Mark and Ann Edlen named PMAR Citizens of the Year

Jun 19, 2015

This is only the fifth time in the awards history that a couple has been honored.

COURTESY: PMAR - Mark and Ann Edlen were named the Portland Metropolitan Board of Realtors Citizens of the Year. This is only the fifth time in the awards history that a couple has been honored.

Givers, takers, movers and shakers.

Some people stand out from the crowd for the ways they steadily move our city forward and plant deep roots — people like Mark and Ann Edlen, who received the prestigious Portland Metropolitan Board of Realtors Citizen of the Year award in April. The award has been given out since 1928 to Portland’s biggest titans of business recognized for ways they’ve changed their city for the better.

The Gerding Edlen offices in the Pearl District are located in a refurbished Meier & Frank warehouse where Edlen bought his first furniture set decades ago. Today, the building his company redeveloped is shared with companies Urban Airship, “no idea what they do,” Edlen says with an upbeat smile, and global windmill manufacturer, Vestas.

The Brewery Blocks were just a doodle on a napkin when Mark Edlen and Bob Gerding joined forces to pioneer green building practices in Portland. Edlen, a U of O business graduate whose first job was at Xerox, eventually moved into commercial real estate where he met Bob Gerding. Both passionate about Oregon and the outdoors they founded Gerding Edlen in 1996 with a vision for responsibly built urban neighborhoods. Gerding died in 2009 but the firm they founded has the most LEED certified privately owned buildings in the world.

In Portland’s South Waterfront District they developed OHSU Center for Health and Healing; the John Ross; and Meriwether tower. In the Pearl District their projects include Wieden + Kennedy and the Brewery Blocks.

Asked just why he thought that he and his wife Ann received the award, Edlen shrugs and smiles. “Probably running out of people to give it to.”

A tad more seriously, Ann suggests that they stood out as a couple. Only four past recipients were couples.

Most likely it’s the tremendous contributions to the worlds of art and responsible development they made together. Volunteerism has been at the core of much of the socially responsible work Ann has focused on throughout her career.

Art has been a steady part of their lives. A painting by Portland artist Stephen Hayes hangs at one end of the conference room, and environmental-themed posters at the other. One reads, “Ban the Worst Build the Best.”

“Art and art education are so important no matter what career or job you end up in,” says Ann, whose career spanned 30 years in marketing and advertising. “I was an art major and it helps me solve problems in different ways.”

Past Chair of the Board of Governors at Pacific Northwest College of Art Ann was instrumental in steering the growing art college into its greatly expanded new building, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, at 511 NW Broadway.

But both cite Project Network through LifeWorks Northwest as the project closest to their hearts. The facility opened last year and serves primarily African American women struggling with drug addiction.

Next year, Gerding Edlen will develop a building for homeless veterans on Southwest First and Arthur Streets in downtown Portland operated by Central City Concern.

“A group came to us and asked for help,” he says. “Compelling requests are just hard to turn away.”

Mark Edlen is optimistic about Portland’s future.

“We’ve got a lot of good things happening in the city,” he says. “The close in east side is just on fire.” Young people don’t come here to retire; he thinks they come here to start things other than artisan knot shops. “Millennials are concerned about their city and their employees.”

The state was on the right course early and he just followed, Edlen says, citing the Oregon Bottle Bill and transportation bills that pointed Oregon on the path of environmental stewardship.

“We’ve also got very engaged people here. Founders of large companies who are really committed to community.”

Clearly, the couple believes that a healthy city thinks about the less fortunate.

Mark Edlen was recently appointed to the board of the Portland Development Commission. His goals for the urban renewal agency are pointed.

“PDC has a large balance sheet; I’d like to move that money back into the community.” And he wants the agency get off the stick with affordable housing.

“It needs to be moving faster.”   


View the article on Portland Tribune.

  • In the Media