The surface parking lots that dot downtown Portland between the Burnside and Morrison bridges won’t be flat for long if local real estate owners realize an ambitious development vision to transform one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
In between local landmarks like Voodoo Doughnut, Skidmore Fountain and the Portland Saturday Market, the Goodman family hopes to nestle 11 new buildings, $1.5 billion in investment, a grocery store and an untold number of new office workers, shoppers and residents.
The Goodmans recently unveiled the proposal, which they call the “Ankeny Blocks,”in anticipation of zoning changes the cityplans to make that would allow developers to build taller buildings downtown. Five of the Ankeny Blocks buildings could rise as high as 460 feet, which would rank them among the tallest in the city. (The KOIN Center, by comparison, is 509 feet and 35 stories tall. The PacWest Center is 418 feet and 29 floors.) Other new buildings would climb to 325 feet, 250 feet and 130 feet, respectively.
Three of the new buildings would be limited to 75 feet because of height restrictions in the Skidmore Historic District.
“There’s very few cities in the country where one property owner has this much development opportunity,” said Greg Goodman, co-president of Downtown Development Group, the real estate arm of the family business that started when Goodman’s father began buying up parking lots in the 1950s.
Goodman runs the company with his brother, Mark. Greg Goodman’s son, Matt, is vice president. They sold the parking operation, City Center Parking, in 2013 but retained ownership of the land.
Unlike other massive development projects such as the South Waterfront’s Zidell Yards and the effort to transform the site of the U.S. post office in the Pearl District, the Ankeny Blocks architects aren’t starting from a clean slate.
The downtown area – between West Burnside Street, Southwest Washington Street, Southwest Sixth Avenue and the Willamette River – is already home to some of Portland’s oldest buildings, as well as businesses like Airbnb, Deloitte and Puppet Labs. The hotly anticipated Pine Street Market will open there April 1. And the MAX light rail already runs along Southwest First Avenue.
The challenge for the Goodmans will be to weave new high-rises into the fabric of one of Portland’s best-known areas. They’re embracing it, family members said – they see the area’s authenticity and grit as assets.
“We don’t want to make this neighborhood something it’s not,” said Matt Goodman. “It already has a lot going for it.”
Ethan Seltzer, a Portland State University professor of urban studies and the former president of the city’s planning commission, said the Goodmans’ development proposal has “been a long time coming” and called it “really good news for the city.”
“Surface parking lots should go away,” Seltzer said. “The historic district has become kind of a de facto parking district supporting the rest of downtown, and it’s kind of held back the development that the district needs.”
The Goodmans are taking a mixed-use approach and hope to bring both office and residential uses to their new buildings, with ground-floor restaurants and retail. In the office space, they’re pining for a major tech tenant and will design some floors for the single-user, open, windowed setup those firms prefer.
The Goodmans said they are in conversations with potential tenants but declined to reveal names. They are talking, too, with the Portland Development Commission, which could potentially use public urban renewal dollars to help finance parking or lure a grocery store.
The family is also considering taking advantage of a city program that would grant the Goodmans 10 years of property tax breaks in exchange for making 20 percent of the residential units affordable to working-class Portlanders.
Developer John Russell also owns property in the Ankeny Blocks area. He has been in touch with the Goodmans and said he is “thrilled, to say the least” about their plans.
“Having any activity close to my properties is a good thing, but maybe even more importantly, what is happening in the tech world is that they need big space,” Russell said. “So for Google to establish a presence here, or Amazon, any of the big users of space, they can’t lease space in any of my buildings because they don’t have enough area.”
The new Goodman buildings, Russell said, will “open up a whole new marketplace for the city.”
None of the Ankeny Blocks property is for sale, the Goodmans said. They don’t consider themselves developers, either. The family tends to enter into long-term land lease agreements with developers and investors once an agreement for a project is reached. They say the market will dictate the development timeline for the Ankeny Blocks, but that they are eager to get started.
The Goodmans are also planning a new tower on another parking lot near PSU, at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Harrison Street. Chicago-based Core Spaces LLC is still seeking design approval for the 15-story building, which would include 424 apartments.
Greg Goodman was also a force behind the revival of the West End, an area between West Burnside, Southwest Alder Street, Ninth Avenue and 13th Avenue where the family owns buildings.
“The West End is a ‘hood, and we want to keep it a ‘hood,” Goodman said in 2012. He recently recalled shunning a Quiznos there in favor of Blue Star Donuts.
“The vitality and authenticity of neighborhoods, to us, is really important,” Matt Goodman said.
His father added that the goal of the Ankeny Blocks is to “create a district that is nationally representative of what Portland is all about.”
Article and image source: The Oregonian