ULI Tour of the Central Eastside Industrial District

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Participants of the ULI Central Eastside Industrial District Tour listen to a talk atop Viewpoint Construction Software's newest office building, which is currently under contruction on SE 3rd and Water Ave.

Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) is evolving into an economic hub, providing jobs in both the old and new economy. Not only is the CEID already home to a variety of business centers, but the area is teeming with opportunity, full of untapped development potential.

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) — a nonprofit organization focused on educating its members about the trends occurring in the development and land-use industries —hosts events at various locations throughout the year. This past July former Mackenzie employee Ryan Schera, as a board member of ULI Northwest’s Young Leaders’ Group, participated in the planning, coordination and leading of a ULI tour throughout the Central Eastside for the ULI Regional Conference. We were expecting about 20 people to sign up for the Eastside tour and were surprised when over 50 people were on the sign-up sheet. There is an overwhelming interest in the redevelopment opportunities within cities’ older industrial districts, which was made apparent by the diversity of those who attended our tour — there were participants from Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., Oregon, California, and even Hong Kong, representing a variety of industry professions and age groups.

The tour officially kicked off on the rooftop deck of the Eastside Exchange building on the north side of the Burnside Bridgehead. Brad and Jonathan Malsin of Beam Development gave a tour of the building and discussed the positive outcomes and lessons learned about
the renovation project. Key discussion points included the risk of older buildings needing seismic upgrades, the necessity of Urban Renewal dollars in order to make these types of projects pencil and the need for parking from a lending standpoint as opposed to from a tenant need standpoint.

After leaving the Eastside Exchange building, we hopped on the streetcar and took it to its current last stop near OMSI. From there we walked to a spot near the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge where Jillian Detweiler, policy director in the Portland Mayor’s office and former director of real estate for TriMet, gave a presentation about the opportunities to create new transit-oriented development (TOD) in the CEID. Once construction of the bridge is complete, the Central Eastside will be connected to the heart of the city by foot, bike and streetcar like never before, which will create opportunities for more mixed employment uses. Jillian, very diplomatically, explained the opposing viewpoints between some current property owners who oppose zoning changes
and individuals at METRO and OMSI who are embracing it.

Following this presentation, Paul Carlson, former senior VP of OMSI, took a break from his fresh retirement to give an engaging talk in Mackenzie’s office at the RiverEast Center over lunch. He discussed the recently completed OMSI District Master Plan, which envisions a mix of TOD, including hotels, increased commercial and employment density, and parking garages.

The tour concluded across the street from Mackenzie’s office in the former PGE building currently being renovated for Viewpoint Construction Software. After a quick cleanup to clear out a narrow path through the freshly re-finished concrete floor, we threw on some hard hats (huge thanks to Turner Construction) and led the group through the construction site. We scaled the temporary exterior stairs to the rooftop where Adam Tyler, design and development manager at Killian Pacific, gave a presentation about the adaptive reuse project. From our rooftop vantage point, we could see two other Killian properties—the burned out building at 3rd and Clay (aka 240 Clay) and the former Speed’s Auto Body site. Adam touched on Killian’s investment in CEID, discussing not only their plans for these three properties, but also the Goat Blocks further east.

Overall, the tour was a hit and all of the attendees were very appreciative of the experience and thankful to have been a part of it. There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the character and vibe of our district, as well as its potential and plans for further growth.

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