After Remaining Empty for 30 Years, an Iconic Northwest Portland Building Is Gone. What Other Ghosts Remain?

We’re asking readers to tell us about other properties like the Quality Pie building.

In May, a long-empty commercial building at the corner of Northwest 23rd Avenue and Northrup Street disappeared with the swing of a wrecking ball.

Until 1992, the low-slung masonry structure contained a beloved late-night hangout, Quality Pie. But as the Alphabet District morphed from a string of low-rent housing and one-tap taverns into a cluster of boutiques and top-flight restaurants, the building remained dark.

Restaurateurs and property investors made repeated attempts to rent or buy the property, to no avail.

Broker Mark New recalls presenting the owners with a proposal from a well-financed drugstore chain. “Nothing happened,” New recalls. “It didn’t make sense.”

In 2007, the Portland Tribune tried to unravel the mystery of why such a valuable piece of property sat unused. Nobody could say for sure. “It really defies logic,” Richard Singer, who owns several properties on Northwest 23rd, told the Trib then.

Part of the mystery is why the owners, who appear to have other real estate investments, would forgo millions of dollars in rent for the past 30 years. Public records show that a limited liability company named Langberg, Merrill & Pagni owned the property. Its owners lived in Oregon, Washington and California.

Over the years, they’ve never talked about why they let their building remain empty. Neither they nor their Portland attorney, Gary Roberts, immediately responded to WW’s requests for comment.

But in the end, things turned out OK. Records show they sold the building in early 2019 to Vancouver developer C.E. John for nearly $6.6 million.

The space will become apartments.

There are other mystery buildings across Portland—and we’d like to hear about them.

If you know of a mystery property whose vacancy makes no sense—whether it’s a apartment complex, commercial building or even a well-located empty lot, email the address and a photo to newstips@wweek.com. We’ll collect the most interesting examples and tell their stories later this year.