In a January 19th Instagram post, the owners of Monti’s Cafe announced they would close the cafe until sometime in March. The popular restaurant at 8600 SE Stark Street is struggling to keep adequate staffing levels and needs the time to regroup. The adjoining business, Monticello Antiques, remains open with regular hours.
During the pandemic, the cafe’s customers have witnessed many positive updates to Monti’s Cafe. In April of last year, construction work transformed a three-car parking lot into a fenced courtyard with many outdoor dining amenities. Unlike other temporary structures built throughout Portland, this investment was a permeant commitment to making customers comfortable. However, spending on business upgrades will not solve all COVID-19 related issues.
Monti’s Cafe owner Kelli Vinther explained that they are facing similar employee retention issues seen across the foodservice industry these last few years, along with other market forces brought about by current circumstances. “Like many restaurants in Portland, it’s the same issues. Staff shortage and this ongoing pandemic.” Instead of limping along understaffed, the cafe’s management wants to retool the shop and return with quality food and service in a little over a month. “We need time to put together a good team and make adjustments to our menu,” said Vinther.
Foodservice locations across the country face limited staff, unfilled positions, and increasing ingredient costs. Those constraints are further compounded by lower customer volume, making food preparation challenging to predict. Temporally closing a business reliant on repeat customers can seem drastic, but it is sometimes the best approach to maintaining quality service. Kelli Vinther knows Monti’s Cafe will return stronger in a few months after taking this break.
The first information regarding the bar surfaced in a Liquor Licence application last week. When reached for comment, Sam Nguyen explained that Isamini Bar has a tentative opening date in early summer. However, COVID-19 makes exact timelines challenging to predict.
Located in the building’s single-story section, the bar will be a cozy 667 square-feet. The real estate flyer for the building provides a rough outline of the space. Although still in development, Nguyen offered a broad description of the coming menu “We’re offering a small selection of draft beers, bottled beers, wine, American/Asian appetizers, and food.”
Nguyen is new to bar ownership and should bring a unique perspective to the establishment. Transitioning from the medical field, starting Isamini Bar provides a need change for Nguyen. As COVIS-19 restrictions lift, people will likely rush back to public gathering spaces. This newest destination on Glisan should offer a comfortable space for people to interact with friends and restore their social lives.
African Youth & Community Organization (AYCO) recently relocated to Montavilla on NE Glisan. Located at 432 NE 74th Ave, the group offers support services and youth mentoring for the African immigrant and refugee community. The expanded space obtained through this move allows their programs to grow, even while social distancing during COVID-19 restrictions.
Executive Director Jamal Dar founded AYCO in 2009 with an emphasis on athletics and mentoring. Over its first decade, the organization expanded its offerings to include health and education services. Added support for families continued the programs’ growth trajectory, supporting parents and people caring for special needs children.
AYCO seeks to strengthen a sense of cultural identity within the immigrant community while facilitating integration. Like the community they support, many of the team at AYCO immigrated from East Africa. Staff leverage that personal experience to guide newly arriving families adapting to this country. Their youth programs develop academic and team-building skills in a culturally familiar environment. Health services provide assistance navigating healthcare and disability resources, understanding the language and culture of those seeking support.
In 2015 AYCO opened its first location at 1390 SE 122nd Ave. That space allowed the organization to expand the services offered substantially. However, with increased community need, that location became too small. The building on NE Glisan offers the room need to grow the organization further. The new Center’s increased footprint will feature a gym to help the children embrace athletics beyond soccer and basketball. The new location also allows for a clinic to support children of all ages and abilities.
AYCO leased part of the single-story building from Metro, which acquired the site from Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The previous owners used the building as a TV studio and broadcasting facility before selling the property in late 2019. Metro plans to develop the site two years from now and sought short term tenants. “The building where AYCO is leasing space will eventually be demolished, and the new housing that will be built in its place will prioritize families and households with very low incomes.” Said Constantino Khalaf, Senior Communications Specialist with Metro.
Metro happily made space in the building available for AYCO, reducing the rent to support the group’s efforts. “We’re excited that such a great, community-serving organization can use the space during these early stages rather than let it sit vacant.” Explained Khalaf.
Regardless of the short-term lease on the space, Dar looks forward to the site’s pending development. He intends to become a tenant within the new development’s commercial area when completed. NE Glisan Street is close to the community AYCO servers, and Dar feels it will be an ideal home for his organization.
