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.

New Ideas From Old Buildings: The Rise of Class B Office Space

Olympic Mills Commerce Center by Beam Development/Works Partnership Architecture

In the new normal in which we find ourselves the old ways of real estate development might not work and new approaches are needed. In the housing market this is seen in the switch from high end ownership housing to mid-range rental housing. This can also be seen in other sectors such as the office space. In the Kidder Mathews 2011 4th Quarter Real Estate Market Review there was an interesting note about the Portland office market:

“Tech companies are booming with venture capital gobbling up any creative space left in the Northwest or close-in Eastside submarkets. Rental rates for well-located Class “B” space can meet or exceed levels obtained by higher quality, less well located Class “A” suites. Creative workspace is highly desirable in close-in Portland, and space is limited.”

This is reiterated in the Portland State University’s Center for Real Estate Quarterly Report:

“Creative and historic office spaces, often the result of industrial renovation, have seen high levels of demand. Characterized by large windows, exposed structures and high ceilings, these creative spaces are seen as more casual, collaborative environments. Industries most prevalent in these spaces are creative class firms in architecture, software development and consulting. Particularly in a time when
Class A space is under pressure in the central business district with little new delivery, creative spaces have become a refuge for some firms. Grubb & Ellis report that some Class B creative spaces have been able to draw higher rents than older Class A space.”

Kidder Mathews’ and PSU’s analysis of the desirability of Class B creative space in inner Portland just confirms what we see going on all around us. Over the last several years I have watched quiet old warehouses transform into hives of economic activity as developer rehab them into creative workspace. This represents the convergence of the new development reality and the new economy. In tough economic times firms do not have the money to lease expensive new class A space and developers cannot get the loans to build it anyway. Rehabs offer an affordable and safe alternative to new construction. New creative economy firms are as a an aesthetic and financial choice opting to locate in relatively affordable space in buildings of character in the inner city instead of newer, draber buildings in the suburbs. This trend seems most prominent on the periphery of downtown in areas such as the Central East Side including north as far as Broadway, Oldtown/Chinatown, the industrial lands north of between the Pearl and NW Nicolai Street (known to some as the Squish.)

This type of redevelopment is perhaps best exemplified by the work of Brad Malsin and his firm, Beam Development in the Central Eastside. Beam has rehabbed several buildings into bustling commerce centers that provide affordable space for a diversity of scrappy firms that don’t need a marble clad lobby and an acre of parking. They are currently working with Works Partnership Architects on converting the 97,000 square foot Convention Plaza near the corner of East Burnside and Martin Luther King Boulevard into yet another affordable commerce center.  The Convention Plaza rehab is supposed to be just the catalytic first project in the new Burnside Bridgehead redevelopment. This development is occurring under a new plan developed by noted Arizona based architect Will Bruder along with Beam Development and Works Partnership Architects that seek to match the scale and grain of the existing neighborhood as well as build on the existing culture rather than supplant it. Other projects in the area in this same vein include the Ford Building rehab on SE Division at 12th by Intrinsic Ventures and the Left Bank Project on North Broadway by Alora Development. In each case a beautiful old building was brought back to life giving it a viable future, affordable space was created for businesses, and life was added to the adjacent street.

Olympic Mills Commerce Center Directory

Closer to Downtown there is a growing collection of young growing software and mobile application firms like Puppet Labs (The General Automotive Building on the North Park Blocks), Urban Airship (Pearl), Jive (The Federal Reserve Building in the West End) and others that are occupying space in rehabbed buildings and warehouses. The city has shown a growing strength in attracting venture capital. As reported in the Oregonian 2010 saw $173 million in V.C. flow into the city only to have that number increase by 25% in 2011 to $238 million. The 2011 number is the highest since 2007 and the second highest since 2001. This capital is fueling hiring by firms and thus necessitating more space. This desire for new creative space downtown has recently lead a team to begin the renovation of the 48,000 square foot Commerce Building at 225 SW Broadway into the newly named Broadway Commons. In a reflection of the new reality it will have such creative economy friendly features as operable windows, exposed ducts, 75 bike parking stalls and showers. Another recent project mentioned in a previous post is the Black Box by Project Development and Skylab Architects in the West End. They did a beautiful remodel of a sad old warehouse into a hub of creative firms (their own) and indie retailing.

Broadway Commerce Building Before and After Rendering. From the DJC

Farther north Brian Libby at Portland Architecture recently wrote about the conversion of an 100,000 square foot old steel warehouse at 2181 NW Nicolai into the home of businesses such as School House Electric, Ristretto Coffee Roasters and Egg press among many. Also in the Squish I have notices several other similar, if less hefty projects quietly repopulating old buildings and enlivening quiet streets. Included among the tenants of a low slung converted warehouse were the headquarters of Keen and Icebreaker, two small outdoor clothing design firms that are key parts of Portlands activewear economic cluster. While not Nike or Addias they are two small stars on Portland’s team.

2181 NW Nicolai. Image from the DJC

In many way this trend is just as much a reflection of Portland’s underlying strengths as it is the larger economy’s weakness. Perhaps the growth of creative businesses is due to all the talent that Portland has managed to attract over the last decade with its nationally lauded quality of life and indie culture. The city is full of smart, inspired people with a strong entrepreneurial drive and a D.I.Y. spirit. This includes people making pickles the old way and people designing the way we will interact online in the future. In the last few years many people have wrote about the rising importance in attracting and retaining the “creative class” – educated young people who will be the ones to build the next economy. People who have expressed this idea clearly include Richard Florida nationally and Joe Cartwright from Impresa Consulting here in town. It has in many ways been an underlying principle of Portland’s vision: create a culture that allows creativity to flourish and we’ll reap the rewards down the road when all the young, educated kids who came for the biking and music decide to start businesses and want to be near that amenities that make this town special.  The adaptive reuse of old warehouses into space for these businesses is not just an outgrowth of the a poor economy that cannot support new class A space, but also a conscious decision on the part of Portland’s new entrepreneurial class on the kind of space they in which they want to work: high ceiling and natural light over drop ceilings and fluorescents, good biking and access to transit over acres of free parking, Bunk Sandwiches over Quiznos.

The redevelopment of old warehouses for new businesses has begun to transform neighborhoods. When I first moved to Portland the only thing in the Central Eastside was Le Bistro Montage and a punk show or two. I just read the other day about the opening of Abonnay, a champagne bar at SE 1st and Washington. It is hard to imagine that working ten years ago. The Olmpic Mill Commerce Center was once a vacant hulk and now is filled with people at all hours and the same can be said about many of these projects. As I walk around the central city I look up and can see so many empty upstairs just crying out to be filled with activity. I think about how the life of the street would change with the addition of those new employees, what business could be supported at the street level, and what a virtuous cycle or neighborhood revitalization projects like this can create.

When will this building get its' chance to shine? Corner of NW 4th and Hoyt.

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.

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.