Where We Live: Portland’s construction boom

Multnomah County

The City of Portland estimates over $1.2 billion in commercial developments currently underway

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland seems like one big construction zone these days. There are huge developments underway in Central Portland that will change the city forever.

One project currently in the works is a building at 140 SW Columbia Street — a site formerly occupied by the KOIN studios.

It’s a 20-story multi-use building that will feature 248 apartment units, ground-level retail space and an above-grade parking garage with 326 spaces as well as long-term bike parking. The high-rise is set for completion in March of 2021.

“We are extremely busy right now,” said Mike Pierce with Andersen Construction, the contractor working on 140 Columbia. “I’ve been doing this 41 years and this is the busiest I’ve seen it — the last three or four years, specifically.”

There are more than $1.2 billion in commercial developments underway in Portland’s downtown core, according to the city’s Bureau of Development Services.

Among the developments is a $600 million Ritz-Carlton going up in a spot formerly occupied by the Alder Street food cart pod at SW 10th and Alder. The 35-story building will feature 251 hotel rooms and 138 luxury condos. There are also plans for high-end office space and a food hall on the first floor. When it’s done, the Ritz-Carlton building will be the 4th-tallest in Portland, right behind the KOIN Tower. It’s expected to open in 2023.

A rendering of the Ritz-Carlton high-rise in Portland.

Not included in the billion-dollar figure are just-completed projects like the $195 million Hyatt Regency in the Lloyd District or government projects such as the 17-story, $324 million Multnomah County Courthouse.

Pierce estimates the development boom amounts to 6,000 more construction jobs than workers to fill them. There are currently entry-level programs in every building trade and workers are getting hired as soon as they’ve completed training.

“Everybody’s looking for quality help right now,” he said.

And employment numbers bear that out. More than 75,000 people worked in construction in the Portland metro area at the end of 2019, down just slightly from a record 79,000 in August.

Portland could surpass that figure during the 2020 summer construction season.

“It’s a huge amount of satisfaction,” Pierce said. “Take a lot of pride in doing what we do and doing really quality work so it lasts forever.”

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