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Once dormant recession-era buildings come to life

After sluggish beginnings, Burnside Plaza, 23424 Halsey building filling up with tenants

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - Burnside Plaza at 1584 N.E. Eighth St. has slowly transformed from a vacant example of recession-era investment woes to the home of several healthy retail and services offices. It took several years for the two-story office and retail structure Pooneh Gray built in 2009 on Northeast Halsey Street in Wood Village to attract steady tenants.

While no developer relishes owning a relatively empty building at the outset of an economic downturn, Gray’s patience and real estate experience helped keep her eyes on the prize.

“I’ve been doing real estate for almost 20 years,” she says. “I’ve seen the ups and I’ve seen the downs. After the down, there’s always an up. I figured (the building) would start to turn as soon as the economy started to get better.”

Gray’s instincts proved correct.

With only one 1,480-square foot space remaining vacant, the distinctive cut stone-and-brown-siding building at 23424 N.E. Halsey St. is now the home of El Torogoz Restaurant, Nature’s Touch Healing Center, Proyecto Vida y Salud herbal life distributor, State Farm Insurance agent Ben Brown and Farmers Insurance agent Derek Stickel.

Sue O’Halloran, of Gresham-based Kohler Meyers & O’Halloran Inc. (KMO) Realty is in charge of leasing the 12,000 square-foot building, along with other, similar properties in the Gresham area.

“I did hope it would fill up faster,” says Gray, who built the structure in conjunction with an assisted-living facility and shared parking lot just behind it. “The majority of tenants moved in in the last eight months. The upstairs now is completely full. I think it is kind of a sign of a turn in the economy.”OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - Sue OHalloran of KMO Realty, manages Burnside Plaza at 1584 N.E. Eighth St., whose roster of businesses has grown significantly in the past year.

The Wood Village building is not alone among East Multnomah County buildings that went up around 2008-09 — just as the Great Recession was taking hold — and stood mostly empty or housed short-lived businesses until the past two or three years when the economic storm began to clear.

Although it has yet to be fully occupied since it was completed in 2010, the two-story Burnside Plaza at 1584 N.E. Eighth St. near Burnside Road in Gresham also is coming into its own as a retail center.

With O’Halloran’s help, the building — part of which originally housed the former Robert’s Roofing Inc. — now includes the Modern Family Dental practice; Revolution Parkour, which offers innovative approaches to physical fitness and mental well-being; Pacific Drivers Education; and State Farm Insurance Agent Jeff Ray.

In February, Ray moved his office from Gresham Town Fair to a larger, first-floor space at Burnside Plaza.

In 2013, Riverview Bank foreclosed on the building — which Robert and Renae Swain completed in 2010 to house Robert’s Roofing — after the business closed that spring.

KATU News reported in June 2013 that Portland police arrested Robert Swain — who has a lengthy criminal history — on five felony warrants related to guns, drugs and intoxicated driving-related charges. The Oregon Construction Contractors Board investigated numerous complaints against the business.

Despite its checkered early history, the 28,000 square-foot Burnside Plaza — the interior of which was mostly unfinished — is moving in a positive direction under new ownership and O’Halloran’s guidance.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - The two-story building Pooneh Gray erected in 2009 at 23424 N.E. Halsey St., took awhile to attract and retain the lineup of tenants it has now. O’Halloran says Burnside Plaza as well as Gray’s building in Wood Village are clearly benefitting from a recent resurgence in East Multnomah County’s real estate and business climates.

“In 2013 — and 2014, really — interest in tenants coming into Gresham, or the east metro area, really grew by a substantial amount. This is why we’re seeing new tenants coming into both buildings,” she says.

With banks in the post-recession era resuming business loans and extending credit lines, entrepreneurs and small businesses owners are seeing more opportunities to open, expand or relocate.

“It’s tied to financing,” O’Halloran explains. “As a result of the recession, there was a lot of pressure on banks (to resume extending loans). Once that came into play, the market rental rates began to improve.”

As O’Halloran seeks clients to fill remaining vacancies at Burnside Plaza and 23424 N.E. Halsey St., she’s also focusing on filling ground-floor retail slots in the three-story residential-retail building at Third Avenue and Miller Street.

The downtown Gresham building, which formerly housed Central Market and Kitchen, now includes Lux salon and soon will be the new home for the craft beer-based Growler Garage.

So far, O’Halloran believes 2015 shows considerable promise as far as growth in retail space leasing.

“It’s all really about timing,” she says.


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