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The 27 construction cranes in the Portland metro area show that development continues despite a wild year.

PMG: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The new crane for a 33-story tower on the downtown Portland site at 936 S.W. Washington St. A Ritz Carlton hotel will rise on the former site of a parking lot and food cart pod in 2022.

Portland's boomtown buzz may have waned slightly in 2020, but development is still humming compared with a few years ago.

The number of construction cranes towering about the Portland metro region dropped by one — from 28 to 27 — between quarter one and quarter three of 2020, according to international construction cost surveyors and consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall.

It's also a decrease from the 30 cranes reported in 2019. But the 27 rigs currently deployed in the region still dwarfs the 14 reported back in 2015.

"Downtown remains a hotspot for new construction, with two of the hospitality sector's three cranes — the Ritz-Carlton Tower and Hyatt Centric Hotel — located there," according to a report. "The large Nike Headquarters project just outside of Portland has been recently completed."

Here's the breakdown by sector:

• Mixed use: 12 cranes

• Commercial: 6 cranes

• Hospitality: 3 cranes

• Education: 2 cranes

• Health care: 2 cranes

• Public/civic: 2 cranes

FILE  - Construction cranes loom over downtown Portland in 2006.

Daniel Junge, co-resident manager for RLB's Portland office, says the Rose City region's construction market has, to some extent, already plateaued — but will it crater?

"The crystal ball has never been cloudier," said Junge.

The company is keeping up a rosy outlook for 2021 — but a resurgence of coronavirus cases could continue to weaken the market for office towers and downtown storefronts.

"We're already seeing a huge softening in commercial real estate and a huge increase in available square footage," he said in a phone interview. "The larger macroeconomic trends are going to be a downward pressure on market activity going into the new year."

Builders and contractors have largely adapted to the need for social distancing on job sites, Junge said, but the switch from a daily commute to work-from-home life for white collar workers will likely create new winners and losers in the construction field.

"I think we're going to see a tremendous growth in IT data centers," he said. "Any time you have a big contraction in the market, you're going to have players that drop out. But that creates opportunities for the firms that remain standing."


Zane Sparling
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