Astray email provides glimpse into Zidell family’s South Waterfront deal

Affordable housing options play crucial role in real estate company’s reluctance to proceed on project.

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An email accidentally sent to OPB from ZRZ Realty Co.’s PR firm lays out the company’s plans to delay or call off negotiations with the city for affordable housing.’s Brad Schmidt wrote an in-depth report on the contents of the email and what it means for the city and South Waterfront development project.

“We seem to have loosely decided that ZRZ will go its own way,” public relations consultant Kathleen Mazzocco wrote in an email to President Jay Zidell and other company leaders, summarizing a recent meeting.

On the to-do list: Company officials need to ask Hales to delay their deal beyond February and “decouple” it from the mayor’s effort to extend boundaries for the North Macadam district.

In the February issue of Oregon Business, we talk to Matt French — great-grandson of Zidell’s founder — about his vision for the South Waterfront project.

“My family has always held on to the idea that this could be something really special for the city,” he says. French believes the time may be right for a new approach in South Waterfront: one that’s vibrant, human scaled and rooted in creative place making.

With its forest of high rises, the district was a poster child for the 2000s’ real-estate boom, swelling with thousands of residents seeking walkable, mass transit-oriented urban living. Taking inspiration from Vancouver, B.C., local developers built tall, skinny high rises, reaching as high as 31 stories in the case of the John Ross condominiums. Oregon Health & Science University was also expanding here (the Portland Aerial Tram connected to its Marquam Hill campus), providing a built-in market for residential units and for local retailers. But after initially setting sales records, numerous South Waterfront towers wound up in foreclosure during the recession. Besides feeling sterile, it also seemed half empty.

Read that story here.