Pete Mark: 'Leave the last nickel on the table.'
"My dad's real gift was optimism. I've worked here for 36 years and sat though a lot of meetings, and the word 'No' wasn't in his vocabulary. He was always so determined. In times when we weren't so successful, whether with a lender or a client, or just an idea that would pop in his head, he's say 'Have you thought about calling X, Y, Z as a tenant?' He'd look at a glass and it'd be 99.9 percent empty and he'd go 'Yeah, it's a full glass of water'.''
Pete Mark built a team at Melvin Mark companies which at one point was up to six partners.
"He'd always talk about his consensus building, and wanted to get everybody's opinion. He was a consensus guy. We wasn't a guy who came in and say 'This is how we're going to do it. He'd talk it through. And in the end maybe it was his idea, but he figured a way of making it sound like we're all rowing in the same direction. It's a very rare gift."
Jim Mark believes his father's basic principles still apply in the modern commercial real estate market. When Pete Mark started out in Portland, Pete Mark's father had the family business spread out across the U.S., in properties such as JC Penny, WT Grants and Woolworths. They were not performing, so Pete sold off a lot of it and concentrated on Portland.
In the 1960s and 1970s, "Portland was a lot smaller city and not as dynamic as today. Up until the last eight or 10 years rental growth was slow and a lot of buildings didn't really perform as they were supposed to," says Jim.
"The Crown Plaza, a partnership with the Goodmans in the 1960s, was a tough project, huge gamble. Columbia Square, which he did on his own, was 100 percent spec building but opened up 100 percent occupied. He believed it would happen."
The first thing Pete Mark built in 1965 was just a parking lot. "It was a huge gamble. My dad was a huge risk taker throughout his career."
Once the economy started booming, a lot of the groundwork was his groundwork.
"The tools of the trade is you have to know your business, but his optimism is what I'll carry forward. He once came into my office and told me to smile. A lot of people know business but don't do very well. And he always followed through, he'd go though my to do lists and asked me what I'd done. As a boss he would make sure things would get carried through."
Jim Mark says his father was a great negotiator.
"I'd be on a deal and I'd say 'I think I can get a little bit more,' and he'd say 'Don't take the last nickel off the table.' He believed the last nickel would cost more than a nickel. It would make people mad. He dressed impeccably, but he also believe your reputation was worth way more than any dollar you cold ever earn."
Pete Mark he would always wear a tie and coat on weekends, and he had a local tailor make his suits, rather than look for brands. "I don' think he would have known a brand if it jumped up at him. He was more about the experience, he was a people person."
It was also a necessity, since he was 6'4" and had size 14 feet.
"He was an incredible family man, he would never go on trips without my mom. He didn't hunt or fish, he spent all his time with mom and family."
Pete Mark only had two houses in Portland, the first being four blocks from Stroheckers' store in the West Hills. They moved to their current home in the 1970s.
"He always said I'm not going to a nursing home, I'm staying in my own home, and he did, right until he died. I was fortunate I knew him as a dad, as a mentor, and as a buddy. After mom died he was my buddy, we'd do things in the week and I'd have him and my sister Linda over to dinner every Sunday night."
Portland real estate giant Melvin "Pete" Mark Jr. was remembered as a generous and enthusiastic business leader who helped shape the Rose City's skyline and its arts.
Mark died Thursday, June 1. He was 91.
A celebration of Mark's life is planned at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 8, in the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Oregon Historical Society or the Portland Art Museum.
Mark was a developer who led the rebirth of Portland's downtown in the 1960s to 1980s. His leadership helped create Pioneer Courthouse Square in 1984, known as Portland's Livingroom.
Dan Lavey, chairman of the Pioneer Courthouse Square Board of Trustees, said Thursday in a statement that Mark was "truly the pioneer of Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square."
"His vision, leadership and sustained commitment to improving downtown Portland help create one of America's great public spaces," Lavey wrote. "Pete was always generous with his time, ideas and enthusiasm on our board of trustees. Both Pete and (his wife) Mary are remarkable citizens who shaped our community with grace, good humor and a belief that Portland could be a world-class city, defined not just by a beautiful skyline but by its public spaces and wonderful people."
Mark, a lover of history, also loaned and donated many documents to the historical society, including those related to World War II, the Declaration of Independence and President John F. Kennedy. Mark and his wife Mary Kridel were also lead donors to the Portland Art Museum. The museum named its expanded modern wing, in the former masonic temple, after the family.
Mark and Kridel, who died in 2008, were often seen having lunch in Portland restaurants.
"Nobody loved Portland as he did and no one was as generous as he was," Oregon Historical Society Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk told OPB Radio.
Fell in love with the city
According to an obituary on the Melvin Mark Companies website, Mark was born March 27, 1926, the youngest of two children of Melvin and Mildred Mark. His sister Lois gave him the nickname "Pete," insisting that he didn't look like a Melvin.
Mark's family lived in Philadelphia for the first several years of his life and moved to New York City in 1940. After graduating from Dewitt Clinton Public High School in 1944, Mark was accepted in the V-5 Naval Aviation Program. He was nearing completion of the program when World War II ended.
He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1948 and joined his father in the commercial real estate business in New York City.
Mark and Kridel were married on May 3, 1951. Mark and Kridel have three children, Linda, Cindy and Jim.
He came to Portland began in 1948 to see the Loyalty Building, a real estate property purchased by his father. Mark decided to stay for several months and "was amazed by the beauty of the city and the friendliness of its citizens," according to the website.
He brought Kridel to Portland on an extended honeymoon, and she too fell in love with the city. They made Portland their home and Mark opened a one-man office of Melvin Mark Properties.
In 2000, he turned the running of his commercial real estate company, Melvin Mark Cos., over to his son Jim Mark, who writes a column for the Business Tribune. The company also developed the Hilton Executive Tower and more recently the Yamhill Marketplace for an office conversion, as well as less well-known offices in Washington County.