Landmark building in downtown Portland sells for $326 million

The Pittock Block, a downtown Portland landmark that serves as the city’s primary telecommunications nexus, has sold for $326 million.

The deal underscores the value of communications infrastructure and continued interest in downtown real estate. The historic, 302,000-square-foot building is a networking hub for many telecom providers, a data center and has expansive office space.

Alco Investment Company, which bought the site in 1986 and rehabilitated it, sold the eight-story building to a pair of real estate firms — Harrison Street and 1547 Critical Systems Realty.

The site, at the corner of SW Ninth and Washington, was once home to former Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock, for whom the building is named. Completed at a cost of $1 million in 1914, the building housed Portland’s first electrical substation in its basement.

Alco said that several long-distance phone companies expressed interest in leasing space at the Pittock Block during the 1980s, when it was near another local phone company’s regional switching hub.

“About the same time, the Internet became more widely adopted and Internet Service Providers that were also interested in gaining access to the neutral telecommunications infrastructure, built data centers in the building,” Doug Rosen, Alco’s chief investment officer, said in a statement Tuesday. “As a result, we oversaw a major retrofit of the building in 1999 that set the building up to take on these types of tenants.”

The Pittock Block functioned as neutral territory for all those phone lines to connect meet and continues to play a similar role today, serving 16 fiber-optic internet carriers and 179 other service providers.

Externally, the building is indistinguishable from other older buildings downtown. But the Pittock Block gained a degree of national fame in 2012 when Portland software developer Cabel Sasser wrote about his discovery of old newspaper clippings pasted to the walls of the building’s basement – and juxtaposed those with photos of modern telecommunications cables running through the property.

The building once served as a newspaper pressroom but though Pittock was The Oregonian’s publisher for four decades, historical evidence suggests his newspaper never published in the Pittock Block.

Rather, it appears The Evening Telegram may have published there beginning in 1914 or soon after.

When Pittock died in 1919 his death was attributed to influenza amid a global flu pandemic.

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