Downtown Blues

No longer highflyers, commercial real estate developers face an epic slump that has put their market "in the gutter"

Few architects and developers have reshaped the American city as dramatically as John Portman has done in the past quarter-century. From the hulking Marriott Marquis hotel in Manhattan to the sprawling Embarcadero Center office % complex in San Francisco, Portman has left an imposing mark on urban skylines. But the Atlanta-based master of the vaulting atrium and the skylighted ceiling faces a severe cash crunch. In October, burdened by more than $2 billion in debt and hurt by low occupancy rates in many of his buildings, Portman surrendered to creditors his control of Atlanta's 13-block Peachtree Center, the cornerstone of his...

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