When the pandemic’s risk has subsided, Dar hopes to interact with the Montavilla community more. Until then, his organization plans to continue to their outward community engagement through support for the hungry and unsheltered. Look for the location to become more lively with youth activities over the coming months, and visit the AYCO website if you want to know more about the organization.
Montavilla’s Stark Street cycles through times of flourishing community and empty obscurity. It could be hard to remember what the street looked like 20 years ago by walking it today. However vibrant the town is now, the area was deep in a down cycle two decades previous. Fortunes started to change for the neighborhood thanks in part to businesses betting on the community’s resurgence.
Bipartisan Cafe is one of the earliest businesses to see the regrowth potential. For 17 years, the cafe stood as the cornerstone of foodservice prosperity in the area. It is a safe place for residents to gather and meet with friends.
Now, after years of supporting the neighborhood, the Bipartisan Cafe needs support from the community. They are seeking donations to bridge the gap caused by COVID-19’s economic impact. The Help keep the Bipartisan Cafe open campaign on GoFundMe details the full explanation for their fundraising efforts. If you can afford it, consider visiting the GoFundMe page and keep the core of Montavilla on an upward cycle.
Disclosure – The author of this article serves on the Montavilla Neighborhood Association Board with Peter Emerson, one of the owners of Bipartisan Cafe.
Tinker Tavern will open for takeout and outdoor dining next week after months of COVID-19 delays. The restaurant and tavern announced on Instagram their intent to have a limited opening in mid-December. A newly completed covered Parking Plaza sits on Stark Street outside the business’s front door.
Tinker Tavern’s website describes the general flavor of menu offerings. “A fantastic beer line up with local collaborations, local and imported wines… Well-crafted collection of Buffalo, NY inspired bar food.” The tavern’s Instagram provides more details, displaying pictures of future menu items. The image captions read as probable menu descriptions and receive enthusiastic responses from Instagram followers.
Tangy marinara, gooey mozzarella, and crispy curly pepperonis on a crunchy French roll.
Housemade mild Italian sausage topped with spicy Weber’s mustard, Kewpie mayo, and a pile o’ peppers and onions on a mini Lavin roll.
Beef on Weck: A kümelweck roll piled high with juicy roast beef, horsey sauce, and just a *kiss* of au jus.
Housemade spicy Portuguese linguiça with chimichurri on a Lavin French roll.
Cured meat Italian sub: Stuffed to the gills with capicola, salami, prosciutto, provolone, and all the fixings on a sturdy Portland French Wedge roll.
The owner, Erik Mahan, committed to the new tavern just before COVID-19 shutdowns rolled out across the state. Not having staff to support, Mahan managed a slow buildout and could wait for the right time to open up. After many challenges and a near year-long startup process, it is finally time to open. Starting Monday, look for signs Tinker Tavern is open and try out Montavilla’s newest addition.
Multnomah University will demolish one building on its campus to provide expanded athletics space. Part of the field expansion requires the removal of a few nearby trees. The University recently submitted demolition permit 20-217562 to begin work on the project at 8435 NE Glisan Street.
“This permit is to demolish the Campus Support Services Building and to cut down a few trees near it,” explained Gina Berquist, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Multnomah University. The building is on the east edge of the field near the parking lot. The removal of the maintenance building will create more field space near the gymnasium. “Our desire is to provide a little more space in the field for our athletes to practice and play in.” Said Berquist.
Like many education institutions, Multnomah University’s campus is closed to the public. However, classroom activities continue regular schedules, with safety modifications. Group practice for team athletics is not currently allowed at the University. Berquist acknowledged that the existing fields are not in use but that this work will improve post-pandemic activities. “At this point… there have been no practices due to this COVID season. [We’er,] looking forward to moving beyond COVID.”
Citrine Bloom recently relocated to 7114 NE Glisan Street in Montavilla. The plant store moved from its original location at 4136 SE 42nd Ave in August. Making plants affordable, accessible, and manageable for all people is a core goal for the shop’s owner.
Jessica Pierce created Citrine Bloom with the principle values of community support and the joy of plants. Plants had become too serious, according to Pierce. The store’s design is approachable by anyone trying to make their life better through added foliage. Additionally, the shop features products from a select group of vendors. All makers are female-identifying or people of color. Pierce wants to encourage these small business people and makers who need early support in their ventures.
