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Due Diligence Considerations for Portland’s Rapid Commercial Real Estate Expansion

Important due diligence considerations for Portland’s commercial real estate expansion.

Portland, Oregon (and its neighboring Vancouver, Washington community) is one of the most rapidly expanding parts of the country. Fueled by a strong economy and job opportunities, the population continues to grow not just in Portland but throughout Oregon. With this residential housing boom comes complementary commercial growth.

Portland’s Hillsboro neighborhood, already the site of industrial renewal, got a green light from the city council to further develop over a thousand acres of blighted and rural land to attract more businesses. Nike is in the midst of a $1 Billion-dollar expansion of their Oregon headquarters, while silicon chip manufacturer Intel recently expanded their headquarters in Hillsboro, which was considered the largest capital project in Oregon history. Boeing has committed to shifting high-tech airplane manufacturing back to its Oregon plant, while spending $100 Million dollars to fortify its Portland operations. Biotech giant Genentech also opened a $125 Million expanded campus in Hillsboro, fueling further biotech opportunities for Portland’s science community.

The rapid pace of industrial and commercial development across Oregon, particularly in previously undeveloped areas, reiterates the need for basic environmental due diligence services such as Phase I Environmental Assessments and Phase II Environmental Assessments, and building assessments such as Property Condition Assessments, zoning reports, and ALTA surveys. Construction risk services are an essential management tool for all commercial real estate stakeholders, particularly for newly expanded communities and developments.

Portland is located in a high impact seismic zone, specifically an area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which historically experiences M9+ earthquakes. Portland also has significant peak ground acceleration, which is an important consideration for due diligence and earthquake engineering. Unfortunately, seismic codes in Portland, which were adopted in 1993, are designed for M7 earthquakes. M9 earthquakes last longer and are a thousand times more energetic, posing potentially devastating damage to commercial structures. As the City of Portland re-evaluates its seismic policy and building codes, it has released a list of buildings believed to be of “unreinforced masonry” and potentially dangerous for occupants and the general public in the event of an earthquake.

Seismic Risk Assessments, also referred to as Probable Maximum Loss (PML), are the most sound way that property owners, tenants, investors, lenders and others can understand and manage earthquake-related risks. A PML Report is an estimate of the extent of damage to buildings in the event of anticipated ground shaking, and is expressed as a percentage of construction costs. PML reports can be used to screen for properties at increased risk of significant seismic damage, or can be incorporated into more complex assessments of seismic risks, depending on the client’s risk tolerance and property asset investment. If the Seismic Risk Assessment and PML identify significant risk, property owners may decide to retrofit the property for earthquake resilience. In this case, a structural engineer will be needed to design a structural retrofit system which addresses deficiencies in how the structure responds to a quake. The design and extent of the retrofit will depend on many factors, including local building standards and codes, engineering constraints and the property owner’s objectives. Because earthquakes are a reality of living in, and building in, Portland, it is critical to understand and minimize exposure to seismic risk with the help of an experienced and capable engineering and seismic team.

The Pacific Northwest community has always been an environmental leader at the cutting edge of sustainability, clean energy, and efficiency standards. Portland has committed to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Energy efficient commercial real estate will play a significant role in achieving this benchmark. Building engineering services can help optimize MEP systems and sustainable building design. Energy and efficiency consulting can help developers with audits and benchmarking, LEED and ENERGY STAR certification, retro-commissioning, along with a range of renewable energy consulting services.

We have been proud to see our city develop into one of the most thriving metropolitan areas in the US. Partner is familiar with the unique local challenges of such rapid economic and population growth and the importance of experienced, knowledgeable due diligence consultants in minimizing risk and ensuring successful commercial real estate development.