Melvin Mark, public market get nod to develop bridgehead site

Deal could bring 17-story office tower and Pike Place-style food market to west end of the Morrison Bridge

An independent selection committee has chosen the Melvin Mark Development Co. and nonprofit James Beard Public Market to develop a county-owned site at the west end of the Morrison Bridge.

Melvin Mark will buy the four-block site for $10 million and erect a 17-story office tower on one block and the James Beard Public Market on three adjoining blocks. The market expects to provide year-round, open-air space for 110 produce and other fresh-food vendors, restaurants and food shops that could attract 650,000 visitors a year.

Melvin 'Pete' Mark Jr., chairman of the development company, has agreed to lead a capital fundraising drive to raise money for the market.

A panel reviewed proposals of two development teams in response to the county's request for proposals to buy the surplus property, now used for parking.

Four of the five panel members gave the edge to Melvin Mark and the public market team. The other contender was a team of Gerden Edlen Development Co. and the Goodman family, which owns most of the city's downtown parking lots.

'It's one very important step in our trajectory to build the public market,' said Ron Paul, consulting director for the James Beard Public Market. 'In my mind,' he said Tuesday, 'the (capital campaign) starts this afternoon.'

Multnomah County commissioners are scheduled to vote May 26 on a resolution to begin framing a development agreement with the winning team, Paul said.

Pete Mark earlier led capital campaigns to create Pioneer Courthouse Square, and helped raise a considerable sum for the Portland Art Museum. He also was a major benefactor of the downtown Multnomah County Central Library renovation.

Gerding Edlen has been the area's top green developer for several years. The Mark company is one of the area's most prominent and stable office developers.

Supporters say the public market could grow to become a tourist mecca and anchor for the booming local foods movement.