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COURTESY ANKROM MOISAN ARCHITECTS - Block8L is a mixed use project on the site of an old parking lot in Old Town. Tenants include the University of Oregon's Graduate programs such as the Executive MBA, and some affordable housing. Ankrom Moisan Architects will make it their home.


It’s official: downtown Portland is in a building boom. The Portland business Alliance in early May put out a list of buildings being built or soon to be built.

The Central City Development and Redevelopment Projects list was prepared by Heritage Consulting Group and published for Downtown Clean and Safe, PBA’s public facing body that fights against homeless camps and promotes downtown retail. Downtown’s Clean & Safe District is funded by downtown property owners, and includes 213 blocks in the central city.

The annual Development/Redevelopment Report shows the highest number of active construction projects in the central city in 15 years. It lists 27 building or renovation projects downtown and in the Pearl District, plus another 24 on the drawing board.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The Pearl District skyline is growing, thanks to The Cosmopolitan (tallest building visible) and the departure of the Centennial Mills (right foreground).

Two for the show

The list includes some toney properties, such as Hoyt Street Properties’ Cosmopolitan on the Park (1130 N.W. 10th Avenue), a 28-story, $108 million, 150-unit condominium. Scheduled to be completed in 2016 with all but a handful of units pre-sold, it ironically sits a block away from The Encore, HSP’s curved block that took almost half a decade to sell out all its condos. The Cosmopolitan is considered one of the last pieces of the North Campus puzzle in the Pearl, and emphasizes dense mixed use.

Nearby is Riverscape (2130 N.W. Naito Parkway) which Apollo Development has been working on since 2000. It is a luxury community, finally ready for phases three and four. Phase 3 is Rivage, a two-building, 250-unit apartment structure. Phase 4 is Bridge Town Lofts, a six-story, 149 unit apartment. Both are scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Greg Goodman, Co-President of Downtown Development Group, which itself plans to build out 11 parcels of land being used as parking lots, told the Business Tribune, “It’s not business as usual, it’s business way more than usual!”

COURTESY SERA ARCHITECTS - The Modera in the north Pearl is market rate apartments - around $3,000 a month for a three bedroom - that shows the infil boom is still strong.

Hot hot hot

Goodman said there’s been a lot of interest in Portland and the market is “definitely hot right now.”

Portland is attractive for two big reasons right now: “Compared to major cities like Seattle and San Francisco it’s a cheap place to live. And we’re getting a huge amount of young people moving to work at in the tech and creative sectors. They love the counter-culture vibe. We’re the country’s largest petri dish.”

You down with OPM?

Things are different from the last real estate boom, which all went sour in 2007.

“The primary money is from out of town, it’s institutional money,” he said. ‘We call it OPM — Other Peoples Money. When an institution wants to invest $2 billion in real estate and get a good return, they look at Portland, but they also look at the whole world.”

Goodman says big buildings — say costing $100 million — are unlikely to be built with Portland money. Big institutions can afford to build at lower returns than the locals, who still have to compete.

“You try to be clever in what you do, and know your market really well. We try to focus on projects where we already own the dirt,” he said of the Goodman’s parking lot approach. “It’s always our goal to put enough equity into a project where we hang on to it for a long time.”

That’s the company’s strategy for weathering the downturns. While other investors think five or 10 years, his group plans to hold buildings for at least a generation.

He admits he didn’t know have a handle on mortgage backed securities and their dangers in 2007. But now he feels that can’t happen again soon, and the economy is on a sounder footing.

“This is a different environment. 2007 was scary. But now if anything it’s harder to borrow money. We’re better off than in 2007.”

COURTESY: HOYT STREET PROPERTIES - 27 construction projects are happening on the close-in west side, with 24 more on the boards. The Cosmopolitan on the Park opens its 150 condos later in 2016, signalling the return of condo fever to Portland. All but four units are presold, according to the developer, Hoyt Street Properties.

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