Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened. External photo attribution at the end of the post. (#1 – #2)
In my last blog post entitled “May Meanderings,” I wrote about my favorite brewery – the Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary and its Head Brewer, Father Martin Grassel.
Also about the 2022 movie, “Father Stu: Reborn” and the late priest’s connection with Mount Angel. And finally about the post pandemic travails of a wonderful dive bar I first visited in 2015 – Kelly’s Olympian – another example of the City of Portland’s ineffective and frustrating efforts to keep its businesses operational and its citizens safe.
The word is defined as:
“The act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side, often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect.”
I’ll try to do a bit of that in this post, but regardless of whether that succeeds, the title satisfies my affinity for alliteration.
I worked for twenty-five years on the mid-level floors of the PacWest Center – a great thirty-story skyscraper in Portland’s Central Business District. The Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt firm at one time occupied five floors and had about 130 lawyers – the anchor of our four branch offices.
The building’s proximity to the courts, government buildings and amenities made it a very desirable location. There were also great views and the expansive floor plate was conducive to functional and attractive designs for professional service firms. And who can complain about a large Starbucks, a bar and at one time, a good restaurant – all – only an elevator ride away.
In a previous post, I mentioned the filming of parts of the movie “The Last Innocent Man” based on the novel by Portland’s best-selling author, Phillip Margolin, in addition to a commercial or two.
I’ve also gotten a chuckle on the “use” of the building in CBS’ comedy drama “So Help Me Todd,” which stars actress Marcia Gay Harden as a lawyer in a large Portland law firm.
The storyline makes anyone familiar with actual law firm operations and professional rules cringe, but it’s a fun series. The exterior of the PacWest Center is often shown along with fleeting glimpses of Portland landmarks, but scenes of the law firm interior are evidently filmed in Vancouver, BC.
The PacWest Center also has character. For example, the recent article entitled, “This Portland pine may be the world’s tallest tree planted on top of a high rise:” (#3 – #4)
“Standing approximately 40 feet tall, the pine prominently planted atop the Pacwest Center’s 25th-floor terrace could be the tallest tree growing from any high-rise rooftop on Earth.
Commuters anywhere southwest of Jefferson Street and 6th Avenue are bound to notice the coniferous evergreen towering above Downtown traffic. Planted shortly after the office building’s completion in 1984, the tree has quietly matured with the Portland skyline, drawing little attention in the last four decades.”
The article raised speculation about the height of the tree, but KOIN TV which published the story, went to the best source, John Russell, President of Russell Development Co. in Portland. He was the developer of the PacWest Center and has both engineering degrees and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
“Russell said that the PacWest Center’s alternating exterior of silver paneling and tinted windows can be used like a measuring stick, which can give a rough estimate of the tree’s height. ‘It’s easy,’ Russell said. ‘The total of the two layers is 13 feet.’
With the tree extending roughly six layers high, it can be surmised that the tree is approximately 40 feet tall. Russell told KOIN 6 News that the tree was four or five feet tall when it was placed in the terrace’s metal planter bed. He and his wife Mary Fellows still look up at the PacWest Center and enjoy the pine tree for the oddity that it is.
‘The tree just delights me,’ Russell said. ‘It’s quirky and fun.'”
And if there is doubt about future ability of the floor plate to handle the weight of the tree, I suggest they contact John to do the stress calculations….
I was fortunate to get to know John Russell through his association with our law firm and civic work with the City Club of Portland. And there are few if any in the Northwest with the long record of public service comparable to John’s.
Among the boards and commissions on which he has been a member include the Portland Development Commission, the Oregon Transportation Commission, the Mayor’s Business Roundtable (Chair from 1993 to 2003), the Portland City Planning Commission and the Portland Historic Landmark Commission.
He has also served as Chair of the Oregon Investment Council. “He is known for supporting diversity and inclusion in his evaluation of investment pitches.” (Wikita.com) (#5 – #6)
I loved hearing John’s stories about him and the late John Schwabe – one of our law firm’s named partners, an Oklahoma boy and a genuine War World II hero from the Battle of Guadalcanal and other battles in the South Pacific. (“For his military service, Schwabe was awarded a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars and a Presidential Citation for Valor.”)
The two went back to Wall Street to talk to the New York investment bankers in a successful effort to obtain financing for the PacWest Center. John Russell is the epitome of an outstanding citizen and businessman.
But with the pandemic and the recent trend of remote work, the future of high rise buildings raises many questions. A January, 2023 article in the Bend Bulletin stated, “U.S. Bancorp Tower, Oregon’s largest office building, faces loss of two major tenants.”
The situation may have changed since publication, but still signals a change not only in Portland, but in cities throughout the country.
“Portland law firm Miller Nash and Bay Area internet pollster SurveyMonkey are leaving the U.S. Bancorp Tower.
The moves will leave about 100,000 square feet of vacant office space in the iconic ‘Big Pink,’ Oregon’s second tallest building and its largest office building, and suggests the recent weakness of the downtown office market will continue in 2023.” (#7)
On May 7th, Oregon Live asked: “Portland office vacancies have nearly doubled since the pandemic; Will return-to-office plans reverse that?” Other law and professional service firms using the remote-hybrid model will certainly consider reducing office space when leases expire.
