New retailers add life to S. Waterfront
Portland Business Journal - August 17, 2007
by Wendy Culverwell
Business Journal staff writer
Tina Chong was a virtual pioneer when she staked out a 1,400-square-foot claim in the South Waterfront and opened a small grocery.
Now, she's getting company. As of today, four businesses are up and running in the Meriwether condominiums, the first building to open in the 130-acre neighborhood. The Meriwether includes more than 270 residential units and about 7,000 square feet of street-level retail space, all leased.
The joint opening of a Japanese-French fusion restaurant, a cleaner and an espresso shop is an important development in the evolution of the South Waterfront from industrial land to high-rise urban neighborhood.
This fall, retailers such as Umpqua Bank, Pizza a Fetta and Pampered Pooch will open at the John Ross condominiums, which has about 20,000 square feet of retail space.
To date, the neighborhood has about 35,000 square feet of retail space, in the Meriwether, the John Ross and Atwater Place. Leasing hasn't started for several other projects in the offing, including the 3720 condominiums and Trammel Crow's Lexan apartment building.
When complete, the South Waterfront is expected to have between 100,000 and 200,000 square feet devoted to retail space.
Chong didn't need to be sold on the South Waterfront as the location for her business, called Urbana Market.
A Beaverton resident, she sold her former grocery in Old Town/Chinatown and was on the lookout for a spot to site an upscale store. She drove by the construction zone south of the Ross Island Bridge and immediately called Ashley Heichelbech, the Urban Works Real Estate broker working on leasing retail space at South Waterfront. She signed a five-year lease with a five-year renewal option and opened for business in May.
* Bella Espresso, a small Oregon chain with locations in Cannon Beach and Tanasbourne, took a 2,100-square-foot corner space at the Meriwether. Owners Julie and Kevin Countryman said the community-oriented focus of South Waterfront suits their business model.
The Countrymans and partner James Faurentino self-funded the new store on their own, as did most of their neighbors. Though they don't disclose finances, the partners were confident enough in the future of South Waterfront to sign a 15-year lease.
* At 900 square feet Bee Tailors and Cleaners is the smallest addition to the neighborhood. It's the third location for the Portland chain, owned by Jay Bleich.
Bleich leased space more than a year ago, before construction of the Meriwether wrapped up.
"It just looked like it was going to be a high-growth area," said Bleich, who self-funded the new location.
Bleich said he encountered only one skeptic when he considered expanding. His attorney suggested negotiating an escape clause in his lease if the numbers didn't pan out.
Bleich declined and signed to a 10-year agreement.
The South Waterfront has a daytime population of 1,200 to 1,600 people, including about 700 residents in the Meriwether condominiums and the neighboring John Ross condominiums, and 1,000 employees and visitors to the Oregon Health & Science University waterfront building.
Tenants will start moving into Atwater Place's 10,000 square feet of retail space next spring.
* Of all the people opening locations at South Waterfront, perhaps none is more busy than Sung Kim, of Le Hana Restaurant Group.
The Korean-born restaurateur opens Le Hana, a fine dining restaurant that fuses French cuisine and sushi, at South Waterfront today.
The first time he visited South Waterfront, the district was a massive construction zone and the future of the Portland Aerial Tram was very much in doubt. Undaunted, he visited the sales center and was convinced he needed to be in business there.
Kim is also considering opening a sushi restaurant and a tea business.
"I will be investing down here. I like the neighborhood a lot," he said.