Despite its dingy past, Old Town could be entering a new era. The catalyst: a $37 million, 142,000-square-foot renovation of the historic White Stag block, which will house University of Oregon law, architecture and journalism satellite programs beginning this spring and boost the workday population in the area by an estimated 700 people.
“This project lit the spark that will start the process,” said Craig Kelly, vice president of Portland-based Venerable Group, developer and manager of the rehabilitated property that combined three buildings originally built between 1883 and 1907.
For decades Old Town has been plagued with crime, homelessness and dilapidated buildings — not the most desirable corner of the city for would-be developers. But Kelly believes the White Stag project, with its high-profile tenant, will show other developers that the neighborhood is ready for a renaissance.
Along with White Stag, Mercy Corps has purchased the Skidmore Fountain Building and adjoining lot to relocate its global headquarters. While the Port of Portland — opting to consolidate its offices near the airport — recently sold its Old Town office building to Washington Real Estate Holdings of Seattle, it will continue leasing the building until 2010, when its new office is expected to be complete.
Washington Real Estate Holdings plans to use the ground floor as retail space and is currently on the hunt for tenants for the rest of the building.
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