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Moyer Tower: Bye, bye Virginia Cafe and Everything Else in the Way

Downtown developer Tom Moyer (Fox Tower) wants to demolish the entire Zell Block at SW Morrison and Park, including the Virginia Cafe and build a 35-story office-condo tower.
Virginia Cafe
Virginia Cafe
"Thirty-five stories on a three-story block in an eight-story neighborhood? How can this be? The city is acting like this project is a done deal. We need a public hearing on this as a land-use issue (a Type III land- use review.)"

So say the neighbors of Tom Moyer's latest high-rise project, Moyer Tower, which would demolish the entire Zell block (bounded by SW Park, Morrison, 9th and Yamhill) along with Mercantile, Zells Jewlers, and the venerable Virginia Cafe (since 1922).

So far, the only opportunity afforded the public to comment on the project is before the Design Commission, which meets this Thursday, May 17 at 1:30 PM, 1900 SW 4th, 2500A.

Park Avenue residents say the area is already beset with many noisy, polluting construction projects, including Moyer's Park and Garage at Park Block 5, the Macy's, Transit-mall, and Esquire makeovers, as well as the plans always hovering over The Galleria and Yamhill Garage. .

Park Avenue Concern (detox for developers) is a new neighborhood group formed in response to the proposed 420-foot tower, which would be among the four largest in the state. PAC asks: "Why another huge, ugly office tower in such a congested area? Why, when we already have here so many solid old historic structures, many owned by Moyer and friends?' These appear to have been red-lined, that is, systematically left undeveloped, unmaintained, sometimes vacant, even derelict, according to PAC.

Also appearing to be "red-lined" are any traffic-pedestrian considerations, such as traffic lights or even crosswalks, on any of SW Park or Ninth Avenues north of Salmon. Now, into the already hazardous Park-Taylor intersection, Moyer wants to release thousands of cars from his garages. When you total facilities existing, under construction, or planned, these now include fourteen (14) subterranean levels! That's a lot of new traffic.

PAC also asks why has Moyer leased to a methadone clinic at his 804 SW Alder? "Is this another effort to degrade the neighborhood so it can be rescued by the wrecking ball?" Across Alder, in the old Cornelius Hotel, Moyer rents storefront space to an arts center for the homeless (PEAR). Ironically, above them are thousands of square feet of unoccupied space that could be made into housing, and once was housing.

PAC asks Moyer and fellow developers to disclose their plans for the red-lined structures of the Park Avenue area. Above all, PAC demands an independent study of the impacts of Moyer's new skyscraper as a proposal and an open public hearing on the proposed project in a Type III Land-use Review.



Dear Tom Moyer,

Here is my $1.2 million check in advance for a studio condo in your fabulous Moyer Tower. Since you plan only eighty-five condos in your new office tower, I want to get right in there on the top floor, so to speak. Floor thirty-something would be nice, way up at the top. And north light, please! I am a bit of an artist, you know (oils).

I just love it out there in the Northwest and spend several glorious weeks in Portland every summer and fall. New York gets so hot and humid, you know. I get the Oregonian and the Tribune here in New York, and I just marvel at what you movers and shakers of the PBA and PDC are doing midtown, to say nothing of the PPB. You're going to make it so comfortable for people like me. You know, us in the Creative Class.

It is impressive, Tom, how you guys in PBA are unafraid to crunch some old tavern like that decadent Virginia Cafe or some aged apartment house -- just like your PPB is unafraid to crunch some homeless rodent in the Pearl, right there in broad daylight, to send the right message. Yes, that's how to get a well dressed city. Little Portland is getting totally awesome! Rudy, Michael, Donald: they would approve. (They may even be in envy, you know, Tom, because New York, no matter how hard it tries, can never be as white as Portland.)

Back here in the East, we consider you Oregonians a bit, well, provincial, and when you spout that "world class" stuff, we do get a titter. But, Tom, big Tom, you yourself are becoming the Donald Trump of Portland! That tall pink one up at Broadway, that splendid glassy, classy Fox Tower. Tom, it's soooo huge. It dwarfs everything around it! And, coming in it's shadow, I read, is your own Tom Moyer Park and Garage. And now you promise classy, glassy towers everywhere, and, when I go out, it will be like a mall, with restaurants with names that I know, and everywhere shops, shops, shops for me, me, me.

Here's my check, honey,

Spendi Trendi
Park Avenue, New York
Editorial from High Rise Times
The Virginia Cafe Meets the Cement Mixer
by George Trinkaus

You could call it the art of romancing the tavern culture while trashing it. "Regulars Need New Barstools" says the headline in that odd obituary in the Portland Tribune (2/2/07). That means move on now, Virginia-Cafe folks. This skyscraper is a done deal. No discussion, please.
"Just go away," they say. "Please. See, we ask you nicely. And we give you some press before we demolish you. We don't do that for the apartment folks. All you boozers be good now, and be gone. And no smoking, please."
Moyer Tower, 35 stories, surprise! Who would have thought that one developer, who already had such a gigantic footprint upon this sensitive little city, would venture another midtown high-rise big-box? (If you behaved that aggressively in a tavern, you'd get 86'd.) With all that downtown office space red-lined and languishing, what's the big need? Must be that Moyer's got that New York fever.
To the Virginia Cafe people, the developers say through their paper, move on to "new barstools." But where? The tavern culture of downtown is rapidly disappearing. No answer is forthcoming from the Tribune on where these new stools might be found. In recent issues one can also find colorful reflections on the Brasserie (closed), Hung Far Low (closed), Silverado (expected to close). Who's next, River City? These barroom nostalgia pieces favor a dash of decadence and scandal. A gangster past is gold. The writing is designed to titillate the sensibilities of some hypothetical up-scale condo buyer who would never set foot in such a place.
"Dark and smoky" is that degenerate old "relic," the Virginia Cafe, and that means it's OK to destroy it. Patrons, too, are characterized as relics. (The Tribune recently moved to the suburbs and is so out of touch with downtown it's still devoting many columns to demonizing the homeless, long ago effectively driven out, sometimes at gunpoint.) The puritanical Tribune is an affiliate of a huge Christian publishing biz financed by a local cement mogul. The Cement Mixer Tribune, as we shall call it, characterizes Virginia regulars (some by name) as alcohol addicts wandering the downtown streets compulsively searching for that new bar stool. (How insulting! Is there a lawyer in the house?) And the Cement Mixer could not resist once more resurrecting the scandal of that deposed development czar, Neal Goldschmidt, who had his own plan to trash the same block to make a park.
The tavern scene is at the very heart of Portland's urban culture and is a magnet to the coveted tourist. But, like some other valuable local cultures, the tavern culture is being systematically destroyed, and in the name of "invigorating" the city. This is being done by planners so frightened and uptight they cannot trust the public in taverns or in any public convening, including the government forums in which this kind of high-impact proposal is customarily debated or appealed.
Do they fear rejection? Maybe a few drinks would help.
Trinkaus resides in a fine old "relic" near the VC.

Amazing... 16.May.2007 16:59

boycott real estate

It never ceases to amaze me how many investors continue to get conned into these urban renewal/gentrification projects. Study after study has shown that investment in real estate results in net long term *negative* cash flow. The chances of making it *big* by investing in real estate is about as good as randomly investing in privately placed equities - about one half of one percent. Only the real estate developer/swindler tycoons make big money from real estate.

Boycott real estate!