The Past is the Future: The Continued Evolution of the Central Eastside

The mayor is his state of the city unveiled, prematurely apparently, a new moniker for the Central Eastside Industrial Are: Produce Row. The name is supposed to both harken back to the districts past as a hub for vegetable distribution and evoke the future as a place where the economy of tomorrow will sprout and grow. Unfortunately it was launched a bit prematurely and has provoked a backlash from some of the member of the Central Eastside Industrial Council. The rational behind the mayor’s decision was clear: to create a brand for a part of the city that is doing a successful job cultivating the type of small startups that the mayor’s administration is trying to cultivate. There is no doubt the area has evolved past its origins as a place for manufacturing and distribution. The neighborhood is now just as much about creative services and artesian foods.

Central Eastside Industrial District boundaries. Image from CEIC Facebook page.

The development of the neighborhood as an entrepreneurial hub for the city is taking a few more steps forward with the recent announcements of several new projects. The most high profile of this latest crop of development is Stumptown Coffee’s move to consolidate its headquarters and roaster in the Venerable Properties’ MacForce building at 100 S.E. Salmon St. and the adjacent 30,000 square-foot building on SE Main Street. This high profile coffee roaster will be joining other notable food producers including the the collection of artisinal liquor makers at Distillers’ Row, charcuterie pioneers Olympic Provisions and fellow roasters Water Avenue and Coava Coffee roasters.

American Brush Building at 116 NE 6th Avenue. Image from the DJC.

The next project of not is Urban Development Partners plans to rehab the American Brush building at 116 NE 6th Avenue for their new headquarters. If you don’t know UDP they are a small developer that has done some good infill projects around town over the last several years including Move the House Apartments and the Reliable Apartments on Division, both of which were delivered in the depths of the great recession yet seemed to do well. I believe they are also working on another Division Street project at the moment, but more about that in another post. They will be undertaking a full upgrade of the 19,000 square-foot building and using one of its four floors for their office and leasing out the other three.

Salvation Army Industrial Home Building at 200 SE Martin Luther King. Rendering from Venerable Properties.

The last project is Venerable’s plan to spend $7 million rehabilitating the Salvation Army building at 200 SE Martin Luther King.  Working with Fletcher Farr Ayotte Architects and Bremick Construction they plan to turn what is now a rather unremarkable building that does its best to ignore the street into a updated retail and office complex oriented towards creative professionals. The project will add 10,000 square feet of retail and 32,000 square feet of office to the area’s inventory providing a boost to the growing vibrancy.

6th and Couch Apartments. Image from Vallaster Corl Architects.

In addition to the projects above, a six story apartment building designed by Vallaster Corl continues to rise at N.E. 6 th and Couch and Beam should be starting on the rehab of the Convention Plaza Building any day now. Collectively these project just represent a few more step in the neighborhood’s path from downtown’s industrial backyard to its entrepreneurial doorstep. As mentioned in previous post, the gradual recovery of the economy has driven up demand for class B creative space by creative firms, tech startups and light industry such as micro food processors is high and growing. The Central Eastside is a perfect place to fill that need. Business like those can fit into the neighborhood’s existing mix, adding vibrancy while not threatening the presence of industry. The area’s history and industrial character provide an feel that no other part of town has and that many people, myself included, find very appealing. The coming of both streetcar and light rail are going to make the Central Eastside that much more of a hot spot in town, linking it even more tightly with downtown and the residential neighborhood to the east. We can look forward to hearing a lot more from this part of town in the future, especially if anything ever starts to happen at the Burnside Bridgehead site.


Change Comes to the Corner of Sandy and 24th

Tres Shannon’s Portland P Palace. From the website.

Change is coming to the quiet corner of NE Sandy Boulevard and 24th starting with a new concept from Portland’s donut King, Tres Shannon. This will soon be joined by Portland’s developer/rockstar Kevin Cavenaugh’s latest project, the Ocean, and the Glee Apartments from developer Mark Madden and Young Design Studio. This leads me to speculate as to whether this will be enough to start changing people’s perception of Sandy from simple an arterial to drive on to street worthy of driving to.

A recent profile of Tres Shannon in the Willamette Week discussed his new venture, Portland P Palace. In the shell of a former auto service center Tres is creating a fun house of all things P: putt-putt, ping-pong, pool, pizza, perogies, etc. His Voodoo donuts has turned a humble and economical pastry into a thing worthy of a pilgrimage to Portland. I go to school near the original and every day there are people lined up to buy donuts. In a way it can be credited with helping to put Ankeny Alley on Portland’s map. He seems to have a knack for creating excitement and hype going back to the X-Ray Cafe. I expect his latest venture to be nothing less due to the fact that like Voodoo it promises to be truly unique.

