Home Doll house As Alberta Street gentrifies, a man keeps his properties

As Alberta Street gentrifies, a man keeps his properties


Address: 2812 NE Alberta St.

Year of construction: 1907

Square feet: 1,377

Market value: $482,170

Owner: Gregory J. Martin

How long has it been empty: At least two decades

Why it’s empty: It is part of a collection.

Twenty-five years ago, it was hard to imagine that Alberta Street was home to a French bakery (Petite Provence), an Australian café (Proud Mary) or a home decor store selling succulents (EcoVibe).

These days, it’s hard to fathom how the huge warehouse that sits in the middle of all the fancy stores on Northeast 28th Avenue remains such a mess.

The side facing Alberta is a Potemkin shell, designed to look like an apartment building. Now covered in graffiti, it was erected a few years ago to hide the wreckage inside. But the junk has remained undisguised aft, where an erratic tide seems to wash wrecked cars, mattresses, lumber and lots of rubbish.

A visit last week revealed that flooding had poured out of the chain-link fence and into the driveway between the warehouse and the neighboring building, which houses the Black United Fund of Oregon. There, a golden Toyota Avalon is stranded next to an old forklift. In the bottom of the bins around the vehicles was a late-model Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup truck with the passenger door open. A man slept inside, his spine bent back at an unnatural angle, his legs dangling like a rag doll‘s.

The history of this retrograde edifice is sad. It is owned by Gregory J. Martin, according to property records, an electrician who decades ago had enough money to buy a lot of real estate in northeast Portland.

In addition to the Alberta Trash Heap, he owns an abandoned house just north of Alberta in the 5100 block of 23rd Avenue NE. The once stately foursquare sits among decades of dried weeds, its white paintwork smeared into a depressive gray. The only element of color is a red city notice hanging from the doorknob. “Act now to prevent water cuts,” he warns.

Martin owns at least three other properties in the Mississippi neighborhood, all in the 600 block of North Beech Street between Kerby and Borthwick Avenues. They also appear to be abandoned and decaying as the neighborhood around them gentrifies.

All properties have been subject to nuisance complaints.

In his heyday, Greg Martin was a hard worker who made enough money to amass a small real estate empire in Portland, says a person who knows him but declined to give his name for fear of losing Martin’s friendship . Now he is over 70 and not feeling well, the person says. “He doesn’t trust people.”

Martin lives near North Mississippi Avenue, the person said. Many potential buyers have courted him over the years, looking for bargains on his broken down properties. He faltered in almost every case, the person said, missing out on one of the biggest real estate booms in Oregon history. Mississippi and Alberta have become hipster havens and prices have skyrocketed over the past two decades.

Adding to his woes, Martin’s ex-wife, Rose, and daughter, Alzena, sued him in July to remove any interest he might have in their home at 2507 NE 8th Ave., corner of Brazee Street. Rose and Alzena claim Martin hasn’t paid any taxes on the property since 1981 and hasn’t paid his full share of other costs since 1988. Worse still, in 2015 Martin faced a judgment against him for $7,952.16, and it became a lien on the property, they said in their complaint.

They want Alzena to be declared the owner of the premises, free and quit of Martin. They are also claiming damages equal to 50% of the land charges when he was co-owner.

The Alberta property has had an “AVAILABLE” sign for months now. A phone call to Magellan Properties, the listing agent, was not returned. Maybe the agent knows his client isn’t really interested in selling.

Every week, WW examines a mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might happen next. Send addresses to [email protected].