A Heavy-Hauling Tycoon Has Sat On an Undeveloped Property in the Cully Neighborhood for 16 Years

As is often the case, construction contractors are arguing in court.

Chasing Ghosts - 7250 NE Lombard St. (Sophie Peel)

ADDRESS: 7250 NE Lombard St.



MARKET VALUE: $513,580

OWNER: Terry W. Emmert


WHY IT’S EMPTY: Lawsuits over money

Along Northeast Lombard Street, where the thoroughfare intersects with 72nd Avenue in the Cully neighborhood, stands what looks like the movie set of a ghost town in a post-apocalyptic film.

Three large structures of deteriorating wood reach into the sky. There are cutouts in the wood where windows should be and PVC pipes stick haphazardly out of open door frames. The property is ringed by a fence, along which a homeless encampment is cobbled together with materials borrowed from the abandoned construction site: blue tarps, wooden planks, and large rocks to keep the tarps from blowing away in the wind.

The property is owned by one of the great characters of Portland business: Terry W. Emmert, 79. The Clackamas County tycoon once hauled Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose wooden airplane to Oregon, owns a herd of water buffalo that he keeps on a farm outside Oregon City, and is commonly found in civil court protecting his business interests. Emmert last appeared in this column in the fall, when we examined the fate of his Eastmoreland Racquet Club (“What a Racquet,” WW, Sept. 20, 2023).

But since 2008, Emmert’s full-block Cully property has remained unoccupied in a city that’s desperate for housing. Emmert in a phone call with WW blamed city bureaucracy, lumber-stealing thieves, contractor disputes, and a difficult financial market for the unbuilt apartments.

To the man who sold the property to Emmert in 1985, 88-year-old Keith Barker, the vacant lot is a shame.

At the time Barker sold the property to Emmert, two houses and a handful of low-income duplexes sat on the land. “At some point, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was low-end stuff,” Barker recalls. “And when [Terry] wanted to take it, I was like, he can handle that kind of stuff.”

Eileen Shiffer, a neighbor to the property in the early 1980s, recalls the duplexes were a hot spot for illegal drugs.

Emmert has owned the property since 1985, when he purchased it for just over $200,000. Since the early 2000s, it has been the subject of formal complaints.

Between 2003 and 2006, neighbors filed complaints with the city about raw garbage, trash and car parts strewn around the six occupied duplexes on Emmert’s lot. In 2008, Emmert tore all of the structures down. He says he had found a purchaser for the land who wanted them gone. The buyer didn’t get financing, Emmert adds, and the deal fell through.

In the next few years, neighbors complained to the city of frequent squatters on the property. (One reported to the city in 2010 that squatters were “digging a large hole for an unknown purpose.”)

On three separate occasions between 2012 and 2023, Emmert sought city counsel on building a three-story apartment complex on the site.

But work stopped last year. Court records help explain why.

In September 2023, a construction company sued Emmert, Emmert International and the general contractor, CB Construction, alleging $58,000 in unpaid bills for work it had done at the property earlier that year.

“[Plaintiff] remains unpaid by [the construction company] as a direct result of defendant Terry Emmert’s nonpayment,” CB Construction’s attorneys responded in court records.

One month later, CB Construction filed its own lawsuit against Emmert and two of his companies, alleging nonpayment by a company Emmert controlled. CB also sued the construction company that had sued it just one month earlier.

The parties are now in arbitration to resolve the dispute out of court. Emmert says he’s working on plans to build the long-awaited apartments “right now.”

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