Changes are afoot at Washington Center, the cluster of abandoned buildings sitting on a downtown Portland block that’s now ringed by an open-air drug market examined last Wednesday by WW.
Down came the chain-link fence earlier this week. (It wasn’t keeping anyone out anyway.)
This morning, work crews were boarding up the former KeyBank on the block’s southwest corner, which squatters had taken over by sneaking in a broken window.
Washington Center is owned by limited liability companies controlled by the Menashe family, which purchased it for $9 million in 2014.
“Yes, we are boarding it up and paying for it again, as we have done for the last several years,” Lauren Menashe wrote WW when asked by email who was putting up the boards.
Unprompted, Barry Menashe reached out 10 minutes later, apparently typing furiously on his iPhone. “Menashe’s have been Boarding up and Fencing Non Stop since 2020. Have 30 Pictures to prove it,” he tells WW.
With the fence gone, dozens of seemingly unhoused Portlanders were enjoying the sun on the building’s once-picturesque southwestern steps. Four were wielding miniature torches and grasping small pieces of foil. Police say it’s an open-air drug market and have made a series of fentanyl busts on the block in recent months.
A WW reporter briefly followed a pair of men with backpacks who were strolling around the block, offering sidewalk dwellers a peek inside. One was dribbling a basketball. On closer inspection, they appeared to be selling pairs of athletic shoes inside the alcoves of the vacant building.
Neither Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office nor the city’s Community Safety Division would comment on the recent developments.