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January 2017 -- Vol. 111, No. 5

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


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Mike's Drive In, Sellwood, Portland, Oregon
The iconic Sellwood Mike’s Drive-In was announced as closing forever on the evening of Saturday, December 17. Apartments will be built on the site – on 17th, a block south of S.E. Tacoma Street. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
Todd Freeman, Mikes Drive In
Back doing what he started doing as a teenager at the first Mike’s Drive-In, owner Todd Freeman flips burgers at his soon-to-close Sellwood restaurant. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Exit interview: ‘Mike’s’ closes in Sellwood

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

It’s true: The last day of Sellwood’s famous – some say historic – burgers, fries, and shakes restaurant, Mike’s Drive-In at the corner of S.E. 17th Avenue and Tenino Street was Saturday, December 17. Fittingly, “customer appreciation day”.

Sitting down with THE BEE in the dining room, owner Todd Freeman first wanted to make it clear: His Milwaukie and Oregon City restaurants will stay open.

Changing business conditions, and the fact that he’s been an independent fast-food entrepreneur for 40 years, led him to the decision to close the Sellwood location and sell the property, he told us.

“I started working at Mike’s Drive-In when I was 14 years old; bought the Mike’s in Milwaukee from Mike Martin when I was 21; and I purchased this location 30 years ago,” Freeman said.

After being the hands-on manager of Mike’s for four decades, Freeman said, “I’m kinda tired; I’m still working 50 to 60 hour weeks and I’d like to ‘slow down’ a little bit. Over the past few years, reducing the business to two locations seemed like a reasonable option.”

His small iconic Milwaukie drive-in does well – and it’s only two miles from Sellwood, at Highway 224 and Harrison Street in Milwaukie. “And, the Oregon City location has been completely remodeled, making it like brand new, this year.”

Other business pressures include finding good employees, competing with multinational fast-food chains, and the impending increase in the minimum wage.

“And, of all three locations, to be honest with you, it’s hardest to do business in the City of Portland,” Freeman said.

Instead of closing the Sellwood restaurant and selling off the property, Freeman said he considered selling the on-going business.

“But, if I sold to a new owner, they’d want to keep the ‘Mike’s Drive-In’ name. Because it’s not a franchise, I can’t demand that the new owner runs the business the way that I do, and maybe destroy our reputation.

“Likely, instead of using ground chuck for hamburgers, they’re going to use ground beef – most people don’t know the difference – but there’s a huge difference,” Freeman pointed out. “Then, instead of using long shoestring French fries, they’re going buy cheaper ‘shorts and pieces’. Next will be making ice cream shakes with a low butterfat mix, instead of the high quality mix we use.”

And, selling the business to a new owner is risky, Freeman said. “Nine out of ten restaurant businesses sold fail, and ‘go back’ to the original owner who will have to try to build up the business again, or, try to sell a closed, empty business.”

When a developer talked with him a couple of years ago, Freeman considered his offer to purchase the property.

“I did know that [the developer’s] ultimate plan was to redevelop the property. After we made the agreement about a year ago, I leased back the property from the investor, and that lease is up on December 31,” Freeman said. “I’ve learned that the developer plans to build an apartment building on the site.”

According to some reports, the property will be developed by David Sackhoff's Urban Development Group into a 78-unit apartment building.

Some have decried the situation, pointing out that Urban Development Group has a history of building high-rise apartment buildings, with little or no on-site parking. But, as Freeman pointed out, it is the City of Portland’s zoning and land use codes that permit and encourage such development, not landowners.

A series of emotions flashed over Freeman’s face when asked how he felt about leaving the Sellwood Mike’s story behind.

“This is really hard for me. I’m proud that we’re so very unique, from the food we serve, to the great employees we have who want to work with a small, local business.

“To be honest with you, it’s pretty emotional for me right now,” Freeman continued. “It’s hard not to become teary-eyed. Although I do spend time working in the office – being in the stores, with our staff and customers, is what I really love. I absolutely love our customers.”

Freeman paused, and drew a deep breath before he continued.

“In a way it feels like I’m letting our customers down. The goodbyes the last week in business, where I’m sure I’ll pretty much be, in here all the hours we’re open, is going to be really difficult. There will be times I’ll need to leave to get my mind clear.

