‘Ankeny West’ food cart pod beginning of road to recovery

Local

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced his budget for the coming year — which includes more than a quarter-million dollars to bring the iconic Alder Street Food Cart pod back.

After two years of advocacy, waiting, and navigating red tape, the Alder Street Food Carts will have a new home this summer. Food carts have become a Portland staple, and until May 2019, the pod at Southwest Alder and 10th Avenue was the Rose City’s largest — drawing thousands of tourists and locals a day.

But, the pod was sitting on property already slated for development and permits for a luxury hotel now under construction wiped out the landmark. Two years later, just over half of the carts will return this summer.

The proposed “Ankeny West” food cart pod at West Burnside and Southwest Park has overwhelming support from city commissioners and Mayor Wheeler, who added the initiative to his 2021-2022 budget proposal.

$269,000 would go through Prosper Portland to Friends of Green Loop. The city council is currently slated to pass the budget in June, making those funds available in July — but the permitting process is already underway with both the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Parks and Recreation.

Wheeler says it’s a vital step to revitalizing a desperate downtown.

“It shows that Portland is open for business,” he said. “That it’s a safe place for people to come.”

Jean Chen’s family owns one of the 55 carts displaced. She said both her parents are still unemployed.

“So it’s just been really hard on our family,” she said.

Last month, the Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon said it could take up to five years for the industry to recover from the pandemic — and Friends of Green Loop Executive Director Keith Jones’ vision stretches even farther into the future

“There’s still permitting that needs to happen, there’s construction that needs to happen. And I’m going to do everything in my power to expedite that,” he said. “We have plans of extending all the way down through O’Briant and up to director park.”

Jones says it’ll pay for infrastructure to run the pod — and one day, it could even be self-sustaining.

He says the pod could team up with the Shemansky Park Farmer’s Market just a few blocks away and source produce directly from them. He also mentioned utilizing technology from Seattle-based Impact Bio-energy, which turns food waste into electricity and biogas.

Mayor Wheeler tells us Ankeny West is just the beginning — and says he’ll prioritize safe spaces for food carts to avoid repeating history.

“Somewhere they’re not going to locate and become an institution and then be disrupted by future development.”

But for now — owners tell us the chance to work again is enough.

“We’re so happy we’re able to share our culture and our food — and just be able to make people happy,” Jean Chen said.

Jones tells us he’s eyeing a 4th of July opening date for now — as long as all permits go through.

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