Zidell Moving Towards SOWA Redevelopment?

Caruthers Addition, Block 101, Lots 1-4. From Portlandmaps.com

This afternoon I was scanning the city of Portland’s permit reports and came across a Early Assistance request for a Type 3 Design Review of a 7 story mixed use building in Southwest. No address was given, just Block 101 of Caruthers addition. It turns out the property is at the corner of SW Moody and the Ross Island Bridge and is owned by ZRZ Reality, the real estate arm of the Zidell Company, the barge builder located on the North end of the South Waterfront. The applicant is listed as Jonathan Ledesma at 413 SW 13th Avenue here in town. The address is for Project^, a local development company. Their most recent project was the Blackbox done in conjunction with Skylab Architects. It was a beautiful rehab of an existing building in the Westend into offices space for Project^ and Skylab and retail space that now contains an array of indie fashion retailers. In the Blackbox project they added a catalytic project that showed they understood the area and then built strongly upon it with what seems like a carefully curated collection of tenants. They have also recently done two student housing in Eugene, Oregon next to the new Knight Arena, The Courtside and the Skybox. Tor these two buildings they work with ZGF Architects to produce some of the nicest new buildings Eugene has seen in years.

Courtside Apartments, Eugene, OR. Image from livecourtside.com.

Perhaps all of this means that Zidell is starting the development process earlier than anticipated or at least on some of their peripheral properties that they do not need for barge building. While I love that Portland  still makes  things like barges and railcars and I hope that we continue to long into the future, I also want to see the Zidell property developed. South Waterfront is so cutoff from the rest of the city. This isolated condition will only end as Zidell, OHSU and the other property owners between Downtown/River Place ad the South Waterfront develop there land so that there is continuous city all along the river and not the vast stretches of parking, empty lots and industrial lands between the two. If Zidell is beginning, however tentatively the redevelopment process it is good to see that they are partnering with people as able as Project^. Tom Cody and Anyeley Hallova both worked at Gerding Edlen prior to starting the firm, and Jonathan Ledesma worked for Brad Clopfield’s firm Allied Works among others. They seem to have lots of experience and good vision. There track record thus far show that they understand the value of sustainability, design and feel.  It would be great if another home grown firm with good values could start to make a mark on our city. It would also be great if Zidell started to fill the void between SoWa and the rest of the city. What would be best of all is if both happened together and we as a city got some great buildings that really reflected the best of our sustainable and stylistic design capabilities.

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Workforce Housing is the New Luxury Condo

Milan Apartments. Image courtesy of the Oregonian

According to the OregonianThis friday Civitas Development will break ground on the Milano, a new 60 unit apartment building, at the corner of NE 1st and Multnomah. This is notable for the fact that it is the first new housing in the Lloyd/Rose Quarter area (a part of the city that could definitely benefit from new development of any sort) in quite some time. That is not why I am writing about it. Rather, it is because it is a work force housing project with very little parking. For its 60 units it will have only 12 parking spaces for cars and 50 for bikes. It has smaller units, it is located with good transit access and is aiming at an affordable price point.  Recently there have been a number of projects that have either broken ground or are proposed that could be described the same way. It seems that the in this nether world between recession and full recovery striped down workforce housing is the new luxury condo.

Looking around the city at the development underway and the trend seems clear. In the North Pearl/Squish neighborhood between 14th and 15th on Pettygrove Street Fosler architects‘ Freedom Center 1 (horrible name by the way) is well underway. It might be the most extreme. It is a complex of three 50’x100’ building containing 150 studio apartment. The units will be 300 square feet and no parking is proposed. With such small units it is no surprise that the target market is students and other young people who do not have much money and who use the city as their living room.

Image from Fosler Architects

These two projects are not alone. Creston Homes has a number of project either underway or proposed in the same vein. Most notable they have just broke ground on a project that has generated quite a bit of controversy due to its proximity to the Hollywood Theater. That project is a 47 unit building of one and two bedroom apartments over 3,500 square feet of retail with no parking provided. The architects is the Myhre Group. They are also close to starting another apartment building in the Buckman neighborhood at the corner of SE 20th and Morrison. It is to have  71 small units ranging from 371 to 900 square feet and no on site parking. According to the Hollywood Star News back in the Hollywood neighborhood another project is being proposed at the corner of NE 41st and Tillamook possible also by Creston Homes. The proposal is for a 4 story + basement building with 58 units and no parking. Developer Mark Madden also has a project at NE 24th and Glisan that would fall into this same category. It call for 32 live/work units in a three stroy building with no parking.

