Two of Portland's wealthiest and most powerful families are competing to buy and develop a potentially iconic property on the downtown Willamette River waterfront.

Multnomah County is selling off the four-block parcel at the west end of the Morrison Bridge. The four blocks are currently occupied by surface parking lots.

The county and the Portland Development Commission put out a request for proposals last November seeking an "anchor development" that will "take advantage of the unique opportunity to serve as a major, iconic gateway into downtown Portland."

When the deadline for proposals arrived last week, the county received two offers—one backed by money from the Goodman family, the other with money from the Mark family.

The Goodmans propose to buy the blocks for $8.1 million and build a mix of housing and retail space anchored by an office tower. The developer Gerding Edlen would head up the project to be built by Hoffman Construction.

"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," the Goodman proposal says. The proposal also promises "a combination of workforce [read: cheaper] and market-rate, for-rent housing" and "a major concentration of retail and other services."

The majority of the Goodman family fortune comes from ownership of surface parking lots downtown. It's perhaps not surprising that the more inspired proposal is backed by the Mark family, who made money in property development.

The Mark plan would provide a space for the proposed James Beard Public Market—the long-held dream of former Portland restaurateur Ron Paul and other food enthusiasts. The proposal calls for the market to be backed by an "iconic" retail and office tower.

"This project combines an iconic public amenity—a thriving public market—with a signature tower announcing the gateway to the city," the Mark proposal says. "The project will also have a significant economic impact on the region, including the benefit of creating a sustainable business model for start-up and maturing enterprises that promote local and healthful food."

The Marks top the Goodmans on price, offering to buy the blocks for $10 million. The Melvin Mark Development Company would head the project, to be designed by SERA Architects.

The Goodman proposal also mentions the possibility of a public market. But the Marks' proposal has the backing of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), with a quote from the congressman on the proposal's front page.

"I continue to believe that the Morrison Bridgehead provides the ideal location for the James Beard Public Market and urge you to give this proposal due consideration," the proposal quotes Blumenauer as saying.