The Rise of Park Avenue West

After failed dreams and a family feud, a 30-floor building is set to be Portland's fourth-tallest.

By Randy Gragg June 2, 2014 Published in the June 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Nomad

Today: The column looks like minimalist sculpture, but 30-floor Park Avenue West will become downtown Portland’s fourth-tallest building and first LEED Platinum office tower. The elevator core—going up first, a technique called a “jump form”—will stabilize the building against wind and earthquakes. Then again, power brokers have shaken and rattled this downtown block for eons.

1852: Daniel Lownsdale surveys the site as a “Park Block,” one of downtown’s eventual 24.  

1862: Lownsdale dedicates his Park Blocks to public use, but dies soon after. His heirs sell five blocks, including this one, officially “Park Block 4.” 

1916-1980s: Park Block 4 houses a mishmash: the Zombie Zulu beer parlor, the original Embers, and a Pietro Belluschi–designed landmark, Zell Brothers Jewelry. The Zell family eventually owns the block. 

1989-96: Ex-boxer Tom Moyer sells his family’s theater chain for $192 million. TMT Development begins reshaping midtown, including Fox Tower, just kitty-corner from Park Block 4. 

1995-1998: The Goodman parking empire wants a 12-story garage on Park Block 5, the next block south. Instead, former mayor Neil Goldschmidt convinces Moyer to buy that block and donate it to the city. 

2000-04: Goldschmidt leads a push to knock down 20 buildings for a Park Blocks mall. The Zells, owners of Park Block 4, hold out. Revelations of Goldschmidt’s rape of a teenager while he was mayor scuttles the idea. Moyer donates Park Block 5 (now Director Park), but only after building 700 parking spaces underneath, connected to Fox Tower’s 380 spaces. 

2007: Moyer buys Park Block 4, for a downtown-record $13.5 million. He plans 35 stories and 350 more parking spots. Bye-bye, Zells. 

October 2008: Law firm Stoel Rives announces it will take 15 of Park Avenue West’s 32 stories. The top 10 stories will be condos.

April 2009: As the global economy melts down, Moyer stops work on Park Avenue West. 

July 2010: Moyer is diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s. His granddaughter, Vanessa Sturgeon, takes control of the family business. 

November 2011: Fourteen Moyer family members sue Sturgeon, alleging she wrongfully diverted millions of dollars, some into the still-stalled Park Avenue West. 

2012: A judge clears Sturgeon. 

October 2013: Stoel Rives signs on—again—as tenant for nine floors. Originally planned condos become offices for the firm. Lower floors switch to apartments. Construction resumes, with a 2015 completion date. 

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