After a decade in the hands of the Portland Development Commission, the four blocks that make up the Burnside Bridgehead all appear to be headed for redevelopment.
The renovation of the former Convention Plaza, a warehouse-turned-office building, is about to start another new life as Eastside Exchange, a creative office building designed to attract the clean tech and software industry firms the PDC covets.
And development projects are on tap for the three other parcels, including apartments, retail and more creative office.
Some of those offices may come in the form of a bombastic office building, painted in a pattern inspired by wrapping paper, dubbed The Dumbbell. The developers of the project, announced Friday, are seeking investors through a Kickstarter-like website for real estate development.
“We feel somewhat gratified, after the many years we’ve been trying to make development happen on the property, to see it happen,” said PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton said Friday. “And to see it happen the way it’s happening.”
The PDC paid $11 million for the Burnside Bridgehead land starting in 1999, with the idea of selling for redevelopment all at once. They went so far as to select Opus Northwest as developer, only to see the plan derailed by the recession.
Enter Central Eastside developer Brad Malsin, who had vied for and lost the first shot at developing the site.
His plan to renovate the aged Convention Plaza had been tossed out by the PDC, but in the agency’s renewed plan to develop the bridgehead piece by piece, it became the project that would springboard other development nearby.
“This required a very patient owner,” Quentin said. “We felt many years ago that this is an important, strategic location to make something happen in here. We had many false starts that ultimately cost money, but I think in the end it’s paid off.”
PDC sold the building to Malsin’s Beam Development for $2.3 million, then gave the company a loan in the same amount toward the $15 million renovation. The loan can be bought down, possibly to zero, by luring tenants in PDC’s targeted industries and other through other concessions.
“The adaptive reuse of a 100,000 square foot on a speculative basis would not have been possible without our partnership with the PDC,” Malsin said at an open house on Thursday. “The public-private partnership allowed us to move forward with this.”
Signed tenants include app-maker Trapit, marketing firm Sightworks and efficiency consultancy Cascade Energy, which is taking 28,000 square feet. Malsin said the building is about 50 percent leased.
Beam and Portland-based Urban Development Partners have an agreement to purchase another bridgehead site for $2.3 million, where they plan to build apartments and office space.
Nearby, Key Development Corp. of Hood River plans a 16-story apartment building. PDC has an agreement to sell the site to Key for $1.5 million, the appraised value minus the cost of environmental cleanup from a previous use. That company also plans a retail project in the area.
And on Friday, Guerrilla Development Co. launched a campaign to crowdsource investment for the remaining site.
The firm has proposed a 30,000-square-foot Class A office building with 5,500 square feet of retail at street level designed by Guerrilla’s Kevin Cavenaugh. Two six-story towers would be connected by a skybridge — hence “The Dumbbell” name. The outside would be hand-painted in a pattern inspired by floral wrapping paper.
“Every building that Kevin designs is somewhat unconventional,” said Guerrilla’s Andres Ochoa. “There’s nothing neutral about this project. If you drive across the Burnside Bridge, you’re gonna love or you’re not going to love it.”
Working with the Washington, D.C., firm Fundrise, Guerrilla could accept investments from anyone online. Currently the company is “testing the waters” to measure interest, but not actually soliciting investments.
The concept is similar to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, but investments — as small as $100 — come with a slice of ownership in the project, and therefore a piece of the return it generates.
“The real idea is to give everybody access, everybody the ability to participate,” said Dan Miller, cofounder of Fundrise. “It opens up an asset class that previously you had to have a really high net worth or be in the real estate industry to have the opportunity to invest in.”
Guerrilla is seeking $2 million toward the $8.5 million project.
— Elliot Njus