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Mackenzie finalizes Clay Creative

Creative/industrial offices open up


The Clay Creative, a building of creative/industrial offices, held its grand opening last week, celebrating the use of exposed heavy timber in keeping with the traditional warehouse feel of the Central Eastside Industrial District.

CHRISTIAN COLUMBRES PHOTOGRAPHY - Clay Creative is located close-in on the East side, just south of the Hawthorn Bridge.

According to Metro, a public partner on the project within its Transit-Oriented Development Program, the total development cost $21.8 million. The Metro program provided $300,000 in funding.

The six-story, 72,000-square-foot building includes high ceilings, operable windows that provide plentiful natural light and fresh air, flexible open floor plans and a rooftop terrace with city, river and mountain views. There are 61,943 square feet of office space and 5,000 square feet of retail designed for the district’s creative culture of software, artisan and sustainable sector businesses.

The development comes nearly a decade after a fire burned out the old Taylor Electrical Supply Company warehouse, which was formerly on the Clay Creative site.

Dietrich Wieland, the lead architect on the Clay Creative, is the director of sustainability with Portland-based Mackenzie architecture, engineering, design and planning. Mackenzie also has offices in Seattle and Vancouver.

“That used to be the old Taylor Electric building, and it burnt down in a fire around 2005-06,” Wieland said. “In 2008 or so, another client c had us design essentially the same project: a five- or six-story industrial office building with structured parking.”

After obtaining the permit, the initial project disappeared into 2009’s lending issues. By 2014, Killian Pacific had taken over and re-approached Mackenzie to follow the designs through execution.

“It’s good to finally see a project go there,” Wieland said. “It’s a completely different design approach than the first time we took it through.”

CHRISTIAN COLUMBRES PHOTOGRAPHY - One of Clay Creatives featured aspects is exposed heavy timber.

Wieland said one of the major changes is a 90 degree difference in orientation, facing another street — Third Avenue instead of Southeast Clay.

The anchor tenant, Portland-based bank Simple, has already moved into the top four floors, occupying 75 percent of the building. The ground floor has a couple of tenants, and restaurant space is actively looking for leases as construction finishes up.

Heavy timber

Almost all the wood material was regionally sourced, as was the masonry on the building’s exterior and a lot of the steel and concrete.

“Clay Creative, being one of the new wave of mid-rise timber construction, was one of the first out of the ground,” Wieland said. “Not a lot of mid-rise buildings are built out of wood anymore. We’re seeing a little bit of a nod back to that.”

According to Wieland, developer Killian Pacific was extremely interested in pushing and promoting wood as regional technology, and focused on the environmental, human health and natural aspects of the build. The project is targeting a LEED Gold certification.

“There are a couple of key elements on the project. One would be the promotion of the use of wood as a local, regional material, supporting the local timber industry, intensive use of wood through the structure and the finished, trying to promote what technology was a key piece beyond just sustainability and LEED, but also just from a standpoint of supporting the regional economy,” Wieland said.

Wieland also said Killian Pacific made it a goal to reinvent the historical, industrial building with a modern twist.

“Overall, the design of the exterior is intended to be compatible with the older buildings around it,” Wieland said. “How the window openings are sized, how the mullions are organized, the pattern on the masonry, all try to recall historical things.”

But Wieland and his team didn’t simply recall history’s design elements: they used a physical wall from the old burned building, which is decorated in graffiti by the community and now stands as a unique art piece for the neighborhood.

“The use of heavy timber is a nod back to that as well: all old buildings are built out of heavy timber, too,” Wieland said. “Add some modern elements, a very high-efficiency facade, high-efficiency glass and installation and all that — finding moments to have abit of a modern expression.”

Another engineered wood technique is cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is getting a lot of attention at the Framework building, recently approved by the city’s Design Commission and slated to be the highest CLT building in the nation.

CHRISTIAN COLUMBRES PHOTOGRAPHY - The Clay Creative designers saved an old wall from the burned Taylor Eletrical Supply building because of the community graffiti, keeping it as art for the neighborhood.

“We didn’t go that route, but it’s trending that way,” Wieland said. “Emphasis at the state level is interested in promoting wood technology. We see it coming back as a newly invented way historical buildings used solid timbers, heavy pieces. It’s now all about engineered products.”

Human health

The sustainable aspects of the design go above and beyond LEED certification points, because they’re not just about the carbon footprint: they’re for the health of the people who spend time in Clay Creative.

Part of the sustainable mechanical system includes an under-floor air distributor on floors four through six.

“It’s a little more efficient, but the main driver for the under-floor air is to provide better air distribution, better occupant control, those types of things: human health and comfort,” Wieland said. “It’s geared toward human health.”

An attribute of the space is the great amount of natural daylight: due to the narrowness of the building, you’re never far from an exterior wall.

“A lot of the access to height, to views, the amount of quality of the space, the connection to natural wood — occupants can have the ability to control their work environment,” Wieland said. “It’s all pretty cool and it all extends beyond LEED and points.”

There are also plans to finish the landscaping with solar trees.

“Rather than take solar panels out of sight, out of mind up on the roof, we took them down to the parking lot,” Dietrich said. “(It looks like) a stylized version of a tree. Once they are installed, it will really be a significant element to the site design, not only providing renewable energy but also art.”

Challenges and joys

“The challenge of the Central Eastside is always a conversation about industry versus industrial offices, and the strain that can put on the neighborhood,” Wieland said. “The fact that you’re getting more restaurants coming in on the ground floor adds vibrancy to the district, not just in terms of finding a place to go for lunch, but after 5 p.m. I like seeing the East side being more than an 8-5 destination.”

While the use of heavy timber was his favorite part, he also named it as the most challenging.

“I’ve worked with wood structures before — not on a five- or six-story building — that was just fun to take that through and just understand how wood at that scale is designed and delivered to the market,” Wieland said. “That (heavy timber) was probably the most exciting aspect of the project to me.”

The new is exciting, but also challenging from a legal perspective.

“All the engineering makes sense, but applying that at scale was new to us and the City of Portland didn’t have a lot of them at this scale — it created a lot of challenges in terms of understanding how code was to be applied, whether it met the code or whether we had to do a building code appeal,” Wieland said. “It was one of those projects where the biggest part was the most challenging part and the rewarding part. We got it all done and figured out.”

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