Regarding Waxman: He’s in the Big Leagues Now

Portland Business Journal by Brian J. Back, Business Journal Staff Writer
Date: Sunday, March 12, 2000, 9:00pm PST

Loren Waxman looks a bit like Art Garfunkel as he peers through tinted glasses in front of Rose City Plating in Sellwood, posing for a picture in The Bee newspaper.

On another day, Waxman speaks to a crowd of 200 at a neighborhood meeting, and Mister Rogers comes to mind.

Then Waxman arrives at an interview and photo session with a reporter, wearing a bright sweater that his mother knitted.

Waxman seems like an average kind of guy. But his redevelopment project, Sellwood Lofts, is anything but average. And, it’s his biggest project to date.

Waxman is in the spotlight for his efforts to turn a notorious toxic waste site into a proposed mixed-use development.

The site, home of the abandoned Rose City Plating and other mismanaged metal-finishing businesses, has been designated a brownfields showcase project by the Environmental Protection Agency. Waxman’s mixed-use proposal is drawing attention from public entities and neighborhood residents alike.

But before the Sellwood Lofts/Rose City Plating project, Waxman mostly worked outside of the public spotlight.

Several years ago, during Portland’s residential real estate boom, Waxman found he had a knack for restoring historical homes. Like other investors with some tools and construction know-how, the Westmoreland resident invested in houses and turned them for a profit. Waxman, a former biology major at Lewis & Clark College, had discovered a lucrative trade.

Also a novice designer, he found success in vintage housing projects in Silverton. He later teamed up with Jim Meakin, a restoration guru with a similar background, to form Waxman & Associates.

A few of Waxman’s recent projects, including row houses in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood and historic homes in Ladd’s Addition, have attracted the recognition of city planners.

In October 1999, Waxman was appointed to a four-year seat on the Portland Design Commission, a committee charged with reviewing major developments. The commission includes two developers, two architects, two planning commission representatives and two members “at large.”

“Loren’s work demonstrates commitment to quality and respect for the neighborhood context,” said City Commissioner Charlie Hales after Waxman was appointed to the design commission.

“As we extend design review beyond the downtown area, it’s important to have commission members who understand the development process and the particular care that must be exercised for successful infill projects,” Hales said.

Sellwood Lofts has certainly given Waxman the opportunity to become familiar with the infill development process.

Ever since Waxman snagged the Rose City Plating site for $405,000 in a Multnomah County auction, he’s waded through rules, regulations and environmental testing required of toxic sites.

He’s worked hand-in-hand with officials at the Department of Environmental Quality, the city and county, Portland Development Comission and the Portland Brownfield Initiative, a consortium of government officials and developers.

He’s emerged from the process with an approval to proceed from DEQ and the respect of those he has worked with.

In short, he’s made it to the big leagues.

But Waxman’s rise hasn’t been without controversy.

As Waxman proceeds with plans to demolish the building this month, a group of Sellwood residents claim the developer hasn’t done enough public education on the project and the impending demolition. (See related story, page 35). They’ve asked him to delay demolition until questions can be answered.

“We’ve not been given any education about what to expect [from the demolition], what risks might be present,” said Sam Steiner, a neighbor who lives several blocks away from the site.

Waxman and officials maintain he has met all public notification requirements on the Rose City Plating site.

The developer is willing to discuss the project further with neighbors but is not willing to delay demolition.

Rose City Plating redevelopment project has been a learning process, Waxman acknowledged. He is “learning by doing,” and the Portland Brownfield Initiative is “holding [his] hand” along the way, he said.

Waxman said he is steering toward a specialty in infill development–turning problem properties into creative projects. It’s a niche he thinks will be in great demand in Portland during the next 10 years.

“My whole career has been in staying one step ahead,” Waxman said.

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