The developer of a controversial 81-unit apartment building on Southeast Division Street is hiring 24-hour security after three trespassers started a small fire inside the building early this morning.
The 37th Street Apartments has become a symbol for citywide ire toward large apartments without on-site parking—especially after the city halted construction and Mayor Charlie Hales ordered a new permit delayed until after a City Council hearing.
Three trespassers broke into the 37th Street Apartments early this morning, set fire to one piece of multi-page blueprints, and sprayed fire extinguishers before police and firefighters were called to the scene, says Portland Police Lt. Mike Marshman.
Marshman says the three men in their twenties will be charged with criminal mischief. They were intoxicated and not ideologically opposed to the project, he says.
"Fire investigators said it was drunk kids messing around," Marshman says. "They were just drunk and opportunistic. It just happened to be in that apartment complex."
But David Mullens, a representative for Beaverton-based developer Dennis Sackhoff, says the developer will now hire a 24-hour security guard for the suspended construction site.
"We're concerned about arsonists," he says. "When we had to shut this building down, it became our number-one concern. We have a wooden frame building sitting there."
The fire comes less than a week before City Council will hold a hearing on new rules mandating on-site parking for buildings over a certain size. Judah Gold-Markel, whose Richmond Neighbors for Responsible Growth has led that charge, condemned the fire today to WW.
But Mullens says the fire has heightened Sackhoff's worries about security for a shut-down construction site.
"It's one thing to deal with neighbors," Mullens says. "It's another thing to deal with arsonists."