The Ocean. Plan from permit application.

Kevin Cavenaugh’s project on the same block, The Ocean, was detailed in a recent article by the DCJ. He is transforming a former auto dealership into space for several micro-restaurants, a bakery and a residence that I believe is for him and his family. The permit application to the city can be found here. In the book, Cartopia: Portland’s Foodcart Revolution, Kevin discusses with the authors the “ocean” of space that exists between conventional restaurants and foodcarts and how that is where he wants to swim.  I am glad to see he is making that vision a reality. In Portland commercial development the concept of micro-retail has not been explored. With the economy what it is and the explosion of food carts it is not surprising that someone is seeking to exploit this niche. He also seems to be doing what many successful place-making developers, such as Adaptive on Williams  Avenue and Project^ in the Black Box Building have done and been very intentional in the selection of tenants. According to the project will feature a burger only concept from the people behind Slow Bar, a storefront version of the food cart Pie Spot, and a meat ball based concept from the owner of Tabla on NE 28th. All restaurants worth a special trip to check out.

Glee Apartment. From the permit application.

The other project taking shape is the Glee apartment as covered in the DJC’s Daily Blog. The project is slated for the southwest corner of NE 24th and Glisan. It is a 3 story 32 unit apartment building with one 500 square foot commercial space and no automobile parking. The permit application can be viewed here. The project is designed by Young Design Studio. The developer is Mark Madden, a rather prolific actor in Portland as of late being behind projects in various stages throughout the city including Overton Building (completed) and Freedom Center apartments (under construction) in the Pearl and the new Miss apartment proposed for Mississippi, all by Fosler Architects.

The interesting thing about these project and what makes them worth writing about is that they all seem to share a similar independent spirit and collectively could create a node of activity from which urban life can grow. New destination restaurants, a bar/spectacle and new residents can alter the perception of an area. As we saw on Alberta, Williams and other evolving areas in Portland, all it took was two or three buildings in close proximity being adaptively reused by thoughtful developers and carefully stocked with a good mix tenants to create a place worthy of visiting. From this small node growth can spread in multiple directions creating a larger mass of activity and spurring a virtuous cycle of redevelopment. Sandy, like Interstate should be a great street due to its role as a key connector in the city, linking the central city to many of the neighborhoods in Northeast. Like other areas in the city, inner Sandy has geography as an advantage: it is close to downtown, it is close to numerous thriving neighborhood and areas such as 28th and lower Burnside that have already been experiencing a renaissance. I have also notice a lot of under the radar activity in the industrial zone north of Sandy in the form of warehouses like the Bison Building that once house machine shops and now house media and design firms. All this could add together to create a Sandy that is very different form the one we know today.

What next for Sandy?

UPDATE: Sadly Portland P Palace is not to be due to unanticipated complications. Too bad.

Back from the Grave: The Return of Transit Oriented Development on North Interstate Avenue

Killingsworth Station. Image courtesy of the Oregonian

Two project along Interstate Avenue long thought dead, Jarrett Street Lofts and Prescott Station, have come back to life and a third, Killingsworth Station, that had been on life support for years was recently completed. Both of which fullfil the intentions of the city and regions investments in light rail to spur transit oriented development in inner Portland rather than greenfield development on the periphery.

According to the Portland Development Commission, the Interstate light rail line and Urban Renewal Area (URA) was designed to:

  • Spur mixed-use development along the light rail corridor and station areas while distributing public investment fairly and evenly among other impacted areas within the district.
  • Create new jobs and housing opportunities for a range of incomes as well as for existing residents.
  • Develop new housing that is transit supportive, compatible with the existing neighborhood, maximizes infrastructure improvements, reuses vacant and underutilized property, and strikes a balance between homeownership, rental, and displacement of existing residents.
  • Create wealth through expansion of existing businesses, fostering a healthy business environment, and generate family wage jobs.
  • Improve transportation corridors to encourage the use of alternative modes of travel, maintain and improve access, create a pedestrian-friendly environment, and mitigate traffic impacts associated with new growth.
  • Promote community livability through strategic improvements to parks, open space, trails, historic and cultural resources, and community facilities.

The rail line cost $350 million and was completed in 2004. Unfortunately, while it was completed in the midst of the condo boom, by the time developers began proposing projects the steam was running out of the real estate market. While a few projects managed to get built, several large projects that were proposed faded with economy. In the years since, the City has adopted the North Interstate Corridor Plan to encourage dense development along the light rail corridor and which allows for buildings up to 125′ tall (about 11 stories) in station areas with design review and special conditions. This creates great opportunity for transforming the relatively sleep and small scale street into a major urban avenue that will help define the area.

