ADDRESS: 3075 NE Sandy Blvd.
YEAR BUILT: 1967
SQUARE FOOTAGE: 13,017
MARKET VALUE: $6.3 million
OWNER: Holman Portland Real Estate LLC
HOW LONG IT’S BEEN EMPTY: Untold years
WHY IT’S EMPTY: A Lexus dealer hasn’t come to town, as planned.
In the 1940s, Northeast Sandy Boulevard was considered the suburbs.
People began to buy cars en masse then, and when they shopped, they needed parking. Sandy had plenty, and stores followed. Among the outlets were car dealers. In 1949, Wallace Buick moved from downtown to Sandy, according to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. Lots of other car dealers followed.
Decades later, the dealerships moved farther east, to 82nd Avenue, and out to other suburbs. Before the pandemic, it appeared that Sandy might be reborn as a pedestrian strip with bars, restaurants and shops. Some have appeared, including the Shaku Bar, Providore Fine Foods, and Paydirt and Boxcar Pizza in The Zipper food court.
Among the foot-draggers appears to be Holman Portland Real Estate LLC, an affiliate of a national auto dealer chain called, simply, Holman. The limited liability company owns the 1.6-acre parcel on the northwest corner of Northeast Sandy and 31st Avenue. It’s an odd-shaped lot that backs up onto Interstate 84 and has a battleship-gray building tagged with rather artful graffiti.
In February 2019, a year before the pandemic shithammer came down on nice things in Portland, Holman got permission from the Portland Bureau of Development Services’ Design Commission to build a Lexus dealership on the site, even as the city strived for walkable businesses.
Holman went out of its way to make the thing look cool, according to the Design Commission’s approval documents for the project. It would be four stories with employee parking on the roof, a really thoughtful feature in parking-starved Portland back then.
The landscaping was going to be even better, including “precast seating stones, lighting and landscaping to create a pleasant and safe outdoor area. The shape of the open space reflects the curved shape associated with the Lexus brand. Several types of seating areas are anticipated in the plaza, providing options for passersby to stop or meet.”
But little has happened since that 2019 approval. Holman went back to BDS in May 2021 for some minor changes to the plan like using “fritted glass in lieu of louvers” (look up fritted glass; it’s cool) and changing the finish on the bike rack. BDS approved everything.
More than two years on, construction still hasn’t begun. Mike Houghten, a project manager at Holman, says the delay has nothing to do with blight in Portland, which has caused other companies to leave. Rather, the site is proving tricky for a four-story building. There’s a retaining wall along the freeway side of the property that may not be stout enough to support the weight.
“It’s just a difficult site,” Houghten says in an interview. “There will be a Lexus dealership in the area, but probably not there.”
But the luxury car maker isn’t abandoning the site. Lexus paid the Portland Street Art Alliance to come create a mural to brighten up the drab exterior of an old building there. It’s good. Check it out.
This story has been updated from the print edition to include comments from the project manager.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.