Ankrom Moisan's fresh design for the Pearl blends with old warehouses at street level and with Portland's rising glassy skyline

It's a mix between historic proportioning and modern technique, one of the hardest challenges of building something new in an old, but up-and-coming location.

The design applications for a half-block development along Glisan and 14th Avenue in the Pearl District were recently completed.

Ankrom Moisan Architects' designs show a 16-story mixed-use building with 230 residential units for a half-block site along Glisan Street near the I-405 entrance. It’s across from the Touché restaurant, and includes plans for the current surface lot in that block, which Ankrom Moisan has ideas to transform into a parklet for the neighborhood.

Following two design advice requests in January and March, the project will be in for permit in the fall, with construction slated to being February 2017 and project completion for Autumn 2018. It will go to the city’s Design Commission for its first review on Aug. 18.

From Ankrom Moisan, the lead designer on the project is Tim Boreas, and the project manager is Scott Passman.

“We’ve done a very good job with the input of the (design) commissioners,” Boreas said. “We’re going in hoping for approval … get a building permit issued at the end of the year and start construction February 2017.”

ANKROM MOISAN ARCHITECTS - Renderings show how the building steps down in height as it nears historic sites, not to dwarf them.

The architect’s vision

Passman said the concept of the building was derived from the character of the surrounding district.

“The base of the building pays homage to the history of the old warehouses scattered through the Pearl,” Passman said. “The rigidity and rhythm of the piers as they reach the ground along the base relate back to the simplicity and mass of the buildings adjacent to the site.”Passman

He said the building transitions from rigid and heavy to light and glassy, allowing it to fit into immediate surroundings of warehouses as well as the larger downtown skyline.

“As the tower climbs vertical, this rigidity and heaviness begins to lighten and a more glassy aesthetic begins to emerge,” Passman said. “This move begins to tie the tower into the skyline of downtown by complementing the number of new modern towers being developed."

The Concept

“The concept of this building really started at looking around the neighborhood and what was in close proximity to the project,” Boreas said. “Scattered throughout the area are a whole bunch of warehouses, different buildings that are more on the heavier side really have a distinct feel to them, so we came up with the idea that if we pay homage to that … you feel the mass of the ground floor relate to the concept, walking through.”

It's at the West end of the Pearl District, bordering I-405 and backing up to 10 Barrel Brewing — with the newly added rooftop bar — which shares the other half of the block along with Brewcycle, a crossfit business and a restaurant. Many buildings in the area are old warehouses.Boreas

“Those piers get thinner as you get closer to the top and that started to relate to the city and the skyline of downtown, as opposed to being more of a concrete feel,” Boreas said. “It links to two scales, the immediate neighborhood and also relating to downtown as well.”

The base is about legitimacy of the rigorous piers coming down, evenly spaced. As the rigidity lessens, the glassy effect becomes more prominent.

“The glassier top complements the skyline with all the newer, modern towers being developed more on the glassy side, and it relates to not only the immediate surroundings of coming up Glisan and going down 14th and 15th, it relates to the city as a whole in the Alphabet District to the east and looking back to the city,” Boreas said. “It fits right into the skyline.”

That solved a tough design problem of fitting in with concrete warehouses along with the larger cityscape.

“Initially, they had a whole process of four-, five- and six-story bunker buildings, and let me put a glass box on top,” Passman said. “It looks built whether you do one giant warehouse or one ginormous glass box … what Tim did is kind of offsetting, it’s subtle. There’s a challenge to have a building fit in at both the pedestrian level and the skyline.”

Boreas said the process went through 50 different mappings of ideas attempting to relate to the neighborhood.

“We felt that you could pull a lot from the portion of the buildings surrounding and we had a lot of respect for the neighborhood and wanted to maintain that,” Boreas said.

The challenge

Passman said the most challenging part about the design was a step down towards the historic corridor along Northwest 13th Avenue.

