Steven Ehlbeck of Sera Architects has applied for an early-assistance, intake meeting with the Bureau of Development Services to discuss a proposed, two- to four-story, mixed-use building, with ground floor retail or offices, at 5035 N.E. Sandy Boulevard – the current site of the Rheinlander and Gustav’s restaurants. Horst Mager is listed as the owner of the 28,000-square-foot property.
Craig Kelly of Venerable Properties is also listed on the early assistance application as a contact for the proposal. Venerable has a reputation for expertise in historic preservation, including challenging projects like Washington High School in the Buckman neighborhood and the White Stag block downtown. Venerable’s participation could indicate that the project is more likely to be a renovation than a complete tear down.
Early assistance requests are not required by the city, but help development teams to prepare project proposals – usually with a land use review application. Mager, who is retired, started doing business on the property in 1963, as the head chef at Maria’s Swedish Dinners. In 1965 he opened Der Rheinlander in the space, where diners were serenaded by yodeling accordion players in lederhosen and Tyrolean hats. The adjoining casual space, Gustav’s, opened in the 1990s.
Mager is a legend in Portland, well-known as a television host and culinary personality. He opened a string of restaurants, popular in the 1970s and ’80s, including Blarney Castle, L’Omelette, Couch St. Fish House and Tivoli Garden. He also launched the Horst Mager Culinary Institute downtown, which later became the Western Culinary Institute and is now the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Mager’s daughter, Suzeanne, has owned and operated both the Rheinlander and Gustav’s restaurants since the 1990s. Gustav’s has four Portland-area locations, including the Hollywood space.
Suzeanne Mager indicated in a press release that developer’s due diligence regarding the future of the property would have no immediate impact on Der Rheinlander and Gustav’s employees.
“This process is lengthy and we are not yet sure what a potential sale might look like for the future of the building,” Mager said. “For at least the balance of the year Der Rheinlander and Gustav’s will continue to operate fully and I anticipate no disruptions to our operations.”
Mike DeKalb, owner and founder of Laurelwood Public House and Brewery – just east of the Rheinlander property, hadn’t heard about the project, but speculated that it would ultimately be good for business – after construction is complete.
“We’ve seen that with some of our restaurants,” said DeKalb. “The construction will impact business, sure. But once it’s finished, things pick back up. We have our own lot, so parking shouldn’t be an issue.”