Portland's Best construction projects of the decade
Park Avenue West Tower
750 S.W. Ninth Ave.
For half a decade, the block where Park Avenue West now sits was a hole in the ground.
Rusted rebar and muddy pools were a constant reminder of financing drying up in the Great Recession. Initially set for a 2010 opening, work was suspended in 2009. This project by Tom Moyer's TMT Development became known as Tom's Ruins, in an echo of Henry Villard's Ruins, when the Portland Hotel was halted by the Panic of 1884.
It's classic Portland in that the developer traded the space that became Director Park to exceed the height limit of Park Avenue West. With the financing restored in 2011, work resumed in 2013, and the 30-story building opened in 2016. Law firm Stoel Rives is the primary tenant with 11 floors. It symbolizes the struggle that places such as the Ritz Carlton will have when they open next door to Target — a Class-A client trying to activate traditionally dull downtown Portland. At street level, it's not exciting, with storefronts for Pendleton and Charles Schwab, but the views are fabulous. And it's proof that whether you like Portland's financial climate or not, wait five years, and it will change.
The Fair-Haired Dumbbell
11 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Looking like a 3-D version of a logo wall from an awards show — or perhaps a Louis Vuitton handbag guest-edited by
Takashi Murakami — the boxy little office building at the east end of the Burnside Bridge shows Portland can still be wacky in design and creative in financing.
Federal rules changed in 2012 to allow crowdfunding that gives a slice of company ownership — not just a gift. Kevin Cavenaugh's Guerrilla Development embraced that change, making one-tenth of the budget open to the sub-million-dollar investor class. As he told Oregon Public Broadcasting, "These are the deals that typically take place on the 17th fairway of a country club golf course." Even if the design sticks in your craw as you sail past on MLK, you have to appreciate that the Dumbbell is sticking it to the man. And there's more: Guerrilla also built the Zipper, with lenticular siding on Sandy Boulevard, and the Tree Farm, opening in February 2020, which has 56 live trees in giant silver pots on the outside, at the east end of the Morrison Bridge. Keep Portland weird.
OHSU Knight Cancer Research Building
2720 S.W. Moody Ave.
Oregon Health and Science University made a push into cancer research. It put the breakthroughs of Dr. Paul Druker in fighting leukemia front and center as a way of raising money from private donors as well as from the Oregon taxpayer.
Opened in September 2018, it has a simple mission: "ending cancer as we know it."
The 320,000-square-foot building's design is supposed to facilitate interactions between scientists, in the hope that conversations will stimulate great ideas. Corner offices have been turned into meeting rooms with a view, and bosses work in the trenches (cubes) with their junior colleagues.
The Oregon State Legislature provided $160 million of the total $190 million in funding for the
seven-floor facility, with the remaining $30 million coming from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, issued a $1 billion fundraising challenge to OHSU, completed after just 22 months.
Slabtown Sewer Replacement Project (ongoing)
When Slabtown was first built up, it consisted of a series of mills and woodshops with a few streets of housing.
What was once an area of ravines, creeks and lakes has been built over and filled in over the decades. Tanner Creek (which runs under the Timbers and Thorns field, Providence Park) ran above ground from the West Hills to Couch Lake, which is where Union Station is today.
As big wood moved out, it became a warehouse and industrial district. However, as the trickle of people moving into new apartments has grown to a flood, Slabtown and the Pearl needed a better sewer system. Most of the sewer pipes were installed beyond a century ago and were made of concrete and vitrified clay.
Enter the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) and its ongoing Slabtown Sewer Replacement Project between Northwest Thurman and Overton streets and 12th to 21st avenues.
Today's replacements are big, green, and plastic.
The project is repairing 8,400 feet (more than one and a half miles) of sewer mains in streets — some of which are more than 115 years old and deteriorating due to age. Crews are repairing service connections that connect properties to the sewer system, replacing stormwater inlets and inlet pipes, and repairing 46 maintenance holes.
Crews still use the open trench construction method, which means lots of flaggers, steel plates and road closures. Dealing with conflicting gas and water utilities underground also has dragged out the schedule.
Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center
120 N.E. Holladay St.
The state-backed Hyatt designed to service the convention center had its soft opening on Dec. 19, 2019. That's when the construction company turned it over to the Hyatt Group, and the first guests trickled in. It should receive its real test at the end of February when the first big convention is booked at the newly-renovated Oregon Convention Center.
Mortenson Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development Bob Solfelt said he has a picture taken 30 years ago of a sign saying "The future home of the Convention Center Hotel."
Many hoteliers in the private sector decried the project as a government boondoggle. But in the end, they lost to the economic development sector. State-subsidized hotels and convention centers are typical in big American cities. A group of hotel owners filed a lawsuit, claiming a decision by Metro regional government to use lodging taxes to subsidize the construction of the hotel should be referred to voters.
Before it could reach the Oregon Supreme Court, however, Metro (which runs the convention center) and the group dropped all lawsuits and greenlighted the project. Work began in 2017.
The 14-story upscale hotel features 600 rooms, 39,000 square feet of meeting space, three food and beverage outlets, a Regency Club, and a Hyatt StayFit Gym. The hotel could serve patrons of the Oregon Convention Center, Legacy Medical Research Institute, Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Lloyd Center mall.
On December 18, Xenia Hotels & Resorts announced it had acquired the hotel for $190 million, or approximately $317,000 per key.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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