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PDC announces new developer for Centennial Mills

Harsch Investment Properties takes on troubled project


The Portland Development Commission announced Tuesday that it has initiated negotiations with Harsch Investment Properties for the redevelopment of Centennial Mills.

The previous plan to redevelopment the large and aging structure along the west bank of the Willamette River in Northwest Portland stalled after the PDC changed its development criteria and the existing developer filed suit. Although a court dismissed the suit, the developer refiled it and it is not yet fully resolved.

According to the PDC, the Harsch team, led by Jordan Schnitzer, was selected upon the recommendation of an evaluation committee composed of public- and private-sector representatives. It originally included Portland developer Art DeMuro, president of Venerable Properties. After DeMuro’s unexpected death in September, Harsch reconstituted its team and is now prepared to move forward on a memorandum of understanding with PDC.

While the PDC expects the initial concept proposed by Harsch to evolve during the development process, the evaluation committee made its choice based on confidence in the team’s ability to deliver a final plan consistent with the PDC’s goals and established criteria for the project, the PDC says.

Patty Gardner, a member of the evaluation committee and a board member of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, praised the decision in a prepared statement, saying, “Ultimately we believe that this is the right team, with a viable development concept and a demonstrated ability to secure the financing necessary to complete the project.”

In the statement, Mayor Sam Adams said, “The Harsch team can best deliver a project that will meet the city’s vision for Centennial Mills and advance our economic development strategy. I have confidence in their ability to develop a project that fulfills this property’s economic potential while honoring its historic past.”

Also in the statement, Schnitzer, president of Harsch, said, “All of us at Harsch are excited to have the opportunity to develop this landmark site in the city of Portland. We’re looking forward to partnering with PDC and other city and state agencies and many community groups to create a legacy project.”

This is the second time Harsch Investment Properties made news in two days. On Tuesday the company announced that it was donating the company founded by the Schnitzer family gifted the downtown Park Avenue Apartments to the Oregon Jewish Community Federation. The building, valued at 16.6 million, includes 162-low income residential units and downtown retail space. The OJCF intended to sell the building to a company that will maintain its existing uses and used the proceeds to fund the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Family Fund.

Harsch Investment Properties has an extensive background in building rehabilitation. The company, established in 1950, is one of the leading owners and developers in the Northwest. In addition to its commercial properties, which include office buildings, shopping centers, industrial and multi-family projects, the company has completed several major historic renovations.