Simple moving to inner Southeast as Portland tech spills out of downtown – OregonLive.com
Online banker Simple, one of Portland’s largest technology companies, will move next year to a four-story commercial building going up on the inner eastside.
Simple, which has tripled in size since its sale last year to Spanish banker BBVA, is the first big Portland tech company to move out of the city’s commercial center. Its exit reflects both a downtown office market that is overflowing with tech companies and the changing demographics of Oregon’s tech ecosystem, which is abandoning the suburbs for Portland proper.
News of the move first appeared in the Portland Business Journal.
Simple has close to 300 employees, all but 50 in its current Pearl district headquarters. The company will move in the middle of next year, taking 62,000-square-feet. That’s two-thirds larger than its current office, and Simple spokeswoman Krista Berlincourt said the new office will give Simple space to double again.
For decades, Portland’s zoning policy preserved the Central Eastside as an “industrial sanctuary,” where manufacturers and distributors could make and ship products without much concern over noise and smells — or rising rents. But the city has recently taken a wider view of industry there, letting in companies that make software or marketing materials. With them came higher rents, and as a result the district has become a hotbed for real estate sales and developments.
“It’s an industrial area, and while Simple may be a technology company, we’re a technology company of makers and we really identify with the culture of craft that exists over there,” Berlincourt said.
The Clay Creative building, built by Vancouver developer Killian Pacific, is on the site of Taylor Electric Supply. The building burned several years ago and its ruins became a landmark attraction for graffiti artists before its demolition earlier this year.
Simple will fill four of Clay Creative’s stories — Killian Pacific’s Noel Johnson said his firm is still scouting retail tenants for the ground floor. (The building also has one level of underground parking.)
Simple’s new office is just a few blocks up the hill from the Willamette River, so it’s not far from downtown and it’s close to the large cluster of tech workers living in inner Northeast and Southeast Portland. But it’s not an easy destination for people living in Washington County, the traditional home of Oregon’s tech sector.
So Simple’s decision to move across the Willamette underscores how dramatically the Silicon Forest geography has changed as the state has shifted from hardware manufacturing to software.
Both startups and established companies now prefer the city’s core: the growth in Oregon’s thriving economy of tech outposts is focused on downtown, with Amazon, Airbnb, Dell, eBay, Google and others establishing Portland offices over the past few years.
Simple’s also underscores just how crowded downtown has become. Tech is now the largest tenant in the central city, according to the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, with more than a quarter of all leased space. It handily outpaces traditional downtown tenants such as law firms, accountants and government agencies.
Tech’s growth has helped drive up the cost of downtown office rent by 10 percent in the past year, according to JLL.
At least two other big tech companies are in the market for space – Act-On Software’s lease in Beaverton expires next year, and the marketing technology company is contemplating a move downtown. And Elemental Technologies, hiring rapidly following its $296 million sale to Amazon, is seeking new offices as it fills up its current headquarters on Southwest Broadway.
Oregonian reporter Elliot Njus contributed to this article.
— Mike Rogoway