Buckman Apartments. Image courtesy Myhre Group/DJC

In articles in both the DJC and the Oregonian people from Creston Homes talk about the niche they are filling for small affordable apartments. The units cater to young people who can afford to/desire to live alone but really can’t pay that much. Location is crucial both in terms of proximity to amenities and transit. They also mention the niche of small affordable infill buildings, mainly of the eastside, that are able to pencil out and seem to be fairly recession proof. They occupy small parcels, they use economical construction systems, the market they are aimed at is broad and deep, and like the Hollywood Apartments they often are small enough to slip through the permitting process without too much trouble.  I imagine that if the current economic malaise continues then we can look forward to a lot more project like these and lot fewer new South Waterfront towers.

My friend in Seattle recently started his own architecture firm and one of their first projects is congregate housing on Capitol Hill. It is 56, 200 to 300 square foor units each with its own bathroom but with kitchens shared by 7 or 8 unts. One developer up there who has been building these projects for a while copy-wrote the term “Apodments” to describe this type of building. He has done a number of project on Capitol Hill and the U District, both neighborhoods with high densities of young people with lots of things to do that do not involve sitting around the house or cooking. They rent for $500 to $600 a month and apparently he cannot build them fast enough due to their popularity. In economically constrained times is this our new reality? Or, regardless of the economy is this housing for the non-domestic and economically constrained people just a niche that needs filling and will be with us regardless of what the economy does? What do you think?

Apodments are our future?

Brad Cloepfil to Speak at PAM This Thursday

From Allied Works Architecture

Brad Cloepfil, Portland’s most notable architect and one of the only one who in known and gets commissions nationally and internationally wil be speaking at the Portland Art Museum this Thursday, January 26th, at the Portland Art Museum. It is free for members or with museum admission. While Brad is a local architect he rarely speaks publicly in Portland so it is not to be missed. I once saw him speak a few years ago on a panel with Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Portland Monthly Editor Randy Gragg and it was quite interesting. The main thing I remember is that he showed slides of great pieces of contemporary architecture from such cities as Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and  several other town we like to think we are better than while challenged Portland to think bigger and broader about design. His talk this week is to focus mainly on some of his recent work and his new book, Occupation, which is very beautiful, especially for someone who grew up in the Northwest like me.

Here is the description from PAM:

“The designer of many notable buildings, Cloepfil will speak about the firm’s recent work and ideas. Recent projects include the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, the National Music Centre of Canada in Calgary, and the Vancouver Community Connector in Washington. After the lecture, join Cloepfil for a book signing of Allied Works Architecture Brad Cloepfil: Occupation.”

More information about the event can be can be found here. More information about Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works can be found here. See you there.

Old Town Stirring

I currently am down in Oldtown/Chinatown almost every day attending school in the building shown above. The area always strikes me as so full of under realized potential: its location, its history, its character and mix of people who live and work there. I recently saw John Jay, an Executive Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy, speak at the Portland Monthly sponsored Bright Lights speaker series. He has a deep interest in Oldtown/Chinatown on a personal and business level and a vision of the area as a center of Portland’s creative culture and entrepreneurial economy as well as Portlands connection to modern Asia. He sees it as a key piece of what he calls Portland’s creative corridor that stretches from the Ace Hotel in the West End to the White Stage Block and passes by many of the key business (Wieden + Kennedy, Ziba, etc) and institutions (PNCA, Art Institute, Pearl Galleries, etc) as it snakes its way through Northwest. He has also put his money where his mouth is and is part owner of Ping, a pan-asian restaurant at the corner of NW 4th and Couch Street and the Grove Hotel redevelopment.

As for the Grove Hotel, as reported in the Oregonian and DJC John Jay and his wive Janet, David Gold (who owns most of the block as well as other Oldtown/Chinatown Properties), Howard Davis and Alex Calderwood of the Ace Hotel are planning to remodel the decrepit building at NW 5th and Burnside into new retail spaces and a Asian themed youth hostel. He said they are trying to make sure that is is something unique and special that can serve as a hub for the neighborhood and a catalyst much like the Ace did for the West End while at the same time costing about $30 a night.

From the Oregonian

Several other projects in the neighborhood bode well for its future. The big one is the renovation of the Globe Hotel at NW 1st Avenue just across Couch from the White Stage Block, home of the University of Oregon’s Portland campus, into the new home for the Oregon College of Oriental Medecine. When it is completed sometime later this year it will bring some 260 students and 100 staff to the area according to the Oregonian. Already with the addition of the University of Oregon several business have sprung up to cater to student including a sandwich shop and cafe. In addition, the U of O has been enlarging it presence in the area including taking more space within the White Stage complex and expanding across the street the space under the Burnside Bridge next to Max stop.

