Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.

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Norwegian immigrant's family building firm is still going strong after three quarters of a century in family hands.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Tyharra Cozier of Sturgeon Development Partners, on a recent tour of Premier Gear. This is the adaptive reuse/renovation of the Premier Gear & Machine Works factory at 1700 N.W. Thurman St. into creative office by Lorentz Bruun Construction. The company turns 75 this year.

Lorentz Bruun is a name you see on construction sites all over Portland. Often, they are smaller sites: a strip mall here, a warehouse-to-office renovation there. But the name stands out for two reasons. One, it s been around longer than most. The company has been building in the Portland area for 75 years, an eon in business years. And two, while most companies are Anglicized: Andersen, Hoffman, Turner, JE Dunn, R&H, Neil Kelly, this one retains the original name of the founder who immigrated here from Europe in 1946.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Premier Gear is the adaptive reuse/renovation of the Premier Gear & Machine Works factory at 1700 N.W. Thurman St. into creative office by Lorentz Bruun Construction. The company turns 75 this year. As part of the seismic upgrade LBC added steel beams and kept much of the original timber framing. The brown metal crane has been left in place althought it will be decorative in an office.

Lorentz Bruun, a 39-year-old Norwegian immigrant, started then ran the company until passing it on to his son Kelly in 1973, whence it passed to three of his grandchildren, Mark, Kurt and Erik, who run it today.

According to the Portland Business Journal, Lorentz Bruun Construction had revenue of $103 million in 2019, putting it 43rd on the list of Oregon and Southwest Washington's private companies. Hoffman Construction was #1, with $2.15 billion in revenue, and many of the companies on the list were in construction management.

PMG: JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - Premier Gear under construction in late 2019.

Lorentz Bruun Construction celebrated its 75th year in business with the opening of one of its latest renovations, the Premier Gear & Machine Works factory on Northwest Thurman Street. Premier Gear & Machine Works, which made metal parts for engines, expanded the buildings into one block-size unit between 1925 and now. When Premiere moved to the suburbs, they sold the building, a windowless box under the ramp to the Fremont Bridge.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Premier Gear, the adaptive reuse/renovation of the Premier Gear & Machine Works factory at 1700 N.W. Thurman St., by Lorentz Bruun Construction. The large space sits empty for now while TMT Development finds a tenant who wants in-person office space after the pandemic.

Vanessa Sturgeon, president and CEO of TMT Development and Sturgeon Development Partners behind the Premier Gear project, wanted to keep the building's historic character and large floor plan while other developers suggested turning it into mini storage, according to Tyharra Cozier of SPD. Renamed Premier Gear Works, it was supposed to open in summer 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put the office market in reverse. Cozier and Lorentz Bruun's marketing director Angie Cole gave a

tour of the building, which is now ready for tenants but still empty. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Lorentz Bruun marketing manager Angie Cole (right) and Tyharra Cozier of Sturgeon Development Partners, on a recent tour of Premier Gear. This is the adaptive reuse/renovation of the Premier Gear & Machine Works factory at 1700 N.W. Thurman St. into creative office.

"Why destroy something that had 100 year-long history, rather than recreating it and making it beautiful, again? said Cozier.

Working with LRS Architects, the construction company cut holes in the concrete walls and installed vintage looking windows, built an outdoor workspace indented into the building to protect it from the rain, kept the original 30-by-14-inch beams made of Douglas Fir, and added structural steel as part of the seismic upgrade. The five-ton capacity crane hanging from the ceiling remains.

COURTESY RENDERING: LORENTZ BRUUN CONSTRUCTION - A typical Lorentz Bruun Construction building in the Portland area. The company turns 75 this year.

Disused machine tools dot the spaces, now merely decorative, and some cogs have been welded into the banisters as a kind of industrial chic Easter egg. There are freshly poured concrete floors, a recycled timber staircase and a newly added second floor, which runs around the edge of the building like a mezzanine, looking down over the first floor. The space could handle one medium-sized company or be a satellite office for a large corporation. If necessary, the landlord and tenant would get together and subdivide the space with sheetrock for smaller companies.