Citrine Bloom moved to Montavilla to be closer to existing customers. Like many Portland businesses, the shop is closed to the public during the pandemic. However, they have an online store featuring many of their products. Pierce delivers those products, and moving to the building on Glisan Street cuts down those delivery times.
The building Citrine Bloom moved into is over 100-years-old. Most recently, the storefront was a hobby shop, but the building’s history started in 1914. Originally this building contained just two storefronts instead of the three that it has today. The addresses were 1828 and 1830 E Glisan Street before the Portland street renumbering in the 1930s. The half of the building now occupied by the plant store was a local creamery, according to the 1924 Sanborn map. Years later, the building expanded to fill in the alleyway between the structure and its westward neighbor, creating an additional shop.
Pierce hopes to open Citrine Bloom’s storefront for shoppers in December. However, that is dependent on how safe it will be to do so. Until then, the online shop is available for orders, and staff can assist by phone at 503-395-0032.
Pre-construction work passed another milestone last week for the new picnic shelter at Montavilla Park. Demolition of the old shelter and wading pool will make way for the updated picnic space.
“Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) staff are making good progress in planning and have secured the needed permits. PP&R will be moving the design forward to be ready for bidding, likely in 2021.” Said Mark Ross, a Media Relations representative with Portland Parks & Recreation.
Issued October 7th, Permit 20-160791 outlines the creation of a “new picnic shelter and expansion of asphalt drive north of structure.” This summer, Portland issued two demolition permits for the old shelter and wading pool. PP&R will not replace the former wading pool.
Budgetary constraints on PP&R could challenge the construction of projects like the new picnic shelter. However, Ross believes that funding will be available for this project when construction starts in 2021. “At that time, we hope for the necessary amount of project funding and staff capacity.”
On the ballot this year is Measure 26-213. It seeks to create a five-year tax levy that would provide PP&R with approximately $48 million each year. Funding from Measure 26-213 taxes would not necessarily pay for this upgrade to Montavilla Park but could ensure that additional citywide cuts do not dramatically affect the PP&R budget. Budget cuts could push this project to a later date.
Outdoor spaces are more important than ever when we look at our long-term recovery from COVID-19. Creating usable, safe spaces in the fresh air will help in the immediate future. Additionally, investing in long term improvements to our parks will secure their viability if economic circumstances cause future budgetary shortfalls. With luck, Montavilla residents will be enjoying a new picnic shelter in the warmer months of 2021.
Montavilla News does not endorse individual candidates or ballot measures
The Expanded Walkway Program in Montavilla has come to an end with less than successful results. Introduced this summer, it is part of the Busy Streets program. A Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) representative confirmed the early end of the area’s walkway program.
Expanded Walkways was just one of three programs designed to aid in social distancing during COVID-19. Unlike Expanded Bus Platforms and Expanded corners, Expanded Walkways’ used nonstandard traffic control devices in some areas. In Montavilla, PBOT used narrow white arches instead of the standard vertical poles. Called wave delineators, they are developed by cycling specialty company Saris Infrastructure. Although designed for temporary use, the method chosen by PBOT to hold the delineators in place seemed to be ineffective. Many wave delineators broke or became displaced during their short time in use.
In Montavilla, the Expanded Walkway was attempted on the north side of SE Stark Street from 84th Ave to 94th Ave. Some accounts from local business owners on the street describe general confusion for drivers. Bicyclists also felt that these measures impended safe travel, particularly when delineators were knocked down or placed in the bike lane.
PBOT employee Michelle Marx wrote to a Stark Street business owner affected by the program, announcing the pilot’s completion. “PBOT used this pilot opportunity to test out an expanded walkway concept using temporary, movable delineators. Following staff observation and based on feedback we’ve heard from users, we’ve determined that the pilot has not been successful, and we will be removing the delineators and restoring the street to its former condition.”
Although Expanded Walkways did not succeed in Montavilla, that program is testing with different delineators in other areas. Results from those Expanded Walkways and other COVID-19 street adjustments will become part of a PBOT report. “PBOT is currently evaluating all three pillars of our Safe Streets Initiative and will be releasing an evaluation report later this year.” Said Hannah Schafer, Capital Projects, Assets, and Maintenance Communications Coordinator with PBOT.
“The evaluation of the Busy Streets work will include evaluation metrics for both the expanded walkways pilots as well as the expanded street corners,” explained Schafer. The evaluation report will include recommendations on whether the temporary infrastructure should be removed or become permanent.
