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Amidst changing surroundings, Westmoreland's Watershed Building upgrades

RITA A. LEONARD - Max Grad uses forklift in the process of performing upgrades to The Watershed Building, just south of the McLoughlin overcrossing, at 5040 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue. Since THE BEE’s article about the place last year, chronicling the many businesses at Westmoreland’s “Watershed Building”, just south of McLoughlin Boulevard at 5040 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, there have been several changes.

Property manager/business owner Max Grad (“Dead Letter”, to his friends) reports that there are about 33 spaces, with more than 67% of the building occupied by full-time businesses. “Others have come and gone, but we now have an 800-square-foot room available for meetings, as well as many structural improvements.” Grad recently painted a bright yellow loading zone area on the sidewalk along Milwaukie Avenue to provide space for deliveries. “We also plan to update the outside of the building to match neighboring new businesses: Trackers Earth, Bar 33, and the new Brooklyn Yard apartments being constructed by Solterra. When that project is complete, we hope to host a neighborhood open house as a get-acquainted event. Structural improvements to the building – which once was a Portland Public Schools “Vocational Village” – include three sets of recessed doors and two new rear exits, a remodeled back stairwell, and the updating of all sinks and natural gas plumbing. “We’re now working on mechanical permits for fans, ducts, and exhaust systems,” he remarked, “and will update the backflow system and fire doors.”

New businesses at the site include “PDX Laser Works”, owned by Steven Cox, and a concrete contracting business called “Golden Mean LLC”, operated by Mike Fulton and Abe Max. “They specialize in big concrete-pour jobs like basements, walls, and structural columns,” says Grad. “There’s also a new avante garde performance arts group here called ‘Lacuna’. Long-term woodworking businesses like ‘Inventia Design’ and ‘Perfect 45 Degrees’ continue to be our cornerstone tenants.

“Most of our tenants here are crafters, but there is also a band, ‘The Lower 48’, which recently had one of their songs, ‘Come Awake’, purchased for a Superbowl ad. We’re real proud of them,” he continues. “We’ve mothballed the Tool Shed business – a teaching metal shop – and will convert that project into an Arts Grant Association. Cory Knudson, owner of Rebel Cricket Screen Prints, is currently offering a special on cotton T-shirts for intramural sports teams, at $8 each.”

In reference to the adjacent building to the south, formerly a St. Vincent de Paul facility whose services included the homeless, and which now will be a Multnomah County homeless service facility and shelter, Grad has a welcoming attitude. “We understand the shelter will be open to women, and couples with no children, and we expect they will be good neighbors,” he says.

“Earlier this year, a Bernie Sanders political volunteer group formed here that created large display signs and provided phone-bank support for the Sanders presidential campaign,” he reports.

“Since that campaign has refocused, the group now phone-banks for other local ‘progressive’ leaders. They meet here Tuesdays at 8 p.m.; but otherwise the room, which has a projector and lots of seating, is available for neighborhood meetings for a flat fee, on a sliding scale. Call 503/232-7433 for information.”