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City's industrial site solution rises from NW parking lot

Developer's six-story building could be an answer to land shortage


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO JONATHAN HOUSE - Stephen Andersen of SM Andersen stands in front of the new six-story industrial building his company is constructing in Northwest Portland.Some City Club members may have been confused when Mayor Charlie Hales proposed rezoning parking lots on 82nd Avenue as industrial land during his recent State of the City speech.

Hales made the comment after Joe Esmonde, an official with Local 48 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, criticized him for not doing more to help the Port of Portland develop its property on West Hayden Island. Esmonde said Portland needs more industrial property for jobs.

The port withdrew its request that the city annex the property after the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended a series of costly environmental mitigation measures. Hales said that was the port’s decision, then suggested the city does not have a shortage of industrial land, offering up the parking lots on 82nd Avenue as one alternative.

At first glance the proposal seems unrealistic. Conventional wisdom says that modern industrial buildings are large single-story structures that take up a lot of space. But Hales knows that a construction project rising in Northwest Portland challenges that assumption. It is a going to be a new six-story industrial building on a half-block at 2104 N.W. York St.

The skeletal steel frame of the building is already up. Called the New York, it will be the first multistory industrial building in Portland in 60 years. The $10 million project is being built on spec, with no tenants lined up in advance.

“It’s a risk, no doubt about it. But it’s a risk worth taking. We’ve already had a lot of phone calls from potential tenants,” says John Bowman, one of two real estate brokers marketing the building.

According to Bowman, the calls range from a man who repairs violins to a business that makes high-end displays for exhibitors on the East Coast.

According to Bowman, the project was inspired in part by the success of such renovated mixed-use buildings as the Eastbank Commerce Center, at 1001 S.E. Water Ave. Bowman says that if the New York is successful, similar new buildings could become a common sight in town.

by: COURTESY OF DI LORETO ARCHITECTS - A rendering of the New York, the new multistory industrial building under construction in Northwest Portland.

Will open in September

The project is owned by Portland’s Rosan Inc. The company’s principals are Stephen Andersen of SM Andersen Co. and Bill Eckert, chief financial officer of Andersen Construction, one of the biggest general contractors in the Pacific Northwest.

According to Andersen, the company purchased the location more than five years ago. It held a vacated machine shop that had fallen into disrepair and was torn down to make way for the new building.

“We wanted to build an industrial building like they used to be built,” Andersen said at the site last Wednesday, gazing at the steel framework. “It’s hell-built for stout.”

Andersen was at the site for a special barbecue lunch thrown by the company to thank the workers on the project. They had erected and installed the final top beam the week before, an event in the construction industry known as “topping out.” The beam in the upper southeast corner was emblazoned with the name Iron Workers Local 29, the union that represents most of the workers. Each worker had also signed it.

When completed, the New York will offer 101,550 square feet of flex space, beginning at $14.40 a square foot per year. It will offer a 1,400 pound freight elevator and common loading dock on the ground floor. Each floor is thick sheet metal held up by steel beams, providing enough strength for such industrial uses as warehousing, distribution and high-tech businesses.

Work began on the building late last year. It is scheduled to be completed in August, and the building is set to open in September.

A matching building is already planned on the second half of the block if the New York proves successful.

No smokestack

There’s no doubt that, on paper, Portland faces a shortage of industrial land on paper. An assessment prepared for the city as part of the current comprehensive land-use plan update identified a shortage of 635 acres of industrial land for future employment. Hayden Island would have provided 300 acres of industrial land.

This is not a technical problem. City planners must eliminate the shortage before the plan update can be approved by the state Land Conservation and Development Commission, as required by Oregon land-use planning laws.

But Hales wants to change how the shortage is determined. He argues the time has come to consider the room for jobs that can be created by multi-story industrial buildings, like the New York. They can accommodate more jobs per acre than traditional single-story industrial buildings.

“It’s a new development type that could really be successful in terms of creating space that would be important for industrial employers. A six-story building can accommodate six times the number workers on an existing site,” says Tom Armstong, a city planner working on the comprehensive plan update.

Armstrong also says such buildings would easily fit into commercial and even mixed-use areas, like the neighborhoods along 82nd Avenue.

“Not every industrial employer has a smokestack or adverse off-site impacts,” says Armstrong.

Although Hales didn’t mention the building during his March 14 City Club speech, he brought it up before the Westside Economic Alliance on Feb. 27. Appearing on a panel with Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey, he cited it as an example of how all cities can maximize the use of their industrial lands, not just Portland.

The idea appealed to Doyle, who joked that Beaverton, squeezed by Portland on the east and unincorporated Washington County on the west, only has about five acres of undeveloped industrial land left.

Other ideas mentioned by Hales included speeding up the reuse of polluted “brownfields,” especially along the Willamette River, and rezoning golf courses in the Columbia Corridor for industry. The Portland City Council recently approved a deal to turn Colwood National Golf Course, 7313 N.E. Columbia Blvd., into a park and a 48.4-acre industrial site.