Heirs to a Convenience-Store Fortune Have Allowed a Sizable Property to Lie Fallow

A lot in Mount Tabor has sat vacant for decades.

Address: Southeast 60th Avenue and Belmont Street

Year built: Never

Square footage: 16,680

Market value: $776,690

Owner: Rosehill Investments LLC

How long it’s been empty: At least 39 years

Why it’s empty: Lack of urgency

Several WW readers have inquired about a long-vacant lot in the heart of the Tabor neighborhood.

“There is a large vacant lot on the northeast corner of Southeast Belmont Street and 60th Avenue,” wrote one of them, Gerard Lilly. “My wife and I moved to Portland in 1983 and it was vacant then and still is.”

The history of the property goes back to the untimely death of John Piacentini in 1988 at age 58. Piacentini founded Plaid Pantry in 1963 and built the chain to 161 stores before his death (106 stores remain today).

He sold the company but left his wife and six children a handsome estate. In a 2016 letter to city officials, a consultant working for the family said family members own 30 Portland investment properties through various entities, including Rosehill Investments LLC, the owner of the lot in question.

Richard Piacentini of Seattle, one of John’s sons and a manager of the family’s properties, wrote separately to the city that year seeking a zoning change for the vacant Tabor property. That was granted, giving the lot more flexibility for development. But the new zoning—CM2, which allows residential development over ground floor commercial—didn’t change anything. (Neither Piacentini nor his consultant responded to requests for comment.)

The property’s permitting history shows that Rosehill Investments sought an earlier land use review in 2005, but did not move forward with development that time either. Over the years, people have filed three nuisance complaints against the lot: in 2007 for tall grass; in 2016 for an abandoned couch; and earlier this year, when somebody left a mattress and pet bed on the gravel lot.

On Sept. 25, evidence of a brief, recent habitation appeared—the charred remains of a tent and its abandoned contents, including a canned ham, an unused condom (size large), and a pair of men’s underpants. A neighbor, May Ross, says the property hasn’t been used for much of anything in the 25 years she’s lived nearby, except occasionally as a staging area for city street projects. As long as campers stay away, she says, the lot’s fallow condition doesn’t bother her.

“It’s no big deal,” Ross says. “It’s private property.”

Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might arrive there next. Send addresses to newstips@wweek.com.