The New Copper Penny, the controversial East Portland nightclub that for years flummoxed city efforts to redevelop the Lents neighborhood, has sold to a real-estate developer who plans to turn it into an apartment building.
Palindrome Communities closed today with club owner Saki Tzantarmas on a sale of the property at the intersection of Southeast 92nd Avenue and Foster Road, say officials at the Portland Development Commission, which will help redevelop the property.
"We're very pleased," says PDC spokeswoman Ann Mangan. "It's a great outcome for Lents. It's a great piece of the big picture in terms of jump-starting development."
The terms of the sale were not immediately available.
In February, the PDC approved increasing its loan to Palindrome to $8.1 million, for a project that is expected to include ground-floor shopping, 126 affordable apartments, and 19 market-rate apartments.
Palindrome owner Chad Renneker and Tzantarmas could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tzantarmas, a Greek immigrant and neighborhood fixture, repeatedly warred with city officials over a price tag for his property—which sits in the center of a neighborhood where the city spent $103 million on grindingly slow urban renewal efforts over 16 years.
In 2014, WW wrote about one round of negotiations, which broke down into accusations that a city official had called the Tzantarmas family "terrorists holding the neighborhood hostage." (Allies of Tzantarmas had suggested that if they didn't get their preferred price, they might turn the New Copper Penny into a marijuana dispensary.)
For four decades, the New Copper Penny has been Lents’ defining nightspot. With its towering sign featuring a glowing red profile of Abraham Lincoln, it may be the most recognized landmark in East Portland. It has been the setting for Outkast dance parties, weddings, bikini contests and countless off-track bets on horse races.
The New Copper Penny is also everything city officials do not want Lents to be: dated, disreputable and a little dangerous.
The PDC has another vision for Lents: It wants the neighborhood to become a success story for Portland planning, with the variety of shops and restaurants that have transformed places like North Mississippi Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street. And securing the land on which the New Copper Penny sits is key to that vision.
Tzantarmas’ view is simpler: He wants $5.5 million to go away.
Correction: This post originally stated that the PDC helped finance the sale. It did not, but will loan $8.1 million to Palindrome to redevelop the property. WW regrets the error.