Two Towers That Tell the Story of Downtown Portland

The city’s core is struggling to attract investors, visitors and tenants.

Graffiti on Jackson Tower, downtown Portland (Brian Burk)

Book a south-facing room high up at The Nines Hotel downtown (for sale) and you’ll get a view of Jackson Tower (covered with graffiti, in default).

The two towers, which flank Pioneer Square, tell the story of downtown Portland right now. The owners of office buildings are missing loan payments, and hoteliers are struggling to attract guests, as two of the three graphs on this page show. The third one speaks to a larger trend: Portland is losing population, something that seemed unthinkable three years ago.

Jackson Tower Partners LLC, the owner of the 12-story beaux arts office building at the corner of Southwest Broadway and Yamhill Street, borrowed $11.5 million from JPMorgan Chase in 2018 and missed its first loan payment Nov. 1, 2022, according to a complaint filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on April 5.

Asked why her client defaulted on the Jackson Tower loan, California attorney Sherry DuPont blamed “the deterioration of downtown Portland.”

The numbers bear her out. The Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based association of real estate experts, says Portland’s market ranks 56th out of 80 cities in terms of attractiveness, behind even Baltimore (52nd), St. Louis (45th) and Detroit (40th).

Portland hotels are struggling, too. While tourists and business people have returned to many other cities, Portland has struggled to rebound from the protests and riots that rocked the city in 2020 and the pandemic that finally relented last year. Pebblebrook Hotel Trust sold the Heathman to RB Heathman LLC for $41 million in February. It’s seeking a buyer for The Nines.

Portland’s struggle to attract investors and visitors is reflected in its population figures. While similar metro area (Seattle, Austin, Nashville) saw their populations rebound somewhat in 2022 from pandemic losses, Portland residents kept leaving town.

All three findings were featured in a presentation by economics firm ECONorthwest obtained by WW.

Real Estate Market
Hotel Occupancy
Population Change

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