The May 12, 2023 Morning Brew summarized the situation in New York City and what steps should be taken if this trend continues:
“How much empty office space does New York City have right now? Enough to fill more than 26 Empire State Buildings (about 74.6 million square feet, if you want to be specific).
Researchers Edward Glaeser and Carlo Ratti made the comparison to emphasize how NYC and other large American cities need to make drastic changes to their zoning laws to adapt to the WFH era. The ultimate goal should be to become a ‘Playground City” where people live, work, and play all in the same neighborhood. (#8)
While I love the City of Portland, I’m not very optimistic about us becoming a “Playground City” referenced in the article above, much less returning to a vibrant metropolis that attracts tourists and beckons to those in surrounding areas to patronize businesses and hospitality establishments.
When a June 2, 2023 Oregonian article is entitled,
“Open-air drug use is at an all-time high’ in downtown Portland: Police turn to citations as fentanyl crisis explodes.”
it diminishes confidence in current efforts.
And there is widespread agreement that it will take more effective leadership by the Mayor, City Council, District Attorney, Governor, State Legislators, public sector unions, business leaders and the Portland Police Department, Police Union, the homelessness bureaucracy and homelessness advocates of all sides, churches as well as, non-profits, among others to compromise and develop creative solutions. (#9 – #10)
Does that seem insurmountable? Well, I still pray for World Peace and solutions to Global Warming!! And with the amount of funds already approved to address the problem, the solutions are not for lack of resources – at least to make strong steps forward.
Before closing, I want to offer one more opinion (rant) about this trend. While I’m an old guy, I still believe the trend to largely vacant workplaces where most people work on-line should be reversed or at least moderated.
While necessary during the pandemic and offering some distinct advantages – environmentally, economically, lifestyle and for working parents – we need to ask “What’s the ultimate cost?” (#11)
Is it healthy for organizations not to have a sense of community, in-office mentoring and comradery? And are the purported productivity gains real or imaginary? Review a recent Bloomberg News article entitled “Remote Work May Come with Daytime Drug and Drinking Habits:”
Some of the statistics cited are stunning and alarming and at least raise questions:
“A May 2022 study by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta estimates that the number of working age Americans (25-54 years old) with substance abuse disorders has risen by 23% since pre-pandemic, to 27 million. A figure that’s about one in six of people who were employed around the time of the study.
Drug recover firm Sierra Tucson concluded from a November 2021 survey that about 20% of US workers admitted to using recreational drugs while working remotely, and also to being under the influence during virtual meetings.
Quit Genius found in August 2022 that one in five believe that substance use has affected their work performance, also according to a survey…..Though back-to-office mandates are unpopular for many reasons, addiction experts note that resistance consistently comes from millions of addicted employees.”
Consistent with the concept of “placing two or more things side by side, often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect,” let me suggest two options if you do decide to commute back to the office: (#12 – #13)
And to end on an upbeat note after some sobering narrative, I leave with this quote which I loved from one of my favorite authors – John Sandford – in his novel Field of Prey:
“The day was another good one, with fair-weather clouds floating overhead and warm and humid. Here and there, in the ditches, the sumac was showing orange leaves and the dust from gravel roads hung in the air for a while, as it does on the windless humid days; a good day not to be dead.” (Emphasis supplied – Page 141 – #14 – #15)
External Photo Attribution
#1. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mountain_peaks_under_snow.jpg) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, G%C3%BCrkan Seng%C3%BCn. This applies worldwide. Author: G%C3%BCrkan Seng%C3%BCn.
#2. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waves_breaking_on_ocean_coast.jpg) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Rosendahl. This applies worldwide. Author: Rosendahl.
#3. – #4. Photos courtesy of Dan R. Swift, SIOR, CCIM – Senior Vice President
CBRE | Advisory and Transaction Services – Investor and Occupier.
#5. Willamette Week (Oregon Investment Council Member Blasts Elite Fund Manager For Lack of Diversity (wweek.com) 6/20/18
#6. The Oregonian obituaries (https://obits.oregonlive.com/us/obituaries/oregon/name/john-schwabe-obituary?id=27054738)
#7. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MtTaborPortlandHood.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Cacophony – 30 May 2007.
#8. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (File:Empire State Building (aerial view).jpg – Wikimedia Commons) The author died in 1952, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer. Author: Sam Valadi – 17 July 2012.
#9. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seized_drug_equipment_Forum_Marinum.JPG)
I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. Author: MKFI – 26 August 2012.
#10. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homeless_in_New_York_City..jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Adjoajo – 31 December 1969.
#11. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_Working_from_Home_during_Maternity_Leave.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: CIPHR Connect – 21 August 2001.
#12. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1950_Schwinn_Spitfire.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bs/ – 6 October 2006.
#13. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electric_Bicycle_Adventure_06_23_2021_(51267213401).jpg
#14. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skunkbush_sumac_
(Rhus_trilobata)_on_Seedskadee_National_Wildlife_Refuge_(37332909495).jpg) This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. For more information, see the Fish and Wildlife Service copyright policy. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author:
USFWS Mountain-Prairie – 13 September 2017.
#15. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tamsa.JPG) I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. Author: Ingvar Pärnamäe (Õväküvä) – 27 July 2010.