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PORTLAND-Developer Tom Moyer acquired another piece of the would-be central park blocks in Downtown Portland recently, picking up the Old Cornelius Hotel building at 801-809 SW Alder St. from The Baker Group LLC for $2.4 million.

Currently, five developed commercial blocks separate the city’s north and south park blocks. Moyer kick-started the effort to close the gap in 1999 by donating $5 million to purchase one of the blocks, a parking lot immediately west of his Fox Tower office development.

In late 2000, Moyer and former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt recruited other civic leaders into their effort–developer John Gray, arts patron Arlene Schnitzer, lawyers Jim Westwood and Brian Booth, and Well Fargo Bank president George Passadore–and began negotiating the acquisition of portions of more obstructing blocks.

Apartment developer Joe Weston agreed to donate one of the necessary parcels, the Stevens Building at 812 SW Washington St, and Lawrence Ryan and Don Valaster accepted an offer for their Eaton Hotel at 620 SW Ninth Ave. The Eaton Building at 808 SW Alder, Woodlark Building at 813 SW Alder St. and a neighboring property at 830 SW Alder St have also been acquired.

With the acquisition of the Old Cornelius Hotel, at least of the five obstructing blocks have been acquired, turning what many thought a long shot into a reasonable bet, considering the high-profile pressure that will rest on the outstanding property owners. If the investors are successful, the ultimate plan is to have the Central Park Blocks be more commercial than the existing blocks, with a thinner grassy area lined with small cafes and stores. Beneath it all would be a 3,500-slip, mechanized parking garage.

The Old Cornelius Hotel was built in 1906 and has not operated as a hotel for over 10 years. The P.E.A.R. Project (Portland Emerging Artist Residency) currently leases 3,000 sf on the ground floor of the building. The upper floors are uninhabitable, says Scott Madsen of Cushman & Wakefield, who represented Moyer in the transaction. Dave Squire of Grubb & Ellis Company represented the seller.

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