Transforming Tualatin

Tualatin residents are praising David Emami for coming to the rescue, again

By Jennifer Clampet

The TimesThe Times, Jul 31, 2008, Updated Oct 30, 2009

Developer David Emami has a history of saving the relics in Tualatin and infusing a creative energy in downtown Tualatin.

Two years ago, he stepped up to preserve the dilapidated and historic Robinson store saving it from demolition by Tualatin’s own development commission.

On Monday, he announced another step to help preserve a second Tualatin fixture – Tualatin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452.

In three months, the VFW will move from its old, basement-level building on Seneca Street into the 3,000-square-foot, second-story space of the old Robinson building.

The VFW has been in negotiations with Emami for the last three years. Emami has been interested in the VFW’s prime downtown property. And the VFW was looking for a way out of its dingy surroundings and a way to provide better services and attractions for younger veterans.

“To outfit a building like this would cost $1.5 million,” said VFW Post Commander Bill Phillips. “David has really come to our rescue.”

“Our dirty, dark building is not a lot to offer young veterans. We think attraction is better than promotion.”

And with the new building to be outfitted with hardwood floors and modern finishing, Phillips said the post hopes to attract younger veterans who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The building will also be outfitted with an elevator, allowing easier access for the post’s older members who currently climb down stairs to make it into the organization’s meeting area.

Phillips described the Tualatin VFW as a declining organization with most veterans having served in the Korean and Vietnam war eras.

“A lot of this initiative (to move into the new building) started from this (realization to attract newer members). We want to be a first-class facility, and we want our focus to be on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder services,” said Phillips.

The VFW had considered rebuilding on its current property. But the cost would have been significant, Phillips said, adding that Emami’s development company will put in about $1.5 million to renovate the old Robinson store.

“To integrate (the VFW) with something that’s literally the beginning of the community is huge,” Phillips said.

With VFW’s 50-year history in Tualatin, Emami said he was proud to work with the organization. The post’s recent work raising more than $20,000 for calling cards for deployed Oregon soldiers gave Emami a stirring recollection of what it means to be a soldier.

As a veteran himself who served for two years with the Iran army in 1968, Emami said he received training to be a tank commander from West Point Academy instructors. Emami moved to the United States in the ‘70s and earned graduate degrees from Portland State University and Harvard before getting into land development.

During a brick-breaking ceremony on Monday which signified the start of the inside renovation work at the old Robinson store building, Emami and his wife Diana donated $50,000 to the Tualatin VFW.

The VFW is trading its building and 12,000-square-foot property for an undividable half ownership of the renovated $2.5 million old Robinson store building. Plans call for the Mashita Teriyaki Restaurant, currently located on Seneca Street next door to the VFW, to move into the first floor of the building.

Emami has plans to erect a 55,000-square-foot building on the current site of the VFW and Mashita restaurant. So while Emami’s actions can be seen as charitable, the developer who Mayor Lou Ogden joked, “owns half of Tualatin,” still has his eyes on future development of Tualatin.

Emami owns more than 20 properties in downtown Tualatin including the Clark Lumber site. In 2006, Emami talked of plans to redevelop that site at the corner of Boones Ferry and Tualatin-Sherwood roads with a 120,000-square-foot office building.

Emami says that he’ll wait until after constructing the building planned for the old VFW property before deciding when to pursue development on the Clark Lumber land citing the economy and the need for more office space as determining factors.

The old Robinson store, also known as the historic red brick building, was built in 1912. In 2005, the Tualatin Development Commission saw the building as an obstacle to the Boones Ferry Road widening and improvements project. The building was slated for demolition when Tualatin residents appealed the demolition permit.

In 2006, Emami bought the building from the city and paid $62,349 for the building and $268,680 for the land.

The day that crews worked to carefully ease the building 50 feet away from the road, a Tualatin Historical Society member hugged him.

Emami was baffled. He said he couldn’t believe he got so much praise just for saving a building.

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