Now if there were only more residents in the area…. and there will soon be. According to the Daily Journal of Commerce the Rich Block at the northwest corner of Couch and 2nd Avenue is going to be transformed by Innovative Housing into 34 200 to 400 square foot apartments aimed at young adults. Additionally, the Everett Hotel building at the corner of NW Broadway and Everett is being converted from what I believe was SRO units into 18 small apartment that are presumable aimed at the same market. While these two projects are relatively small they are important step in the path to the neighborhood realizing it potential.

I hope that the projects discussed above represent just the beginning of a more widespread rebirth of Oldtown/Chinatown. I see the potential and I also see businesses struggling: from the mostly empty chinese restaurants to the departure of the Woodlands, an independent fashion retailer, to the West End. But with the growing energy around Ankeny Alley on the south end and the Park Blocks on the West thing seeming to be working towards a steady if not radical improvement in the area’s fortunes. With the addition of new visitors, more student and a greater number of residents maybe this will be the beginning of the neighborhood’s renaissance. Let us hope so.

A sign of the future at NW 6th and Glisan?

Williams Rising

Williams Avenue has seen dramatic change over the last several years and seem to be about to   experience a whole lot more. There is currently one apartment building under construction (The Albert at Williams and Fremont) that wil add 72 units to the area and the same development team is proposing another building between Mason and Skidmore that will add another 84 units. This comes close on the heals of the completion of the EcoFlats, what I believe was an 18 unit project . In the last week we have also learned about a proposal for a New Season at Fremont and Williams. According to the Daily Journal of Commerce the people behind the New Season project are Sierra Construction which is also about to start on Prescott Station, a mixed use project at Skidmore and Interstate. The article indicates that they may be interested in pursuing another mixed use development on the southern half of the block.

 (Proposed Store – East Elevation. Image from LRS via  Pre-application Notice)

It has also come to my attention via the Portland Bureau of Development Service Site that at least one other project is stirring. Ben Kaiser of the Kaiser Group is seeking a rezone from R1d to EXd of the currently vacant lot at the southeast corner of Fremont and Williams for a revived Backbridge Station. The Pre-application intake states that the conceptual design includes a 52,000 square foot, 65 foot tall apartment building with ground floor retail/office and a 15,000 square foot, 45 foot tall building with the same mix. These two building represent another substantial development on the street. It does not take a real estate sage to predict even more development in the near future as property owners in the area imagine how quickly people will snap up apartment that are ” just a stroll away from New Season.”

These development, presuming they all materialize, represent a huge jump in the level intensity on Williams. They collectively will involve filling in many currently empty spaces in the streetscape and extent the core of the neighborhood by a block in either direction. With the addition of potentially several hundred apartment it could also be a real increase in density and a substantial alteration of the current pattern of development from a few one story shops in a single family neighborhood to a more robust strip of four story mixed use building that house hundreds of young professionals.

One of the aspect of the changes that I have watched on Williams that is most fascinating is that it happened in an area that was so seemingly devoid of potential other than location. I am aware of the area’s history as a vibrant center of African American life in Portland, but the result of years of urban renewal and neglect by the city left the area as largely a collection of vacant lot and small industry with a smattering of small businesses and institutions. It lacked the collection of ready to remodel old beauties like Mississippi, Belmont, or other Eastside areas that have experience redevelopment. But as we know, the first three rules in real estate are location, location, location and with the forces of gentrification working on all the adjoining neighborhoods it made the area seemingly ripe for development. Still, it took some vision on the part of early investors such as Thad  Fisco and John Kellogg of Adaptive Development Co, the force behind the remodel of the buildings that now house Pix, the Fifth Quadrant and Tasty and Sons. Their early projects seemed to have set off development in the area and in many ways set the tone for it. They had the vision to see that some nondescript old warehouses could be transformed into vibrant spaces that could draw people from though out the city. One thing the Fisco/Kellog duo seem to have a knack for is carefully curating their projects so as to create something special, something that is Portland at its best. The first wave of development on Williams seemed to be composed mainly of small business that while out of many peoples price range at least provide something unique and of quality. What I will be curious to see is if the developers behind this next wave have the same vision and discerning eye or whether a Quiznos is in Williams future. Let us hope the former.