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Tualatin Dreamin'

Developer David Emami has spent the last 25 years making his name known in Tualatin
by: Jaime Valdez, BIG PLANS – Developer David Emami has big plans to build about 150,000 square feet of office space in the city within the next few years. Emami owns about 22 properties in downtown Tualatin.

TUALATIN - One million plus - an estimate of the square footage of office and commercial space David Emami owns in the state of Oregon.

Thirty-five - the number of years he has characterized himself as a 'businessman.'

Sixteen - the number of hours Emami puts in per day attending to his business, Barrington Manage-ment.

Zero - the number of lucky chances he received to succeed in the land-development business.

'It's 35 years of my life for what I got,' Emami said as he leaned forward in a swivel chair in the second-floor conference room of the Lakeside Plaza Building in Tualatin. 'It wasn't the lottery. It was 35 years of being devoted. You create your own luck.'

Emami, 56, owns 22 properties in downtown Tualatin, where he leases roughly 38,000 square feet of office and commercial space. After coming to the United States from Iran as a student in the '70s, Emami earned graduate degrees from Portland State University and Harvard. He has created a successful business model in building, developing and leasing commercial, office and industrial space.

Twenty-five years ago he came to Tualatin.

'I was like a pioneer in this place,' Emami said, remembering the three businesses in the town of 9,000 at the time. And while the memory of the smell from the dog food factory was enough for him to wrinkle his nose even today, Emami straightened his posture when asked why he chose Tualatin to buy and build.

'I trusted that this town was going to be different.'

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden has described Emami as one of the biggest and most trusted developers in downtown Tualatin.

'You always know his projects are going to be successful,' Ogden said.

In the '80s, Emami's first land purchase and building development in the city grew into Family Theaters, the second largest cinema chain in the state of Oregon. He owned eight cinemas at the time, including the Joy Theater in Tigard, which he still owns today. Four years ago he converted the cinema on Nyberg Road into 17,000 square feet of office space set apart, originally, by the unique mustard-yellow paint on the exterior.

Emami recalled several people approaching him and saying, 'You're never going to rent that yellow building.'

The color turned into a debate among planners of the Tualatin Lake of the Commons area. On the south end are red brick buildings, and on the north end were Mediterranean-style condominiums. How would a mustard-yellow color imported from Europe blend in with the high-quality scenery?

Last week in that mustard-yellow Lakeside Plaza Building, Emami sat back and smiled.

'More than a hundred,' he guessed as the number of buildings in the Portland area now standing with that same mustard-yellow color.

'He thinks outside the box,' Tualatin officials repeated when asked to describe Emami's energy and projects.

Emami is one builder who 'keeps everyone on their toes,' noted Ogden.

Lately, Emami has been concerned more with arches than toes.

'A bridge over the lake to connect Nyberg Road again. Yes,' Emami said, emphasizing that the idea is no more insane than the city's concept of putting a lake in the middle of the road, which actually turned out to work except now the commons area is accessible only by dead-end streets and no through traffic is generated. Through traffic, Emami notes, is essential to merchants.

The idea of a bridge over the Lake of the Commons is actually not that far fetched. Tualatin Development Coordinator Doug Rux noted that a bridge idea came up during the city's early Town Center Project.

Emami said that he plans to approach the city about his idea, which will include an offer to bear some of the costs.

'He sees that it's not just him but other property owners when he proposes projects,' Rux noted of Emami's often 'creative' ideas.

Earlier this summer, Emami made headlines as he paid to have the historic Red Brick Store moved about 50 feet along Southwest Boones Ferry Road. The building stood in the way of a city road improvement project. The building's historical status made it difficult for some in the community to envision a solution that ended in demolition. Emami was one of only two developers who placed bids on the property. Emami ended up paying $268,680 for the land and $62,349.95 for the building.

As the new owner of the old brick store, Emami has plans to remodel it for commercial and office use and to build a 2,000-square-foot building next to it for office or commercial space.

Emami also has plans to construct a 120,000-square-foot office building on the land where Clark Lumber now sits and another 30,000-square-foot office complex away from downtown on Sagert Street.

'He sees opportunities everywhere he goes,' said Ray Ross, a former employee of Emami's Family Theater franchise and now a real estate agent with Windermere Real Estate.

Ross remembers when Emami was thrown into the cinema business after the tenant for the Tualatin building went bankrupt. Instead of trying to sell the building, Emami, who had no experience in the cinema business, took on the project. It was during the time of the '80s economic downturn, and businesses were closing all over, Ross recalled. Fast-forward to present day and, Ross said, being a tireless worker paid off for Emami.

'The obstacles aren't there any more, and he still works just as hard,' Ross said.

Sitting in the conference room of the Lakeside Plaza, Emami's face brightens when the subject turns to his energy.

'I've got lots,' he said. 'Energy comes from love. If you like what you do, you have a lot of energy.

'Others take the bull by the horns and only go 90 yards. I've never been like that. I have the energy to look at the whole picture.'