Head To Head

Two powerful Portland clans compete to develop a key downtown site.

Multnomah County’s drive to sell some prime downtown Portland real estate has pitted two of the city’s wealthiest and most influential families in competition to develop the landmark Morrison Bridgehead property.

The four blocks owned by the county at the west end of the Morrison Bridge—currently occupied by surface parking lots—present a "unique opportunity to serve as a major, iconic gateway into downtown," according to a request for proposals put out by the county and the Portland Development Commission in November.

When the deadline passed Feb. 9, the county had two proposals backed by cash from two big-money clans.

The Mark family, headed by prolific charitable fundraiser Melvin "Pete" Mark, has gained a fortune developing downtown Portland real estate for Hilton Hotels, Standard Insurance and the Schnitzer scrap-metal dynasty, among others.

The Goodmans, with family scion Greg Goodman at the helm, built their wealth mainly by maintaining surface parking lots. They've only recently branched into development with projects like the windmill-decked Indigo condo tower near I-405.

Both proposals envision mixed-use development aimed to attract offices, retail stores and foot traffic. But the Marks dangle an additional carrot by promising a home for the long-proposed James Beard Public Market, with former Portland restaurateur Ron Paul in charge.

County Chairman Jeff Cogen says his goals are twofold: to develop the property with maximum benefit for downtown Portland, and to bring his cash-strapped county government as much money as possible. The proceeds are slated for outstanding county capital projects, such as building a new courthouse.

The Melvin Mark Development Co. would develop the project under the Marks' proposal. Well-connected development firm Gerding Edlen is the developer under the Goodman proposal, with ubiquitous local contractor Hoffman Construction as the builder.

"We got some very solid proposals from some very rock-solid developers," Cogen says.

Click on the "Show Info" button in the full-screen slideshow above for more details.

Here's a breakdown of the proposals.

The Plan

Mark Family: A high-rise office and retail tower between Southwest Alder and Washington streets, with a public market divided in halves inside the two looping bridge ramps.

Goodman Family: An office building inside the south loop ramp, a rental-housing tower between Southwest Alder and Washington streets, and a "landscaped area" inside the north ramp.

The Pitch

Mark Family: "Combines an iconic public amenity—a thriving public market—with a signature tower announcing the gateway to the city.... [The development] will anchor the eastern boundary of the downtown retail core while catalyzing a 'market district' linking the Saturday Market and other recent developments."

Goodman Family: "The mix of uses will establish the bridgehead and adjacent properties as a 24/7 urban community that enhances the livability and safety of downtown.... Additionally, it will serve as a catalyst for development of adjacent [Goodman-owned] properties that will benefit from investment and infrastructure."

The Price

Mark Family: $10 million

Goodman Family: $8.1 million

The Fine Print

Mark Family: Deal would close in July 2014, but only if funding and tenants come together. Meantime, the county is likely to keep proceeds from the existing parking lots.

Goodman Family: Deal would close after a 30-day due-diligence period, with full payment in cash. After that, it's likely the Goodmans would take the money from the parking lots.

Public Money

Mark Family: The site was included in a now-scrapped proposal for a new urban renewal area (see "Lobster Fest," WW, Oct. 20, 2010). Ron Paul tells WW he's uncertain whether the site would be included in a new urban renewal area around Portland State University proposed Feb. 18 by Mayor Sam Adams.

Goodman Family: The site is currently part of the Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal Area, which is out of money. "We are assuming there is no public money. We aren't asking for one penny. That's why we're offering to close on the property immediately," Greg Goodman tells WW.

The Politics

Mark Family: The proposal lists U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman as backers.

Goodman Family: "We haven't lobbied anybody," Goodman tells WW.

FACT: A five-person committee will evaluate the two proposals and pass their analysis to the County Board of Commissioners in April.