Construction Management, Industrial, Investments, Office, Retail

Portland’s newest maker space takes shape in the Iron Fireman

ScanlanKemperBard and its ownership partner, WHI Real Estate Partners L.P., could have revamped the old Iron Fireman Building and an adjacent industrial building into an updated space for one or maybe two large industrial users.

In fact, that’s what the roughly 150,000-square-foot complex at Southeast 17th and Schiller had hosted for decades. That changed in 2014 when aerospace manufacturer PECO Manufacturing moved to Clackamas, leaving the buildings vacant. (A printing and direct mail company also occupied part of the space as well.)

But SKB and WHI, which bought the buildings this year for $5.3 million, envision a different kind of use that makes more sense in this day and age and in this city. Instead of one or two large tenants, the owners are investing some $10 million to revamp the buildings and prep them for the makers, artisans and creative manufacturers who have increasingly come to call Portland home.

“It could be just about anything,” said Chris Ebersole, a senior vice president with SKB. “Metalworking, woodworking, fashion design, food commissary, brewers, distillers, coffee roasters. There’s a pretty big range.”

The remodel, designed by Mackenzie and executed by Lorentz Bruun Construction, is essentially restoring some of the original character of the older 1920s-era Iron Fireman Building, including its wood floors, beams, bricks and windows. The work will also reconfigure the building for spaces as small as 1,000 square feet, while adding bike parking and showers, as well as some common areas.

An adjacent building that’s newer and in better shape is also being teed up for maker space. The entire deal is being billed as the Iron Fireman Cooperative.

Ian McLeod, an associate broker with Capacity Commercial Group, said the new spaces, which will be available in early 2017, should prove appealing to tenants who might not be finding what they’re looking for closer in as places like the Central Eastside fill up and jump in price. The Iron Fireman Building also sits right on the MAX Orange line, which could be a potential draw for tenants who like to take advantage of mass transit.

“I could see that being part of the appeal,” McLeod said, noting that the owners would like to see a few 10,000- to 40,000-square-foot tenants, with the balance taken up by smaller outfits.

Ebersole said the nearby area is presently fairly quiet in terms of retail or restaurant options, but he’s confident the Iron Fireman and its prospective, very Portland tenants could have a big hand in changing that.

“The immediate area is pretty sparse on retail,” he said, “but it’s kind of an if you build it, they will come thing. Some of the folks we have had come out here have a hard time picturing it because they stand outside and they don’t see anything. But once you get a tenant base, it could really take off.”

Click through on the pictures above for a visual tour of the Iron Fireman Cooperative and how its renovation is coming along.