New owners to remodel, rechristen downtown Eugene's first high-rise

The Register-Guard - By Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
March 1, 2016 1:46pm

Feb. 29 -- A local investment group has purchased what they're calling downtown Eugene's first high-rise, with plans to spend $2.4 million to remodel the 91-year-old building.

The eight-story structure, built in 1924, is on East Broadway, between Oak and Pearl streets. Pewter Rabbit Antiques is in the building's street-level retail space.

For years, it has been called the Eugene Professional Building, packed with offices for lawyers, architects, therapists, nonprofit groups and others. But it's not well-known by that name, said Tim Campbell, one of the partners and project manager.

The new owners plan to call it the Miner Building, after W.E. Miner, the Wisconsin lumberman who moved to Eugene, financed the building, then died several years later, deeding it to the University of Oregon, Campbell said.

"There's no identity to this building," Campbell said while recently giving a tour. "With the (renamed) Miner Building, there will be."
One of the building's claims to fame, which the new owners are highlighting, is that Nike began leasing space there in the early 1970s for a shoe lab where it experimented with different materials and new designs.

Nike still leases space in the basement, Campbell said, adding that he has no idea what the space is used for.

Nike did not respond to repeated requests for information over the last several days.

With about 30 tenants, the building is 80 percent occupied, Campbell said.

Tenants will remain in place while renovations occur in phases over the next two years, he said.

The drab lobby will be upgraded first, which the owners hope to complete by August.

"Somewhere in the '70s they closed off the lobby, so it's like walking in a dark hallway," Campbell said, pointing out the dull gray floor tile and painted windows that block the view into the Pewter Rabbit store.

"We're opening this up and making it light," he said.

The owners will install glass storefronts and remove two layers of drop ceilings to expose the 14-foot-high ceilings.

"We're bringing back the '20s look for the lobby," Campbell said. The owners will play up the light gray marble at the lobby elevator landing and install marble flooring with a "Miner 1924" inlay, he said.

Pewter Rabbit will stay in its spot, Campbell said, adding that he's talking with a salon, yoga studio and stock brokerage about other ground-floor space. Years ago, a restaurant operated off the lobby, and Campbell said he'd love to see a busy cafe there.

The owners will invite Nike and the UO to contribute information for a lobby display on the building's history, he said.

Campbell said spaces throughout the building will appeal to a variety of firms because of renewed interest in downtown and a desire for smaller-than-typical downtown offices -- some as small as 400 square feet.

"There's always a market for 800 square feet, 1,000 square feet," Campbell said, noting that the average downtown Eugene tenant leases 1,500 square feet.

Office space in the building rents for $1.40 a square foot and retail space is $1.55 a square foot, he said.

"We've got a ton of interest without doing much marketing," Campbell said. "We have about four smaller high-tech companies that absolutely want to be in the building," he said, adding that he can't disclose their identities yet.

The building's age and character are especially appealing because there are so few old buildings in downtown Eugene, Campbell said.

"We've lost so many of these great downtown buildings in the '70s (urban renewal), and we love 'em," he said.

"You can't reproduce this building today," Campbell said. "It's just incredible."

When the new owners learned of the investment opportunity, Campbell said he quickly researched other '20s-era remodeled office buildings in Portland and Seattle, and found many successes.

That gave the group confidence to make something of an impulse purchase, he said.

he new owners, Eugene Professional Group LLC, bought the 96,000-square-foot building for an undisclosed price in November. The group, consisting of Campbell, Ordell Construction, Brent Lanz of Lanz Cabinets, and four other partners, bought majority interest from APC Inc.

Sherry Ridgley is listed as president of APC Inc. on the deed filed with Lane County property records. APC Inc. retains a nearly 17 percent ownership interest in the building, according to the deed.

Other planned renovations include replacing the roof, updating the heating ventilation and air conditioning, and overhauling the elevator -- a 14-month project, Campbell said.

The owners have learned from the remodel of the nearby Eugene Hotel, which opened in 1925 and was designed by the same architect, John Hunzicker, Campbell said.

Like any older building, this one has its quirks.

"In some of the spaces it's like a time capsule," he said. "It's like they left and nobody touched their space."

Campbell punched the elevator button, hastened to the third floor and unlocked a door to what he called "the funniest place in the building."

The former office looked like a low-end, do-it-yourself lake cabin, with barn wood wainscoting.

Campbell entered the next room and opened a door.

"I love this," he said. The door went nowhere. It just covered a wall of pink insulation.

Then he glanced down at a cluster of pipes that had been hidden under a cabinet.

"There are things we have to deal with," he said. "We don't know what it is, or where they go," he said, tapping the pipes with the tip of his polished leather shoe.

TBG Architects + Planners, a building tenant, is the project architect. Ordell Construction, one of the partners, is the contractor.

Another partner, Lanz, and his wife Lori designed a metal awning that will hang above the entrance, Campbell said.

When the renovations are complete, the owners want to apply for National Register of Historic Places designation.

Campbell said he saw an earlier application for historic status filed in 1971, which was denied because nothing historic had happened in the building.

Campbell chuckled, saying that apparently was before Nike moved in.

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