An Occupy Portland committee member has contacted a downtown property owner about the protest movement leasing two vacant floors above the Lotus Cardroom and Cafe.
Allen Cohen, president of the Eugene-based corporation, House of Gold, Inc., that owns the building at 223 SW Salmon Street, confirms he would consider renting the space to Occupy Portland. But he said today he hasn't received any solid offer.
"I don't even know who the renters would be," Cohen said. "It's sure as heck not gonna be 500 people marching."
WW has reported previously that Occupy Portland is looking for an indoor space as winter descends on the two parks where Occupiers have camped out for the past month.
Michael Withey, a member of Occupy Portland's Finance Committee, said he will propose to General Assembly as soon as Friday evening that the Occupiers make an offer for the empty office space on the second and third floors above the Lotus Cafe. Located kitty-corner to the two Occupied parks, the Lotus is a famed City Hall power-lunch spot, and the two floors above it have been vacant for at least three decades.
Occupy Portland committee members are also continuing talks with a least
two outside organizations about getting a bond for an indoor space.
Withey tells WW the plan does not mean Occupiers are wavering in their commitment to staying in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares.
"What we're doing is expanding our operations into a building," Withey said Thursday night, "so we can have a roof and heat for our electronics and, more than anything, desks for our committees. To be inside a building like that would give us not just cohesiveness but a sense of professionality to it."
Cohen said he had not discussed a rental price with Withey, who hopes Occupiers could strike a better deal by contributing restoration work.
"I'm a businessman," Cohen said. "I told him I would consider him if he would remodel it to the city [code], and let me tell you, that's gonna take something. I haven't even come close to making a deal with these people."
Several Occupiers said they would also need to assure the homeless people who now depend on the camp's kitchen that renting office space does not mean the movement is abandoning them.
"We would never desert them," Withey said. "So part of that proposal will include that we will not leave this park until they all have a safe place to pop a tent."
The desire for indoor working space is no secret at the Occupy camps, where at least 500 people are camping in 40-degree weather, and an assistant city fire marshal has demanded the immediate shutdown of a 10,000-watt generator.
But a move indoors is seen by many Occupy Portland leaders as a watershed in deciding what the economic protest movement's ultimate goals and identity will be.
"I know one of the fears is that we could end up being kind of like Greenpeace," said Micaiah Dutt, an Occupier since the initial Oct. 6 march. "What's next? Are we gonna have paid canvassers?"