It's a classic piece of work for Lorentz Bruun, combining close work with the architect and developer to make something that will last another century from almost nothing.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Premier Gear is the adaptive reuse/renovation of the Premier Gear & Machine Works factory at 1700 N.W. Thurman St. into creative office by Lorentz Bruun Construction. The company turns 75 this year. As part of the seismic upgrade LBC added steel beams and kept much of the original timber framing. Some old cogs were found and kept as decoration.

Mark Bruun, president of Lorentz Bruun Construction, answers questions about what makes Lorentz Bruun different.

1. What does Lorentz Bruun Construction do better than other GCs in Portland?

Portland is somewhat unique in that we really have a great group of qualified GCs who do a genuinely good job. My opinion isn t the one that matters. It s all about the customers. The fact that 90% of our business is generated from returning clients or client referrals tells me that our clients feel that we are doing the best job of meeting their specific needs. We have 75 years of experience and have completed thousands upon thousands of projects of all types and sizes. Not many other GCs in Portland can say that.

2. How does an intergenerational family business work?

We're a pretty 'flat' organization and not only are decisions made quickly between the three of us (Mark, Erik and Kurt), but we have a great company culture that helps drive our success. Each generation, as it takes over, brings their own insight and ideas to the running of the business, and that builds the knowledge transfer that naturally occurs in a family-run business so that we're constantly developing and growing. There has to be strong communication throughout the business. Without that, no business can work.

3. What new methods are you championing?

We've championed quite a few new building methods over the last 75 years. We were one of the first GCs in Portland to construct a concrete tilt-up building, and we worked on the first Passive House project in the U.S. Sustainability is important to us, and we have taken on a few historic preservation projects recently that require specialist skills such as seismic retrofitting. Portland has a rich architectural history, and it s satisfying to work on projects that revive the lifespan of some of the city's older buildings.

One of the methods we've really been developing lately is design-build because it has obvious benefits for the project and the client. Having a contractor like us working with and presenting a design-build bid with an architect creates efficiencies for the client, and we feel it puts the project on a more stable track from the outset, which ultimately saves time and money in most projects.

GREATEST HITS

COURTESY PHOTO: LORENTZ BRUUN CONSTRUCTION - Historic Slab construction in the 1950 at Western Oregon University.  Lorentz Bruun poured each slab and lifted it all the way up.

COURTESY PHOTO: LORENTZ BRUUN  - At Reed College (Right) is Lorentz Bruun, founder and on the (Left) is Ernest Boyd MacNaughton, president of the First National Bank of Oregon.  Roy Cameron is the carpenter in the middle.

COURTESY PHOTO: LORENTZ BRUUN CONSTRUCTION - The renovation by Lorentz Bruun Construction transformed the Custom House in Old Town into a one-of-a-kind asset, featuring stunning architectural features

COURTESY RENDERING: LORENTZ BRUUN CONSTRUCTION - 808 on Alder, a Portland bioscience lab, built by Lorentz Bruun Construction.

OTHER NOTABLE LBC PROJECTS

The firm, in 1985, completed the Broadway Bridge renovation project in Portland. It renovated the Rose Garden/Moda Center, and in 2009, it did repairs at Collins Lake Resort on Mount Hood under a tight schedule because of the weather. Lorentz Bruun is known for its ground-up construction, seismic retrofits, renovation and tenant improvements of residential and commercial buildings and infrastructure construction and repair. It has projects in Washington, Idaho, Montana and California. Current projects of note in the Portland metro area include 808 on Alder, a life science lab project in the Eastside Innovation Corridor; Water Tower, a two-building creative office renovation in Johns Landing; NVA Compassion-First, a hospital for pets in Vancouver in a former Whole Foods store; and Fountain Place Apartments, a 74-unit apartment renovation. The firm recently completed a seismic retrofit of the Leftbank Building at 240 Broadway.


Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
971-204-7874
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