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Q3 Market Research: Bend Boomtown Redux

By Howard Friedman, CCIM

Take a look around Bend. Everywhere you go, housing developments are sprouting up. Commercial projects are coming out of the ground for the first time in years. A new four-year university has opened its doors for the first time in Oregon since OHSU opened their Portland medical campus in 1974. Traffic is undeniably heavier than in recent years. And tourism is at an all-time high, according to  Visit Bend, on pace for a third record year in a row.

So the big question on everyone’s mind, and one we as real estate professionals are asked frequently is: “Is this a repeat of the frenzy of the mid 2000’s, and should we be wary of another downturn?” Our broken crystal ball notwithstanding, there are several factors that differentiate the situation from the last time we were plunged into a deep recession.

First of all, the banking and mortgage industries seems to have improved their priorities and policies this time around, due in no small part to regulations enacted after the economic crash. More careful scrutiny of borrowers and vetting of their financial wherewithal should ensure that a debtor is more able to fulfill their loan obligation.

A more diverse trade and industry base should also help to stabilize any fluctuations in the regional economy. Whereas Bend’s history went from mainly a lumber town to a tourism and real estate based marketplace, we have seen the last decade bring in a myriad of software and high tech companies, and the OSU-Cascades campus’ opening will certainly help.

But perhaps the leading indicator of stability may be in the number of new commercial projects on the drawing board and popping up throughout the region. Bend Research, one of Bend’s premier employers (and recently purchase by Capsugel) has expanded and is in the process of further growth. 10 Barrel Brewing Company, recently purchased by international powerhouse Anheuser Busch, is building on to its facility off of 18th Street. Hydroflask is doubling the size of its original facility with a new 12,000 sq. ft. headquarters in NorthWest Crossing. Deschutes Brewery continues its expansion after completing its 57,000 square foot warehouse. And St. Charles is underway with a $22 million dollar expansion and renovation of its east Bend facility.

Several notable retail expansions are also in the works. In addition to the ongoing redevelopment of the Box Factory in the Old Mill District, Killian Pacific, a regional development firm based in Vancouver, WA, recently acquired the Neff Place retail project, which currently is leased to Jackson’s Corner, Café Yumm! and Sports Clips across from Bend Memorial Clinic. This project includes land for a second phase and the potential to add another 7,000 sq. ft. of retail or medical office space in the near future.

Finally, with no less than five new hotels just built or on the drawing board in Bend, expect the region to continue to draw tourists year-round to our little corner of the world. We continue to be known as a premier destination for golf, fishing, mountain biking, camping and watersports, and winter recreational opportunities.  And with Mt. Bachelor’s new six million dollar Cloudchaser chairlift slated to open this season, making it the first completely new chair lift providing access to previously unserved terrain on the mountain since the opening of the Northwest Express lift in 1996, it makes Mt. Bachelor the fifth largest ski area in the United States, according to Mt. Bachelor’s website, providing 635 acres of new terrain.

So hold on to your hats while strong development remains in the region, and let’s all hope for smart and sustainable expansion to allow us to continue to enjoy our lifestyle in the place we call home.

Howard Friedman, CCIM is a partner and principal broker with Compass Commercial Real Estate Services in Bend, and is the editor of Compass Points, Compass Commercial’s quarterly survey of the regional commercial real estate market. To obtain a copy of the complete Q3 2016 Market Report visit