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DAVID F. ASHTON - Lorentz Bruun Constructions operations are carried on by the founders son, Kelly Bruun, and grandsons Mark Bruun, Kurt Bruun and Erik Bruun - shown here atop the new footbridge theyve built for TriMet across the Union Pacific Brooklyn Yard at S.E. Lafayette Street.Since 1946, when company patriarch and namesake of Lorentz Bruun Construction started the company after emigrating from Norway, this family-owned Inner Southeast Portland firm has prided itself on building high-quality projects.


Mark Bruun, third-generation executive of the firm, invited THE BEE to see the progress of the TriMet MAX Orange Line Lafayette Street Pedestrian Bridge in the Brooklyn neighborhood on May 12. In their offices, we were greeted by the company owner, Kelly Bruun, and met two other sons involved in the family business, Kurt Bruun and Erik Bruun.

Lorentz Bruun Construction was one of the local contractors hired by TriMet to build Orange Line Light Rail projects, including the Lafayette Street Pedestrian Bridge and the Bybee Station.

“TriMet came to me and said they wanted to put a bridge across the railyard; that they were going to replace the old one,” Kelly said. “But, they wanted to take my construction yard [adjacent to the site, for the bridge project]. That’s the only place we have to grow, stage materials, and someday expand our steel fabrication shop.

“They brought out a drawing of what they had in mind,” Kelly continued. “It was an ugly concrete bridge, made of pre-stressed concrete beams. It had long switchbacks for bicycles and handicapped access. Since we’re headquartered here, I didn’t want visitors to our building to see this concrete monstrosity going across the railyard.”

Instead, he suggested an open web-truss-style bridge. “As you can see, the new design will be a positive attraction for our neighborhood,” Kelly smiled.

History traced back to Oregon Trail

Being early settlers here, the Bruun family has earned the right to have strong feelings about the area.

“The great grand-daughter of Rev. Clinton Kelly, the family of Lorentz’s wife, settled in Inner Southeast Portland in 1846, when it was still the Oregon Territory,” Kelly remarked. “When my father met my mother, she lived on S.E. 42nd Avenue, a couple streets south of Woodstock Boulevard. My father and mother married shortly after he emigrated and moved to the Portland area.

“I grew up living in Eastmoreland, attended Duniway Grade School, and graduated from Cleveland High School – and just never left here!” Kelly Bruun said.

He started pulling nails out of concrete form boards at age 11, and continued to work for his dad through high school, and even while he attended Oregon State University, where he studied to become an engineer.

“At the time, my father was building the Kidder Hall Library,” Kelly recalled. “I was able to help oversee these two projects going on while I was in college.” Nowadays, it would be called participating in a student internship program. “But I think, for my father, he considered it more like fortuitous free labor!”

After he got his degree, and following two years working for another construction company, Kelly went to work in the family business.

“Education was very important to my father,” Kelly commented, as he pointed to a photo of his dad helping to erect Reed College’s original entrance monument – which his father donated to the school. It includes a time capsule, detailing the Bruun family’s history in the area.

As a youngster, Mark, his eldest son, also scraped and painted concrete forms, as did his two other boys. After earning undergraduate and masters degrees in engineering, contracting management, and geology, all three sons eventually joined the family firm.

“Like my father, I was skeptical about having my sons work in the business at first,” Kelly said. “But, I’ve got to tell you, since they have come on board, the company has grown exponentially.

“They are the third generation of the company,” Kelly said, and then added with a twinkle in his eye, “We have the fourth generation on the way!”

The Brooklyn-based business these days employs about 100 workers, and as it has for over half a century, continues to help build Inner Southeast.

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