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Building bonds

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Articles - February 2014
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thompson’s first job out of college was with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a global architecture firm that designed the Standard building currently occupied by Stoel Rives. “The first architecture firm Bob worked for designed this building, and the building we’re moving to he designed,” says Van Brocklin, who clearly relishes the literariness of it all. “You can’t write stuff like that.”

Today Thompson is busy working on Nike’s 700,000-square-foot Asian headquarters in Shanghai, along with half a dozen Nike retail stores around the United States. Van Brocklin has been instrumental in helping integrate Stoel Rives across offices and practice areas, as well as growing the firm’s energy, renewable energy and natural resource practice areas. 

Both men count each other as among their closest friends: “one of the three people in your life that you have a foundation with,” Thompson says. “We can walk into this room and sit down and not struggle with small talk, because there is a real deep root to what formulates our relationship.” And yet: amid the all-consuming tasks of raising kids and building businesses, the two men typically see each other only a few times a year.

 “Time has a way of going and going, and all of a sudden, you lift your head up and 10 years go by,” says Thompson. “Then you start thinking about all the things that are important in your life outside of what it is you do.”

Enter Park Avenue West. A longtime architect for Tom Moyer, the influential founder of TMT Development, Thompson was a natural choice to design the skyscraper, an elegant, precertified LEED Platinum tower that will include, among other green features, the city’s first 30,000-gallon rain-harvesting tank, designed to reduce potable water by 40%. 

A rendering of the Park Avenue West Tower

After 43 years in the same building, Stoel Rives, which employs 150 lawyers and paralegals in Portland, was ready to relocate, says Van Brocklin, who knew Moyer from working on the Fox Tower. The Park Avenue West’s green design will also serve as an important recruitment tool, he says. What is good for Stoel Rives is good for the city; the firm’s decision to sign a lease occupying nine of 13 floors of office space was the key to securing the financing that allowed construction on the building to move forward.

One of the state’s most environmentally friendly buildings, the Park Avenue West marks the ongoing evolution of downtown as a vibrant place to live, work and play. But if the skyscraper is a logical extension of urban growth patterns established several decades ago, it also stands as something of a monument to two men who helped push the city’s legacy forward. As Thompson observes, another story about the Park Avenue West “comes back to Van’s success as an attorney and mine as an architect. Now we both get to share rights.”

Van Brocklin and Thompson’s kids are grown, and the men are approaching the twilight of their careers. Both expect to spend more time together going forward. “I think of us coming full circle,” says Thompson, “from sitting on the couch in college dreaming about where we want to get to, and now we will be …” Van Brocklin finishes his friend’s sentence, “… sitting on that deck on the 29th floor of the Park Avenue West Tower."

“I’m finishing my legal career in a building he designed,” Van Brocklin muses. “Of course, that’s how the story is going to end.”



0 #1 VanessaGuest 2014-01-31 22:48:47
Such a cool story four decades in the making between two men who have shaped Portland's skyline and civic landscape. Hope they pull up a westward facing seat together when Park Avenue West is complete and celebrate their respective accomplishments !
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0 #2 RE: Building bondsGuest 2014-02-04 17:48:49
Glad I ran into this. Inspiring story I would like my son to read.
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