What could have been: The Montanas, Proposed at one time for near the Lombard Max station. Image from Myhre Group Architects.

Prior to the real estate crash, only a few projects of any significance to the character of Interstate Avenue got build. They include the Patton Park Apartments (2009) developed by REACH, an affordable housing group, and designed by SERA Architects. The 54 unit mixed-use project was built on land provided by Trimet. The transit agency bought the land to support the development of affordable transit oriented development. Details about the project from REACH can be found here. The other development of note is the Overlook (2008), another mixed-use project consisting of 24 condos over a bit of retail. For more information Brian Libby did a good story on it when it was build that can be found here.

Patton Park Apartments. Image source unknown.

Since the onset of the Great Recession very little building has occurred anywhere, let alone North Interstate, and what has has largely been heavily subsidized. A example of this is Killingsworth Station (pictured at the start of this article) at the corner of Killingsworth and Interstate. It is a four story mixed-use project developed by Winkler Development in partnership with the PDC and designed by Vallaster Corl Architects. The project contains 57 ownership housing units above retails condo space. It only managed to get built due to a very high level of subsidy form the PDC, Trimet  and Metro. I often question the use of taxpayer subsidies for projects that in the end are still not that cheap and do not serve those who might otherwise be displaced. That being said the project is a strong urban addition to the area. It creates a substantial street wall at a key intersection in contrast to the two single-story buildings and a gas station that occupy the other corners. It also brings housing and eyes to the street and, assuming the retail space is ever leased, provides an active and engaging edge to the sidewalk.

Just three blocks to the north the Lofts at Jarrett streets is back from the dead and well underway at the northeast corner of Jarrett and Interstate after many years of promise. The project consists of 30 apartment over almost 2000 square feet of retail in four stories. Like Killingsworth Station it will help to activate the street and reenforce Interstate as a important avenue.

The Lofts at Jarrett Street. Image from the project website.

The second revived project is the Prescott Station at the corner of Skidmore and Interstate. It is of a truly different scale than anything built thus far on Interstate. It is to have 155 market rate apartments over 9,500 sf commercial spaces and underground parking. That would be more housing units that all the other projects mentioned combined and at 6 stories it would be the tallest thing built of the street yet. According the DJC it is permitted and has financing so should break ground in March. The development group is connected to Sierra Construction, which is also behind the proposed New Seasons at Williams and Fremont. The architect is the Myhre Group, who are also designing a number of small infill projects around town, most notable the apartment building under construction next to Hollywood Theater. Prescott Station would be a major milestone fo Interstate and hopefully a symbol of things to come.

Prescott Station. Rendering from the Myhre Group Architects.

Despite all of the investment by the PDC and other agencies in Interstate Avenue, in many ways the street is a failure as an urban corridor. For containing some of the highest capacity transit in the metro region it lack any sort of density – most of the area around the stations are comprised of single family houses or very small scale apartment complexes of two stories or less. It also lacks activity or sense of place that would make it an attractive location to area residents or to visit from outside the neighborhood. Walking the Avenue the experience is lack luster as you pass sad low-slung buildings and single family houses. The street use to be a major corridor into the city as the route for highway 99 through Portland. Now, as a major transit corridor it needs to embrace its role as an important avenue once again. The projects discussed above represent steps in the right direction. Each project fills in a little piece in making a great street. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future these will be isolated incidents of dense urbanism in an otherwise small scale street. Hopefully these island of urbanism will soon be joined by other projects and gain the critical mass of residents and activity needed to start to feel like cohesive places. Only then will Interstate live up to the aspirations of the Portland Development Commission and its potential as one of the great avenues of Portland.

UPDATE: Another apartment project has been proposed at 5118 N. Interstate, just south of Patton Park Apartments. The details are vague as the information comes from the city of Portland land use intakes. An early assistance request was submitted on February 23rd by Ankrom Moisan Architects, the same folk who designed the Milano Apartments currently under construction down the hill at NE 1st and Multnomah, for a four story apartment building on a site that currently occupied by single family homes.

