PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A day after the Portland Business Alliance released its analysis of the serious economic issues facing Portland, two major commercial real estate developers in the city are sharing their knowledge and perspectives on the city.
Melvin Mark Company and TMT Development are two large commercial real estate companies in Portland that have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the city and behind the scenes in the business sector.
Commercial real estate developers told KOIN 6 that 25% of offices in downtown Portland are currently vacant.
The Portland Business Alliance says office workers are an essential part of maintaining a thriving downtown with bustling shops and restaurants. The work-from-home model is holding back the city’s recovery.
Here’s the good news: Developers say many of their office tenants will be bringing their workforce back next month.
“Our office tenants are planning to return towards the end of March and of course retail will follow,” said Vanessa Sturgeon, CEO of TMT Development. “As more people flock to downtown, more restaurants will reopen.”
Melvin Mark Company CEO Jim Mark explained, “I have partners who call me and say, ‘The office space is finished. I’ve been doing this for forty years and there’s definitely a trend here, but it’s not completely over for the office.
However, they say they think offices will settle more on a hybrid model in the future, where employees come into the office on some days and people work from home on other days.
“So fewer people in larger spaces is the reality of where things seem to be moving,” Sturgeon explained.
With fewer office workers in the future, this increases the need to attract visitors to support the economy as well.
To do this, the two things the two property developers said local leaders need to focus on are improving public safety and ending unauthorized camping by giving homeless people the help they need.
“In society, we have the right to feel safe, to be able to walk to our store, to be able to walk to our school. I think some of that hasn’t been there for the last year and a half,” Mark said.
“You have a very small group of very vocal advocates advocating for camping to remain legal, but the overwhelming majority in Portland want to see this issue addressed with real urgency,” Sturgeon added.
In the meantime, developers say it’s important for Portlanders to shop local, dine downtown and vote for politicians who will support restoring the city’s vibrancy.
In a statement to KOIN 6, Mayor Wheeler said, “I am very optimistic for the future of the City of Portland. We work incredibly hard to provide urgent, thoughtful and meaningful solutions to the biggest issues facing downtown. Our local businesses, large and small, have my full support and attention.
KOIN 6 also reached out to Portland City Commissioners to comment on what real estate companies had to say about the state and future of downtown.
Commissioner Mingus Mapps said, “I strongly believe that local and regional leaders must act urgently to save Portland’s economy. Every indicator shows that we are underperforming in our recovery, which is unacceptable. Every action we take should be aimed at reviving our vibrant city. »
Mapps added that “the foundation of the recovery is to increase the number of public safety officers as quickly as possible, to invest in transitional shelter beds with behavioral health resources, to enforce camping orders and continue to increase garbage collection resources”.
In a statement, Commissioner Carmen Rubio said “COVID has leveled the local economy, of course, but it has only crystallized the deep economic and racial disparities that already existed. Our economic recovery must leave all of our communities stronger, and that means integrating all communities into the local economy as full and equal partners.
Rubio added “we need to increase our strategic investments and opportunities for BIPOC and women-owned businesses and make equitable investments in all parts of our city, especially in East Portland. And we must maintain and grow Portland’s rich history of supporting small businesses, especially in the hospitality industry. But our city cannot do it alone: we need regional collaboration, and the more we collaborate, the stronger our recovery will be. I am committed to working with the community, unions, and business leaders to recover from the pandemic and build a local economy where hard-working families, regardless of income level, can thrive.
In response, Commissioner Hardesty said:
“The unprecedented destabilizing effects of the global health pandemic have undoubtedly been a struggle for everyone, including our business community and their employees. I completely agree that the status quo is not acceptable, but also share the optimism that we will turn things around. Just today, the City of Portland announced that starting in April, our employees will be transitioning to a hybrid model, which means more city employees will soon be downtown. In my role as Transportation Commissioner responsible for the PBOT, I have extended the Healthy Business Permit program which has provided a lifeline for businesses during this pandemic, while waiving all associated fees. I will advocate making this program permanent in the city code. Next month, we’ll share news on the evolution with more open squares that promote community, business, culture, and sustainability. I’m also excited to see a series of summer concerts downtown this summer. We have work to do, but as more people are able to safely resume their recreational activities and take advantage of the warmer weather, I expect to see better results in safety and more business downtown.
KOIN 6 awaits a response from Commissioner Dan Ryan.