrant plan for the Comprehensive Plan, launching the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee in partnership with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, launching a Sustainability Committee to address opportunities for green infrastructure in an urban industrial district and numerous activities to represent the interests of the business and cultural members of the CEIC.


In addition, Debbie is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Building Owner and Managers Association – Oregon (BOMA).  She has served on the board for many years.  She is a past President of Commercial Real Estate Women Portland.


Debbie has two adult children and has been married to Jim for 35 years.  She participates in indoor soccer, ski racing, hiking and camping.