Boise Elliott Growth Continues With New Proposed Developments

Proposed Payne Apartment. Image from Boise Neighborhood Association via the Oregonian

Boise Elliott seems to be the hot spot in Portland right now. As reported previously there are several large projects in the pipeline including two apartment/retail projects and the New Seasons previously mentioned. Today on the Oregonian’s website I found this article, “Boise building boom has North Portland neighborhood edgy, developers moving cautiously.” It details several other projects working their way through the system. The most interesting is the Payne Apartments pictured above: a five story building with 19-21 apartments over 1000 square feet of retail at the northeast corner of Williams and Beech. They mention GBD as the architects. I searched Portlandmaps and found that the property was bough in August 2011and the owner listed as Payne LLC and Heather Guthrie, a lawyer at Dunn Carney Dunn law firm.  The other project is the Miss at 3807 N. Mississippi next to Pistils nursery. It is a four story building with 25 units over one retail and one live/work space with no parking planned. The developer is WDC with Fosler Architects as the designer.

Miss building site at 3708 N. Mississippi. Image from Google Maps.

The Oregonian article is largely about change in the neighborhood and residents’ response to it. I am all for change and believe that if cities do not evolve and grow they stagnate and die. I also believe that while new development is a driver of demographic change and gentrification, stopping development just leads to greater gentrification as people bid up the cost of an artificially constrained supply of housing and commercial space. That being said it is important to understand the reasons behind the feeling of people in the area. On that note, the Sarah Mink just put a post, “By the Numbers: Charting Change on North Williams,” Avenue on the Mercury’s Blogtown recapping some of the radical demographic change that has transpired in the area. A more in-depth analysis can be found in Karen Gibson’s fascinating research paper on the area’s tragic relations with city government () : “Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000.” It documents the role that North/Northeast Portland has played in the city, particularly for the Black community and the arrogance and disregard for community shown by the city for much of its history. For Albina, when the city mentioned “planning” it usually ended up bad for area residents. Another interesting historical look at the neighborhood I came across was at the Skanner,  “Portland Gentrification: The North Williams Avenue That Was – 1956“. As part of their investigations into neighborhood change they created a Google map of all the businesses that existed on Williams in 1956… and it is not anything like the list you would make for 2012.

North Williams and Russell Street Circa 1962. Image from the Skanner.

More Apartments for Belmont

West (Property Line) Elevation. From City of Portland Public Notice.

Another small infill project has been proposed for Southeast Portland. The current trend in development seems to be small projects throughout the city in solid to emerging neighborhoods with good bike/pedestrian/transit options. This latest one at the northwest corner of Belmont and 38th fits the pattern. It is to contain 18 apartment over 11 parking space and one small retail space fronting Belmont. The team behind it is the same one responsible for the NuMiss on Mississippi Avenue: the owner/developer is BCMC Properties and the architect is Surround Architecture. The NuMiss was a small office/retail project that turned out quite nice in my opinion, especially compared to some of the other project built on Mississippi around the same time. I hope this project is as nicely scaled as that. If so it will be a solid addition to the neighborhood and at the very least vastly superior to the parking lot that currently occupies the site.

NuMiss on Mississippi Avenue. Image from Surround Architecture, Inc.

Zidell Is Moving Forward with South Waterfront Redevelopment

Proposed Development at the corner of SW Moody and Grove. From the City of Portland Pre-Application Conference Notice.

As a follow up to last weeks post on Zidell’s near term plans for their South Waterfront property, yes they are moving forward. It was reported in the Portland Business Journal (full text can be found on Skyscraper Pages here) last week that Jay Zidell confirmed that his company intends to develop the 30 acres it own in South Waterfront into a mix of office, residential and retail that will complement the existing development and take advantage of the coming light rail line. They wasted no time getting started, scheduling a pre-application conference with the city for February 21st to discuss a proposal for a 7-story residential building with ground floor retail/restaurant space designed by ZGF.

As an interesting twist, the project includes no car parking, just space for 152 bikes. It is a real test of the trend towards no parking/low parking buildings. Perhaps it is an indication that the project is to be more strongly marketed more towards students being how it is conveniently located so near OHSU and just a short street car or bike ride from PSU. Project, the developer mentioned before as associated with this proposal, has been carving out a niche in student housing with two very nice projects completed in Eugene and possible one in the works in Corvalis. It would only be natural that they would bring their successful format to their home market at some point.

Regardless of what form the building ultimately take,  it is good to learn (especially from the guy who actually makes the decisions) that things are going to start happening on the Zidell land as the economy heals. I am also glad to hear that barges will continue to slide into the Willamette from the Zidell yards for a while to come – I want Portland to be a growing, new economy city but also maintain its industrial heritage. I look forward to seeing what arises.

The Zidell Property in South Waterfront. Image from Googlemaps.

Zidell Moving Towards SOWA Redevelopment?

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

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

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.