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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 26, 2007 11:38 AM. The previous post in this blog was The mesquite chips were a nice touch. The next post in this blog is Sure sign of a crook. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Monday, March 26, 2007

A visit to SoWhat

A reader writes:

Hey Jack. Hope you all had a good weekend. Stevie and I took a trip down to the SoWhat district as I wanted to see what I'm paying for... it reminded me of the towers in Vancouver BC and Chicago...but I'm not keen on those either. Anyway, we toured a $400,000 1 bedroom unit on the 7th floor, a $600,000 1 bedroom unit (same as the first one except on the 17th floor) and a million dollar 2 bedroom. I can honestly say they were ugly, ugly, ugly. The same countertops in the 1 bedroom were in the million unit, as were the cabinets and built-ins. The cabinets looked like the cherry wood synthetic ones you buy at Ikea. Even the islands in the kitchen were granite set on top of spindly legs that you could move around. Not impressive. Anyway, they really tried to sell the fact the buildings were green and had rooftop gardens and a pet area of their own. AND she went on to push the new park. (Grrrr.) The best part was the sign (I took a picture) explaining that the greenway in front of the condo tower was public access, but if you got too loud or were doing something the residents didn't like, they would kick you out. Welcome to the neighborhood!!

Comments (23)

At least the building owner/developer and general conractor know where every dime to build the thing went and they built it through competetive bidding.
In stark contrast the Tram contract was awarded by the city and council vote well ahead of the Tram design, prints and specs. Essentially a no bid contract.

A Halliburton-Bechtel like no bid contract.

I think the point was that considering how much they are selling for, you would expect better quality building materials would have been used.

A Halliburton-Bechtel like no bid contract.

Some of the MAX lines were a Bechtel no-bid contract.

I think he knows that...

Interesting what they can convince yokels with money to spend in Portland on overpriced condos. I wonder if the buyers are aware for that sort of money you can live in much better cities than Portland. The fact that they put such flimsy materials into these units shows how pathetic the building & buyers standards are in OR. I just flew back from a three day trip to the suburbs of Hartford, CT. Didn't see an ugly rowhouse anywhere. Lots of nice homes on large lots; not all pushed together as if we are running out of land. Amazingly, the home prices are little different from what most mid-market homes sell for in the PDX area - and all with much better insulation. Yes taxes are higher in CT - but they have decent roads and 14 Fortune 500 Companies headquartered there; not one as with Oregon.

Without cheap housing, reasonable commutes and great schools, Portland moves way down in livability. But Homer and the crew go straight to the bank, and that's what this place has been all about since Katz and Adams sold it out.

Dave, you should try navigating I-84 or I-91 through Hartford at rush hour it makes I-5 look like a cakewalk. A lot of us Eastcoasters are here because we find the converse to be true that Portland is a much better city. You should visit some of the industrial hellscapes all through New England. "Nice" places like New Haven or Bridgeport. Yikes. Nice to hear you had an enjoyable trip to a insurance headquarters neighborhood though.

....but if you got too loud or were doing something the residents didn't like, they would kick you out.

Lakota development on NW Skyline tried that a while back with Forest Park's firelene 3, using a private security company. It never stuck. The problem was that "Something the residents didn't like" even amounted to hiking through peacefully.

But this illustrates the problem. If the condo associations are allowed to police the greenway, and the call belongs to the private officer on duty, what's going to prevent overzealous enforcement?

Well George, "A lot of us Eastcoasters are here because we find the converse to be true that Portland is a much better city". Yabut are you willing and able Not to change Portland? My problem with Easterners are they want to tax us out of our houses. In time Portland starts to look like Newww Yawk city. Mayor Katz gave us unlivablity, and Row-houses. And another " Save the Downtown" for the what?

KISS, I'm not saying the shannagins going on here are good. Unfortunately, Portland is an attractive place to which is why we continue to see a huge population influx. I do not, nor do most others, want to tax anyone out of their home, yet we still have property taxes that are half of those in New Jersey. I wish I had a solution, but population growth will cause development. However, I can tell you from seeing Eastern government entities at work upclose, that any form of corruption or collusion is really bad news and needs to be stomped out and that is something we must address much more seriously than is happening now.

You mean after the taxpayers pay over $40 MILLION for just the greenway trail, the condo residents could "kick you out" if you "were doing something the residents didn't like"? That a good deal.

