Portland General Electric (PGE) began construction in 1975 on a three-building, $32 million complex to be known as the Willamette Center. Located between Front (now Naito Parkway) and Second avenues, and Taylor and Yamhill streets in Downtown Portland, the 873,000-square-foot (81,100 m2) complex was scheduled to open in January 1977. Plans originally called for construction of an outdoor ice skating rink at the complex. The five-story building in the complex was completed in 1976. More of the $54 million complex was opened by March 1977. In addition to being the headquarters of PGE, other initial tenants included the local offices of International Paper and Fireman's Fund Insurance Company.
PGE was forced to sell the building in 1978 to American Property Investors and then lease back the space. The Oregon Public Utility Commission determined PGE could not bill customers for the expense of building the complex. In 1985, PGE launched a study to determine if a World Trade Center should be established in Portland, but a location had not been determined. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 1987 to establish the Oregon Trade and Marketing Center, which was to be housed in the Willamette Center. The Willamette Center was renamed as the World Trade Center in 1988 when the Oregon Trade and Marketing Center moved into the building, and was also renovated.
Following the attacks on New York's World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Portland's World Trade Center was evacuated. A new roof was installed on the building in 2008, and the next year sustainable landscaping was installed around the complex. In June 2010, a fire in the basement caused the building to be evacuated. Another fire damaged a stairwell in November 2011 when someone used a Molotov cocktail.
The three-building complex was designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership (now ZGF Architects LLP), with the buildings connected by a glass-enclosed, elevated walkway. The facade of the modernist-style buildings consists of gray-colored granite. Primarily office space, the 798,000-square-foot (74,100 m2) complex also houses restaurants and retail space on the ground floor, and also includes a theater. There are also 400 underground parking spaces and 13 charging stations for electric vehicle.
One World Trade Center is a 17-story, 230-foot (70 m) tower of a curtain wall design for the facade. The roof of One World Trade Center houses the World Trade Center Heliport. One Main Place is south of One World Trade Center, while the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse is southwest of One World Trade Center.