“A small portion of the corridor — one building — pokes through to Northwest 14th Avenue caddie-corner to the site,” Passman said. “This required the building to step down East in order to avoid dwarfing the historic corridor.”

The elevation of the building decreases as it nears the historic corridor, stair-stepping up from five stories, to 13, to its full height of 174.5 feet.

“We had the requirement to step down from the historic district to not be overbearing and lower scale of the area and not cast giant shadows over the historic district,” Boreas said.

Passman said their solution to the requirement benefited the overall form of the tower.

“The first instinct is to put a full half-block, rectangular tower, but that would not fit within the context and would feel out of place,” Passman said. “The massing we ended up with compliments it, the building stands as a whole whether the historic district was there or not and we feel pretty confident.”

That transition in the skin of the building ended up being Passman’s personal favorite part of the design.

“The favorite part I personally have is how we tackled the skin of the building, and we’re using those piers as they go up the building,” Passman said. “It was quite a task to get those to jibe with the inside, as well.”

ANKROM MOISAN ARCHITECTS - The pedestrian level is designed to be active, with two ground-level retail spaces.

The details

The plans include four below-grade levels of parking for 206 vehicles, about an 0.85 ratio, and more than 6,000 square feet of ground-level retail.

Ankrom Moisan is also applying for bonus height, which is under discretionary review from the design commission, but is likely to be approved because it’s for residential space.

“This is quite common, the reason it’s there is because the city is trying to add housing to downtown, so we’re asking the design commission to approve an additional discretionary height of 30 feet to take the building to the max height of 145,” Passman said. “As a location for mixed-use residential, it is an opportunity to add retail that responds to the pedestrian experience and add needed housing stock to urban core."

The top two levels are penthouse units with 8 units on each floor. The lower floors have around 20 units, and typical one-beds are around 700 square feet, studios around 500, and two-beds around 950-1,000. About 40 to 50 percent of the units are one-beds, with an even mix of studios and two-beds.

As for sustainability, the project is aiming for a LEED for Homes certification.

Proposed materials include glass fiber reinforced concrete panels, composite metal panels, fiberglass windows, aluminum windows, aluminum storefronts and glass railings.

“We’re still exploring, but our current thoughts are … large-scale concrete panel or similar, modern material that relates to the cast-in-place, monolithic nature of the historic warehouses,” said Passman.

He’s also reviewing metal composite panels at the window surrounds and pre-cast concrete at the pier bases along the sidewalk to provide protection from pedestrian traffic.

“The materials are not standard to the grid and helped the building give a little variation in the facade,” Passman said. “At first glance it looks like a very rigid facade, but looking over time you start to notice subtle variations in it, which helps showcase that it is a residential building and not a commercial building. The playfulness of it was one of the stronger moves."


NW 14th and GLISAN

District: The Pearl

Designer: Ankrom Moisan Architects

Landscaper: Lango Hansen Landscape Architects

Developer: Holland Partner Group

Owners: 14th & Glisan Investors, LP

ANKROM MOISAN ARCHITECTS - The parklet, a parking lot site to the north, is currently a dead area for pedestrians and bikers crossing I-405 and is meant to become a green space greeting point or resting place for pedestrians walking toward downtown.

About the parklet

Under the same ownership, Ankrom Moisan created designs for what’s now a small parking lot directly across the way from the Glisan Street site.

“It was kind of a dead area where you came across the bridge from the Alphabet District to a parking lot — it wasn’t very greeting,” Boreas said. “It’s in a way a greeting point for pedestrians walking toward downtown, toward Glisan to the Pearl, a resting place in between and an added amenity for the area — that’s kind of nonexistent in the Pearl, there’s not a lot of green space.”

“The Pearl District neighborhood association is very excited about the parklet, for a green space to hang out in,” Passman said. “There are a lot of offices happening around here, a lot of new construction going on … it’s a good balance between we’re building a structure to add housing and retail, and also upgrading what’s now a crappy parking lot — it’s someday going to be quite beautiful.”

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