“I’ve never done it, so I don’t know exactly how difficult will be, but based on the way I feel right now, it’s going to be hard, really hard,” Freeman said.

Given the opportunity to speak directly to his Sellwood customers, Freeman said, “I thank you all so much for your loyalty. It’s been my pleasure to serve you all of these years. I hope you understand that it’s time for me to slow down a little bit. I do hope you come and see us at the other locations – Milwaukie is only about five minutes away.

“I’m definitely going to have a ‘hole in my heart’ about closing this store for quite some time.”



Shooting, Sellwood, Jake's Place, recording studio
Police cordoned off S.E. Spokane Street, after more than a dozen gunshots were fired near a recording studio. Shell casings in the street are designated by evidence markers. (Photo courtesy of Kim Schwartzenberger)

Bullets fly, no injuries, in Sellwood

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

An otherwise quiet evening was disrupted when gunshots rang out on S.E. Spokane Street, just west of 17th Avenue, late on Monday, November 28.

Sellwood resident and professional dog masseuse Kim Schwartzenberger told THE BEE that she’d been at Jake’s Place on the corner, when she decided to take her dogs for a walk, at 10 p.m. that evening.

“I was about six blocks away, when I heard what sounded like 13 gunshots coming from the area near Jake’s Place,” she said. “By the time I’d walked back to get my car and go home, the police had come and marked off the area with crime scene tape, including where my car was parked.”

The shootout wasn’t at the tavern, but instead, at a house-turned-recording-studio at 1677 S.E. Spokane Street – a place that official records show has had at least one late-night noise complaint lodged against it.

“I learned that three guys came out of the recording studio, an SUV drove by, and they decided to shoot at each other,” Schwartzenberger reported.

The street was littered with bullet casings, Schwartzenberger said, set out with police evidence markers.

“A ‘shots fired’ call came out at 10:19 p.m., bringing Central Precinct officers to the area,” disclosed Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Greg Stewart.

“A caller to the 9-1-1 Center reported seeing two black males running from the area; one was armed with a handgun,” Stewart said. “Officers located a crime scene with evidence of a shooting, including a vehicle struck by gunfire.”

That vehicle, Schwartzenberger told THE BEE, belonged to a man who had been living in his car; the rear window was shattered.

Due to witness reports, and video evidence captured on surveillance cameras, the PPB Gang Enforcement Team was called in to assist with the investigation, Sgt. Stewart commented.

At 12:55 a.m. officers reopened the crime scene, and Schwartzenberger was able to get to her car and go home.

“It was a close call for me and my pups; I’m still jittery when I hear a loud sound,” she remarked the following day. “Angels were watching over me!”



Franklin High School, Portland, Oregon, remodel
The statue of Benjamin Franklin has been repositioned, and now overlooks construction of the sports area. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Major progress made at long Franklin High renovation

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

The major construction has been completed, on the campus of historic Franklin High School, but work continues in the renovation of the century-old school.

As THE BEE toured the campus in late November, Portland Public Schools Bond Communications Manager David Mayne pointed out the brick and masonry veneer exterior walls, which are are nearly complete, on the Performing Arts Building. Painters were hard at work in the main auditorium.

We walked through the new Career Technical Education/Maker-Space building, where the steel framing was up and windows were being installed. “Here in the new Student Center, all exterior brick has been finished, and all interior framing, mechanical, and plumbing systems have been completed,” Mayne pointed out.

We couldn’t look into the new Gym/Biomedical/Culinary Arts building – the new structure north of the old school – because that day it was locked. “We’re expecting that entire building to be done before March 2017, including the installation of furniture and equipment,” Mayne told THE BEE. “Unfortunately we can’t use the facility yet because it is an active construction site.”

On the perimeter of the campus, the new buildings seamlessly blended in with the existing main historic 1915 building – its bricks now cleaned, the clock tower restored, and all of the windows refurbished.

In the main building, the celebrated auditorium’s sloping main floor had been leveled, making way for it to become the school’s new Media Center. What will become of the proscenium arch and wrap-around balcony remains to be revealed.

In the main entrance, workers are preparing to rebuild a grand staircase.

