Park Avenue ripens with redevelopment
Thursday, May 03, 2007
By Fred Leeson
Former Mayor Vera Katz and city planners figured it would take 10 to 15 years to fulfill a vision they laid out three years ago for Southwest Park and Ninth avenues.
They got it wrong.
"We're seeing redevelopment of the Park Avenue plan sooner rather than later," says Joe Zehnder, a city planner who helped craft ideas for the narrow, pedestrian-friendly streets between Salmon and Burnside. "We're well under way toward implementing the pieces."
Private enterprise is stepping in to grab opportunities at surprising speed. Elements of the plan call for ground-floor retail, preservation of old buildings, mixed retail and housing and more parking.
Here is how several projects fit those guidelines:
Pastini Pastaria, a local chain, will open a restaurant this month in the revamped ground floor of the Studio Building at 919 S.W. Taylor St.
TMT Development, controlled by Tom Moyer, plans to restore the long-vacant, seven-story Cornelius Hotel at Park and Alder into a boutique hotel. The timing and number of rooms aren't known yet.
Renovation of the former Brasserie Montmartre nightclub at 626 S.W. Park is beginning. New owners of the building, the architecturally engaging 1912 Esquire Hotel, plan to remodel upper stories into housing.
TMT Development is finalizing plans for a 35-story office, condo and retail tower, to be called Park Avenue West, on the narrow block bounded by Park, Ninth, Morrison and Yamhill. Two or three lower levels are intended for retail.
Harsch Investment Properties, new owner of the former Federal Reserve Bank building at 915 S.W. Oak St., has opportunities for adding offices, housing and retail on a site that includes a parking lot ripe for redevelopment. Plans and timing haven't been disclosed.
Construction is expected to begin in December on a South Park Block that will sit atop six levels of underground parking at Park and Ninth between Yamhill and Taylor. A total makeover is due for O'Bryant Square near the north end of the corridor, but timing will depend on fundraising.
Decades ago, Park Avenue was a key location for downtown retailers. Claudia Plaza, a Portland Development Commission project manager, says it can become one again.
"Many properties are in a confined area, and we see a lot of opportunity at the same time," she says. "There are retailers that want to be in our city."
Key vacancies include Carl Greve Jewelers, moving one block from its 731 S.W. Morrison St. site, plus the Schumacher Furs store being vacated at 811 S.W. Morrison. Another retail/office opportunity awaits in the six-story Park Building at Park and Alder.
Plaza says national retailers want bigger stores and higher ceilings than offered in Park Avenue's older buildings. But the funky, old-time structures offer a novel ambience critical to the corridor's pedestrian friendliness.
"A real important piece," Plaza says, "is to retain our own independent retailers."
Fred Leeson: 503-294-5946; firstname.lastname@example.org