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Unico Sues Tenant for Unpaid Rent in Portland’s Downtown Core, Tenant Claims Landlord Failed to Maintain Safe Environment

Unico Properties Sues tenant Portland U.S. Bancorp Tower Big Pink Digital Trends 111 SW 5th Avenue Investors LLC unpaid rent unsafe
Courtesy of Unico Properties

By The Registry Staff

Portland’s U.S. Bancorp Tower, affectionately known as “Big Pink,” has long been a symbol of prestige, housing some of the city’s well-known companies. Among them was Digital Trends, a tech news outlet that operated out of the building’s Suite 1000, according to the company’s Glassdoor company page. However, recent events have shed light on a dispute between Digital Trends and the building’s landlord, Seattle-based Unico Properties, leading to a lawsuit seeking over $3.8 million in damages, according to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The crux of the issue lies in the allegation that Digital Trends fell behind on rent and abandoned the premises. The lawsuit filed by 111 SW 5th Avenue Investors LLC, linked to Unico, claims that the media company stopped making rent payments in March 2023, resulting in a breach of contract. As a consequence, the landlord is seeking unpaid rent, future rent, charges, fees, commissions, and costs associated with restoring the premises.

In response, Ian Bell, the founder and CEO of Digital Trends, fired back with accusations of his own, according to the Journal report. Bell asserted that Unico failed to maintain a safe environment for his employees, which was the primary reason for vacating the building. He claimed that other tenants, such as Starbucks, had left Big Pink for similar safety concerns. This sentiment is echoed by many business leaders in the area, who express their anxieties about working in and around the high-profile block along West Burnside Street and Southwest Fifth Avenue.

Online leasing database Compstak lists the latest lease between two companies commencing in 2018 when Digital Trends signed an extension of its agreement. The specific terms of the lease were not provided.

Safety concerns in the neighborhood are warranted, according to some local business owners who have witnessed drug use in the area. Reports of this type of activity have been prevalent in news coverage, and it can be a cause for serious concern.

The situation with Digital Trends and Unico highlights the challenges faced by both tenants and landlords in an increasingly complex and dynamic business landscape, which can be driven by factors outside of their control. The transformation of city downtown areas can be directly attributed to the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has transformed the office landscape and caused occupancy and the number of people on streets in the central business district to dwindle while simultaneously creating a vacuum that allows all sorts of illicit activity to prosper.

For Digital Trends, Portland will remain its home, and the company promised to continue advocating for the revitalization of the area, which signals a commitment to the city’s growth and prosperity. According to the firm’s website, the company is now headquartered at 6420 S Macadam Ave., which is roughly 3.7 miles away from its previous location. However, the new address is not in the city’s downtown core but further south, next to Willamette Park.