Progress is most evident in the main building’s remodeled west wing; what looked to be chemistry labs now had flooring installed, walls painted, and workbenches placed.

“On November 1st, school staff turned over the Franklin ‘time capsule’ for installation in the main building,” Mayne said. “The time capsule was created by FHS student Shane Tavares, and is set to be opened in the year 2117.”

He added that the project remains on schedule at budget. “Teachers and staff will start moving back from the Marshall Campus over the summer in 2017, and we’ll be ready to start school here in September,” Mayne said.



Sellwood Bridge, Portland, Oregon
Fences between the condo developments, and landscaping, fill the former construction zone. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Years-long Sellwood Bridge project ending

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE 

At the Sellwood Bridge Project offices at the east end of the bridge, the rows of empty cubicles made it clear that this project is drawing to a close.

“They’ll be breaking down and moving the portable office building soon,” commented Multnomah County project spokesman Mike Pullen said as he arrived, meeting THE BEE for perhaps our last full “tour” of the project on November 18.

The old bridge span and piers have disappeared, as have the work bridges, cranes, and much of the construction equipment.

As we walked out to S.E. Tacoma Street, Pullen told us that the Portland Bureau of Transportation was already making changes to the new traffic control signal at S.E. 6th Avenue, to help promote better traffic flow.

“The traffic signal phases for north and south-bound movements on 6th Avenue will be combined, to improve traffic flow for east-west traffic on Tacoma Street,” Pullen said. New signs are being installed to prevent ‘right turns on red’ for westbound traffic on Tacoma, and for northbound traffic on 6th”.

The 14-foot-high public art sculptures, that installation that artist Mikyoung Kim entitled “Stratum”, have been installed on both sides of the bridge. “They still need to install the colored bronze panels,” Pullen remarked.

Parking on lower Spokane Street has been reopened west of Oaks Park Way, after paving work to cover a rainwater outfall pipe was completed; and the Springwater Corridor Trail has been reopened between S.E. Spokane and Umatilla Streets.

“We expect that, by the time BEE readers see this, the north bridge sidewalk will have reopened, after the painting work below the bridge was completed; and the south sidewalk will be opened to the public by then, too,” Pullen said.

In the former construction zone below the east end of the bridge, the heavy equipment was gone. However the area was still bustling between Sellwood Harbor and Riverpark Condominiums, as workers were busy installing landscaping and fencing.

“The budget is still at $325 million, putting this long project only about 5% above the originally-estimated $307.5 million, and only exceeding the original estimate by a little less than $20 million,” Pullen said, with a sense of accomplishment.



Sellwood, Christmas Tree, community tree, Bybee Boulevard, curve, 13th, SMILE, Westmoreland, Portland Memorial, Beeson Chiropractic
In the bucket lift, high about the new SMILE Christmas tree just north of Sellwood Boulevard, Matt Hainley positions a string of lights. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

New ‘SMILE Christmas Tree’ chosen and lit

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

A long-standing tradition in the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood is the Christmas tree strung with Holiday lights on the edge of Oaks Bottom Bluff, where Bybee Boulevard curves south to become S.E. 13th.

The custom continues this year, although with a different tree now festooned with colored lights. 

“Businessman Dent Thomas is credited with starting the tradition of decorating the tree,” recalled lifelong resident Matt Hainley, as he stepped into the crane bucked to be lifted high above the new tree, to start stringing the lights on Saturday morning November 26.

“Some of my first memories of enjoying it date back to 1966, when I was walking to kindergarten at Llewellyn Elementary School,” Hainley said.

For a while this year, the two families who’ve spearheaded the effort for years with the sponsorship of SMILE, the Hainleys and Heibergs, feared there might not be a lit tree this Christmas.

“The tree we’ve decorated in the past is right on the edge of the bluff, and starting to lean over the bank,” Hainley explained. “And, last year, The Park Rangers came up and hassled us about working on that tree, because it’s officially part of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. We were wondering what kind of hoops we would have to jump through, and what permissions we’d need, to do it again this year.”

They considered driving a tall pole into the ground and draping the lights from it, but project proved prohibitively expensive, and tall poles are not very Christmassy.

“So, we started looking around for another tree, and we spotted this one just south of the old one, located on private property. It’s not quite as tall as the other tree but, it really looks nice,” Hainley smiled.

