Featured Stories

For Sale? In the heart of the city

The almost-ready Pollock Building's future is uncertain
by: VERN UYETAKE, Roger Pollock’s new building in downtown Lake Oswego is scheduled to be ready in November. The question is: Will Pollock keep it in his company or need to sell it to because of cost woes?

Though the doors have yet to open, the newest commercial building in Lake Oswego's quaint downtown has an uncertain future in a struggling real estate market.

Owner Roger Pollock, also owner of Buena Vista Custom Homes, has been constructing the building for two years, in part to serve as his company's new headquarters. Buena Vista is one of the most prominent residential real estate developers in the Portland area.

But the company, like others in the real estate industry nationwide, has struggled through the recent economic downturn and a credit crunch that's slowed real estate sales.

Pollock now says he may sell the building at Fourth Street and A Avenue if the price is right. The 20,600-square-foot property is one of a handful of new gabled buildings downtown. Others like it, such as the buildings at Lake View Village on A Avenue, have spurred economic growth in the once-sleepy city center.

Key public investments, like new parks around Lakewood Bay and the upstart of a lively Farmers' Market, aim to lure developers like Pollock and kick-start a place once home to fading architecture, slow sales and scant foot traffic.

But a nationwide glut in real estate sales has changed the rules, even in downtown Lake Oswego.

Two years ago, Pollock's plan to move Buena Vista Custom Homes and a related company, Pollock Investments, into downtown was a long-held dream. But that dream now may have a price: $9.9 million.

'We are not more motivated to sell it than we are to lease it. We will look at both options,' Pollock said. 'But if we hit a price point that we like, then it's worth it to sell.'

That's a change from 2006, when Pollock looked out on the old Marsee Bakery building that was once there and talked about a long-held vision of anchoring his company in an area close to home.

A Lake Oswego resident, Pollock's building on A Avenue was then something of a monument to his success. Set to be completed this November, the building includes sprawling executive offices, some with private bathrooms, and views of Oswego Lake and Mount Hood, even fireplaces on third-floor decks.

It had been a good year . Buena Vista was building and selling homes by the dozen. Just one year before, the company had been named the fastest-growing builder in the United States by Builder Magazine and was donating hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to programs benefiting at-risk youth.

The corporate headquarters, set to anchor downtown, was expected to bring 30 employees to the A Avenue offices, adding to the growing lunch crowds at local restaurants and retail sales in nearby shops.

But Pollock and Buena Vista have since faced tough times.

Confronted with mounting debts in a slowing real estate market, Pollock made headlines across the state in 2007 by selling 175 houses at auction, a first-of-its kind maneuver in Oregon that raised $75 million, Pollock said, to clear Buena Vista's debts.

But with banks sour on lending to home buyers, Buena Vista has suspended building operations, opting to wait out the economic slump, Pollock said.

A separate company also owned by Pollock, Del Playa Investments LLC, faces foreclosure on more than a dozen rental homes. Pollock said that company is renegotiating loans with banks. Meanwhile, he spends much of his time at work on a resort development in Mexico.

But current economic conditions, he said, now make it tempting to walk away from the A Avenue building.

With portions of the building leased to Legacy Health Systems and an investment firm, Pollock said investors have come calling. With two offers already made and negotiations moving forward, Pollock said he's unsure what the building's future might be.

'In a market where cash is king, it's very tempting to sell it,' he said.

Jerry Wheeler, who heads the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, said whether the building sells or stays in Pollock's ownership is not likely to have an effect on downtown retail, so long as the building stays leased.

Some downtown businesses may be counting on sales to new office workers set to land in Lake Oswego this fall, Wheeler said. He said a full leased building, regardless of its owner, benefits the growing downtown.