Experimentation is a necessary mechanism in developing effective solutions. Although Expanded Walkways did not accomplish its goals in Montavilla, it was a relatively small test and informed PBOT on challenges faced with this type of alteration. It is unknown if other the Busy Streets initiatives will meet expectations and remain in place. However, temporary Expanded Walkways in Montavilla did not work and no longer line Stark Street.
UPDATE – This story was updated with additional information from PBOT.
This November, voters will have an opportunity to approve ballot measure 26-218. Among other transportation-related projects, Metro created this ballot measure to seek funding for ten significant initiatives. A winning yes vote on 26-218 would create a new payroll tax on businesses with more than 25 employees.
A pro Measure 26-218 website, Let’s Get Moving, states that “91% of our region’s businesses are exempt from the tax.” By their account, this would only burden larger businesses that can absorb the added expense. The measure will authorize the Metro Council to impose a payroll tax of up to 0.75%. It would exempt businesses with 25 or fewer employees and local governments from the tax.
Opponents of this measure contend that the increase in payroll taxes will deter job growth and favors public transportation projects when ridership is at a historic low. Other arguments against Measure 26-218 focus on project flexibility within the measure. Although initially focused on specific initiatives in 17 regional corridors located in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, project funds will be used at Metro’s discretion. The measure allows the council to remove or add corridors and amend the list of programs as they see fit.
The opposition’s perspective is understandable. Increasing taxes in a rough economic period is rarely a popular choice. However, that difficult economic time is going to cause a budget shortfall to some degree. The region already has road and transit deficiencies that would need to be addressed in the coming years, regardless of the economy. Money from this tax could help alleviate the impact on infrastructure from budget cuts.
The focus on improved public transit will ultimately help employers. COVID-19 has forced people off the roads in the short term. Those workers that can work from home indefinitely were not heavy users of public transportation. Public transportation often serves those who have jobs requiring physical attendance. Increasing the speed and availability of transportation means employers have a more comprehensive selection of people that can commute to their location.
The funding flexibility within the projects could be concerning. If the public were voting on a bond for a specific project, there should be an expectation of fixed budgets and measured results. However, Measure 26-218 is a new tax without a particular end date attached to it or a definition of complete. Spending focus will change as projects complete, and new initiatives will replace them. A requirement of this measure will create an oversight board to review and report on project progress. Additionally, an external auditor will give annual reviews of fund collection and use.
The Let’s Get Moving site has high-level information on what could be addressed by funding from this new tax. Although the ten launch programs below offer a perspective on what Measure 26-218 hopes to fix, the implemented programs will change based on funds collected and need over time.
Safe Routes to Schools,
Safety Hot Spots,
Thriving Main Streets,
Regional Walking and Biking Connections,
Youth Transit Access,
Better Bus, and
Future Corridor Planning.
Specifically looking at the impact on Montavilla, two of the regional corridors run through the center of the neighborhood. Work on Burnside Street will improve safety through added lighting and enhanced crosswalks.
Perhaps the most significant neighborhood improvements will happen along 82nd Ave. The county-owned roadway will receive a much-needed rebuild. Our MAX station at 82nd and I84 will receive attention regarding pedestrian access. Taxes from Measure 26-218 would pay for safety improvements through better lighting, crosswalks, protected bike lanes, and Greenways. Traffic signal upgrades would also be part of work on this project corridor.
Measure 26-218 proposed updates across the TriMet footprint will benefit Montavilla residents. Bus electrification is one of the marquee projects featured in ballot text. Replacing older vehicles with electric models will cut dangerous diesel emissions in our neighborhood and lower our streets’ noise levels.
Voting yes on a new tax is not an easy choice for voters. As a payroll tax, it will not directly impact the individual voter’s income. However, many residents work for companies with 26 or more employees. This tax will affect their employer, and it could change how those companies choose to grow staff. The harmful impact of the tax is unknowable at this point. However, we acknowledge our roads and transportation systems are underfunded for the number of people living and working in the region. Ultimately, having poor infrastructure could hurt our ability to recover quickly from the wounded economy. People desperate for employment will travel further for work opportunities; they will need dependable roads and transit to make those long commutes. Measure 26-218 could be a tool to help with the recovery and hopefully not hinder it.
Montavilla News does not endorse individual candidates or ballot measures
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