When the property owners, Laurie Ortega and Jim Diekmann, saw the men admiring it, they asked, “Do you want to use our tree?” Hainley recalled. “We provided insurance through SMILE, and off we go!”

With a smaller crew of friends and family, and a big lift from Smith Crane, the new tree was bejeweled with lights the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving. An extension cord to test the lights was provided by Dr. Dan Beeson from Beeson Chiropractic and Wellness, just south of the new tree.

Then, after the electrical circuit installation, with power again underwritten this year by Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial, the official tree lighting took place on Tuesday evening, November 29, as more than 100 neighbors gathered to sing carols and look on.

“It’s a fun thing to do for the neighborhood; it’s a nice way to help the neighborhood celebrate the Holidays,” Hainley said.

The annual Christmas Tree is sponsored by SMILE, the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood association; as well as by Portland Memorial, Heiberg Garbage & Recycling, Smith Crane, and Hollywood Lights, Inc.



Homeless shelter, Westmoreland, Milwaukie Avenue, Southeast Portland, Oregon, Multnomah County, Willamette Shelter, Deborah Kafoury
Officials and guests tour the new Willamette Center homeless shelter and service center now open in north Westmoreland on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

New Milwaukie Avenue homeless shelter opens

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Multnomah County’s new 120-bed homeless shelter and homeless services agency – the “Willamette Center”, in the former St. Vincent de Paul building, at 5120 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue – opened as scheduled on Wednesday, November 16.

The building, across the Westmoreland-Brooklyn entrance to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and the Springwater Trail, was dedicated at a celebration held on two days earlier at the facility.

“For people who are living on the street, it is important to provide shelter,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury commented to THE BEE at that time.

This, like their other shelters, isn’t a “home” – and, in and of itself, doesn’t end homelessness either, Kafoury observed. “But it does provide safety from the dangers of the street. In this shelter, residents have access to many different kinds of services, and easy access to transit to help people who are on their way to obtaining permanent housing.”

This year, Multnomah County is doubling the number of publicly-funded shelter spaces, adding 650 new beds, including the 120 at this “Willamette Center”, Kafoury pointed out.

“I think it’s really important that we allow couples to stay together, especially when they are the most vulnerable,” Kafoury said. “Asking women to choose between sleeping on the streets with their partner, or coming in [to a shelter] by themselves, isn’t a fair choice to ask for.

“This place will allow couples to stay together, to support each other through a difficult time, and eventually end up back in permanent housing,” added Kafoury.

About safety and community livability, Kafoury pointed out that that people are already living on the streets. “We’re offering a place for people to come indoors, where they will get the services they need, including job training. We’re also giving people access to counseling services, ‘Rent Well’ classes, and on-site and 24 hours a day, seven days a week management.

“The center managers from Transition Projects will have staff working with the folks who are staying here – and also interfacing with the community, making sure that if there are issues that arise, that they are addressed,” Kafoury said.

Transition Projects Willamette Center Manager Shaynna Hobson agreed with Kafoury, adding that neighbors were already encouraging neighborhood-dwelling homeless people to sign up for the shelter before it was open.

Having supervised other Transition Projects shelters, Hobson said she’s excited that this facility has a kitchen. “We’ll have a well-stocked pantry, and can make meals for the guests here. I think that will be so much fun to do for our guests.”

Another benefit of this shelter, Hobson said, is that small pets are allowed. “We tend to see a number of small dogs and sometimes cats come in – they are part of their ‘family’, and want to keep them close by.”

“The Willamette Center is not a ‘drop-in’ program; all guests are required to have a reservation prior to arrival,” advised Hobson. “Once a space is reserved, the guest may continue to use the space until they no longer need it.” But rules must be followed, to remain in the shelter.

Reservations are handled over the phone at 503/280-4700, or in person at the Transition Projects Day Center at 650 N.W. Irving Street. Those sheltered must either be homeless women or couples, age 18 and over, with priority given for those 55 and older, those with disabilities, and veterans.

Inquiries can be made to manager Hobson via e-mail: shaynna.hobson@tprojects.org – or call her at 503/488-7760; the 24-hour shelter staff line is 503/488-7750.





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