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PORTLAND-Oregon’s first Romano’s Macaroni Grill will open late next spring at the corner of Third Avenue and Yamhill Street in Downtown Portland. Waterloo Restaurant Ventures Inc., the restaurant chain’s franchisee for the Northwest, recently signed a long-term lease with The Rouse Co. for 6,350 sf on the ground floor of the Pioneer Place parking garage. The lease is believed to be the largest restaurant lease signed in Downtown Portland in two or three years.

Ron Dowhaniuk of Staubach Retail Services’ Portland office represented Waterloo in its lease negotiations and is working with the company to secure several more locations in the greater Portland and Seattle markets. Dowhaniuk declined to provide the specifics of the negotiated lease with Rouse, but other local retail brokers familiar with the market say a high-visibility location such as this would likely lease for about $35 per sf.

The restaurant will be located adjacent to Tiffany & Co., which backfilled half of the space vacated by Copeland’s Sports a few years ago. Romano’s Macaroni Grill is taking the other half of that space. Dowhaniuk says interior renovations will be getting underway soon en route to a May 2004 opening. Publicly held Brinker International, the franchiser of Romano’s Macaroni Grill, says Waterloo will spend $2 million building out its space at Pioneer Place, though a portion of that cost is probably being covered by Rouse in the form of a tenant improvement allowance.

Waterloo Restaurant Ventures principal Barry McGowan was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. Waterloo anticipates opening more than a dozen Macaroni Grill restaurants in the Portland and Seattle metropolitan regions over the next five years. McGowan is opening the first Seattle-area store at the Alderwood Mall in Lynwood, WA, says Dowhaniuk, who is currently negotiating leases for two more Portland area locations.

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