That's like the tram ridership being 91% OHSU in the latest census but the taxpayers are charged for 15% of the operating costs. Another good deal.

Oh, I forgot. the taxpayers also have to pay $8 dollars for a round trip on the tram, but OHSU patrons pay nothing. Another good deal.

Maybe with this logic, the taxpaying greenway trail users should pay to walk on the trail and the local condo owners pay nothing.

I've been to Hartford Conn on multiple times and....we' sucks, find a beter example like Boston, or Portland, Maine...where's that place Jack goes every summer...Jersey Shore?

Lee, it "only" costs $4 for a round trip on the tram.

my realtor told me of how the pre-build investment worked and how he did it. basically, the goal is to buy and flip before the final payment is due (construction is complete), scooping up the increase in value due to buying early at a reduced rate and appreciation.

apparently, he knew several investors that did the same thing. he speculated that more were bought by investors than actual intended occupants.

God Bless America.

i am not sure how much real estate shopping experience the original commenter had, but paying significantly more for a unit with a view is par for the course.

also, with new construction in a large building, you can choose fancier fixtures to raise the price of your unit, but the biggest expense tends to simply be square footage.

the 2 million dollar units down there have quite a bit more square footage AND a better view then the cheaper units.

so what the commenter reports is really unremarkable.

however, i still don't see a reason to live there unless you work for OHSU. but whatever, if people want to spend their money on the units, what business is it of mine? people buy all sorts of silly stuff every day. just look at the dumb shirts they are wearing.

what business is it of mine?

That's not the attitude the developers assumed when they cashed in on more than a half billion (probably closer to a full billion) in taxpayer subsidies.

yea, absolutely correct. however, that has nothing to do with the complaint about the condo pricing and fixtures.

At one BILLION city tax money, that is a subsidy of $200,000 per unit.

That is what business it is of ours, as Portland ranks near the bottom of the Forbes list for:

Cost Of Living (28% from the bottom)
Crime Rate (25% from the bottom))
Income Growth (10% from the bottom)


Yes,George, New England and the east coast have some less than desireable places. Many of them are devoted to industries that have all but abandoned Portland as a place to do business. For that matter, many of them have abandoned Oregon completely.
And traffic is bad pretty much everywhere these days. Been to San Francisco or Seattle lately? My drive up I-91 from Hartford to East Windsor at 5:00 P.M. on friday has hardly the horrible trip you mentioned. At least in CT they have freeway exits where you can get on and off at the same location.


Forbes may be generally reliable, but I question any study that shows that Portland (#150) has a worse crime rate than Atlanta (#128). I moved to PDX from Atlanta, and there's no question that Portland has a better crime situation that Atlanta.

Methinks that Atlanta may have given Forbes crime data that had been screened by the same city officials who told the International Olympic Committee that the average temperature in Atlanta in late July and early August was 78 to 82 degrees.

Oh, and to Dave, your reference to home insulation has me intrigued. How on earth were you able to evaluate the insulation of all the homes in Hartford over a three-day visit for your comparison study? Is there an insulation crisis in Portland that I'm not aware of? Or is there an alternate meaning of insulation that I'm missing? Your description of the freeway exits makes me want to book some plane tickets, though.


Sheef - In response to your question, I have been told by a long time friend and general contractor that building standards are a good bit higher in CT vs. most places in Oregon. They do have a more severe climate in CT and homes do get better insulation than what is usually used here according to my friend. Given that he's been in the building industry for close to 30 years and worked on homes and commercial properties on both coasts, I will take his word on it.
The bottom line, of course, is that third rate materials such as strand board are rarely used in CT home construction. But if you look at the places being built around here you see plenty of that crap being used here. In fact, I know of two locations being constructed on outer Powell Blvd. that used strand board in their wall construction. (Keep in mind that if this stuff gets wet it is about as useful as wet cardboard.)


Thanks for the explanation. Of course, doesn't it make sense that homeowners in Connecticut would invest more in insulation than we do here in Portland, given the extreme New England weather?

Not to make too light of it, but your post struck me as hilarious because on this blog I thought I had seen every conceivable "quality of life" issue raised as either a point for or against Portland, but I'd never seen the insulation issue come up before and I thought it was a hoot.

Full disclosure: Neither I nor my family work in or for the insulation business. But our home insulation needs are being met perfectly, praise be.


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