Lot with No Name

Known only as NW Corner 72nd & NE Halsey St on Portland Maps, This prominent corner lot has remained undeveloped for close to five years. Formerly home to a Rocket Service Station, 7134 NE Halsey Street has remained empty since the adjoining house and service station buildings were razed. The site was a single lot until the land was split in mid 2017. The south lot, 1427 NE 72nd Ave, was developed into a single family residence in late 2018. That house sold last year.

Early in the development process, the Rocket Service Station site caught the attention of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

(7/11/13 gmw/sas) Site of what appears to be a former service station, with the “Rocket” sign still standing. The site is not on DEQ’s UST registration list, meaning that any fuel dispensing that may have occurred at the site took place before 1986. Armando’s Auto Repair operated at the site subsequently. Current site status is unknown. It is possible that underground fuel and/or waste oil tanks remain at the site, and there may be contamination from them and from past operating practices.

In September 2015 Modifi LLC, the owner of the property, commissioned a site Cleanup Report. The report details that no gasoline tanks were found, however there was evidence that something had been removed and filled in. This site had been a gas station before, and similar to other sites like it, there is petroleum contamination. However the extent is not hazardous at the surface and would only be a concern if people were using well-water within a quarter mile. No wells like that are used near the site.

Tan Nguyen, the owner of Modifi LLC, found the process was not as easy as he had hoped. Speaking via email, Nguyen said “the lot was an old gas station, which then operated as just a car shop for many years. During this time the tanks were decommissioned but it was never reported to the DEQ.” Clearing this unreported work with the DEQ added years to the project, which had started started in 2014. After the DEQ report was registered, Nguyen was allowed to proceed with the lot division.

After completing the first house at 1427 NE 72nd Ave, Nguyen had considered a similar development on the other lot. “My initial intention was to build a similar home on the corner lot, but since it is a corner lot I also had the option to build a duplex.” wrote Nguyen. “The lot is no longer a commercial zoned lot so I have to stick to a residential structure.” The site would make a good location for a multifamily development. Oriented, with the majority of the lot fronted on Halsey Street, makes it ideal for a visible development.

Development has yet to begin due to a pending change in Portland’s development policy. Nguyen sees this location as ideal candidate for Portland’s new Residential Infill Project (RIP). “If this project gets approval I’m allowed to build a triplex or even more on this corner lot.” wrote Nguyen. However, delays in finalizing RIP were slowing down the process even before the recent pandemic.

As the economy shifts, we may depend on lots like this one to be developed into affordable housing. Hopefully when government open up for regular operation, the Residential Infill Project will once again move towards adoption. Then this corner lot can be developed again and get its address back.

— UPDATED — This article was originally posted on April 3rd, 2020. It has been updated with information from Tan Nguyen.