- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Jordan Schnitzer, one of Oregon’s most prominent real estate developers and arts supporters, recently purchased a long-vacant property on Pendleton’s Main Street.

His plans for the former bank building are not yet decided, but Schnitzer said he is considering it for gallery space and pop-up stores, and forging partnerships with Crow’s Shadow Institute for the Arts, Pendleton Center for the Arts and OMSI.

There are plenty of possibilities for the building, he said, and only one idea has been ruled out: It will not remain empty.

“It hurt me to see those vacancies,” Schnitzer said. “It doesn’t reflect well on the community that’s so proud. This may be crazy, (but I bought it at auction) as another way of giving back.”

Schnitzer said he has been visiting Pendleton since the early 1980s, attending just about every Round-Up since. His ties to the rodeo began when he arrived in town with a date but no hotel reservation. Luckily, Pendleton hospitality saved the trip by putting him up for the night.

“It was so exciting and so much fun,” Schnitzer said of the Round-Up. “I went up and schmoozed the rooms manager at the Red Lion, and I’ve had rooms there (during Round-Up) ever since.”

He has provided college scholarships for members of the Pendleton Round-Up court and Happy Canyon princesses for years, and has long been a financial supporter of Crow’s Shadow, the Pendleton Center for the Arts and other local nonprofits.

“I brag and rave about Pendleton to everybody,” he said. “It is a wonderful community, fabulous people, wonderful quality of life.”

So what’s to become of the 9,500-square-foot property, located at the corner of Main and Dorion, with a walk-in vault and the charm of a 1970s financial institution?

“I don’t have a clear idea,” he said. “Obviously we buy lots of commercially viable real estate to make a profit.”

But he doesn’t know if that’s the case with this purchase. He said the main desire was to benefit Main Street Pendleton and the city’s nonprofits.

Local arts organizations, in particular, are excited to see what Schnitzer will do with the space and how they could partner in the plans.

“It’s a huge sign that there is interest, and that potential outside investors see this as a place to be involved,” said Karl Davis, executive director of Crow’s Shadow Institute for the Arts, located in Mission. He said the institute has long considered opening a downtown Pendleton space, but the economic investment never penciled out. But perhaps with Schnitzer’s help, that could become more viable.

Roberta Lavadour, executive director of the Pendleton Center for the Arts, said she too is interested in watching how Schnitzer moves forward. But the step he has already taken is big news in itself.

“He saw it as a valuable investment,” she said. “He thinks investing in Pendleton is a smart thing to do.”

Schnitzer said the long-term outlook is strong for cities like Pendleton - and much larger inland locations like Tulsa, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

He said millennials will start to move away from the crowded, expensive coasts toward places that are smaller, more affordable, have good schools and a slower speed of life. But those cities must have the cultural amenities needed to attract new residents. Oftentimes, rural towns lag in that regard.

“We need the culture to improve, so there is more for people to do,” said Schnitzer. “And we need to create jobs.”

Schnitzer lives in Portland. His personal art collection is one of the country’s largest, and includes many important contemporary works. He currently lends pieces from that collection, which has enabled more than 100 exhibitions at more than 75 museums. Schnitzer is also president of Harsch Investment Properties, a privately owned real estate investment company that owns 23 million square feet of property and boasts a billion-dollar real estate portfolio.


Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.com

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