Who Is Responsible for the Fentanyl Overdoses Around Washington Center?

More measures to clean up a drug den appear to be in the works.

CORNER: An alcove in the Washington Center building. (Jordan Hundelt)

The open-air fentanyl market operating at Southwest 4th Avenue and Washington Street turned deadly March 31, when a 25-year-old woman died of an overdose there.

Portland police say they administered Narcan, to no avail.

The woman was one of three people who died that day from overdoses in the blocks near Washington Center, the two vacant buildings owned by the Menashe real estate clan.

Their deaths came after signs of progress. WW reported on the blighted block last month (“Market Forces,” March 22) and, soon after, the Menashes put a forest’s worth of plywood on the two-story windows in the old KeyBank to keep people from breaking them and going in to take drugs they bought outside.

But the new barrier wasn’t enough. Dealers and users still have access to the two plazas on the south side of the buildings, where overhangs protect them from rain and hail.

“We’ve been working in that area for months now, and it’s a vexing problem,” says police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Allen. “Officers find that they make arrests or patrol the area only to find that drug dealers move in right after we leave. We’ll continue to work to address this as best we can.”

More measures appear to be in the works. The Portland Bureau of Development Services, which handles nuisance properties, had inspected the buildings March 8 and 10 and gave the Menashes 15 days to come up with a plan for repairing windows and collecting trash and human waste.

The deadline came and went, and instead of issuing work orders and billing the Menashes, BDS stood down and left the matter with Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, at least for now.

“The owner is engaging with the mayor’s team,” said BDS spokesman Ken Ray. “Further abatement from BDS is on hold at the moment.”

Eric Zimmerman, an adviser to Mayor Wheeler on cleaning up downtown, says the city and the Menashes are working together toward a lasting solution.

“The mayor’s office and the owners are talking regularly, and we feel very good about securing this building,” Zimmerman says.

On Tuesday, he said the city restricted parking around the buildings to prepare for a “surge” of deep cleaning, including pressure washing the sidewalks.

Lauren Menashe, daughter of company founder Barry Menashe, has been handling the matter. She didn’t return an email seeking comment on the latest developments.

Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland. Except this week, when we’re looking at the escalation of trouble at a property we previously covered. Send addresses to newstips@wweek.com.

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