Mortenson Construction renovates its own new office
Another warehouse in the Pearl District has been transformed on the inside, this one located along Portland's 13th Avenue Historic District.
Mortenson Construction recently relocated its Portland offices to the Crane Building, 710 N.W. 14th Ave., after the renovation of its second- and third-floor offices.
Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction began serving the Pacific Northwest 35 years ago and opened its first Portland office in October 2012. Many of Mortenson's Portland team is local to the region, a trend that is expected to continue as the company continues expanding its Portland presence.
The historic 1909 building used to be an office, sales center and warehouse for the Crane Plumbing Company, but is now remodeled by Mortenson into its own new, 9,000 square foot office space. It was also updated by Sera Architects in 2007.
At the peak of the renovation, there were 45 different craftspeople on site, including Mortenson superintendent Blake Haldeman.
"There is a great history here in this town and it's like our company: it's in its third generation of Mortenson ownership," Haldeman told the Business Tribune. "They started as carpenters with hammers and manual tools, and the building structure honors that history of construction — old-school carpentry as well as the idea of reusing materials that would otherwise be thrown away that really appeals to us."
Mortenson had about 60 employees at the beginning of the year, but will be up to more than 100 full-time, salaried employees by the end of 2017 at the new office space.
"The timing was perfect for me," Haldeman said. "I expressed an interest in doing that because it was such a cool building."
The western half of the site is occupied by a six-story tower with retail on the first and offices on the second and third floors. The eastern half is occupied by a one-story space with a loading dock along 13th Avenue. The most challenging part of the reno to Haldeman was being mindful of the tenants living up on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors.
"They have apartments up there, so noise was obviously a big concern," Haldeman said. "A lot of the demolition work was quite loud, so we had to schedule that around all these folks' different schedules."
Mortenson incorporated rustic design elements that its team collected throughout travels in Oregon, working on other projects.
"Sourcing materials was difficult for the project," Haldeman said. "Also, we did probably six months of work in three months' time, so we truly compressed a long schedule into a very short period of time — we worked a lot of concurrent trades, and we worked on the weekends and a little later than we should've."
Haldeman worked closely with Mortenson team members to put in place thoughts and ideas some have had throughout their careers — mostly about reuse.
"Thoughts about using old, recycled materials, how we think the conference room should be shaped," Haldeman said. "The entire exterior of the building is open workstations so everyone gets to take advantage of natural light and the private offices are in the center of the building — traditionally, buildings style those offices around the perimeters and take up all the natural light. We were able to do the opposite of that which is fantastic, you can see the bones of the structure."
As part of the renovation, Mortenson purchased an 100-year-old barn in Colton to deconstruct it and repurpose the Douglas fir for the new office workspace and trim. Three years ago, barns with hay lofts and uninsulated storage were determined unnecessary for the modern farmer. The farm it was located on is now a Christmas tree farm with no livestock.
"We found quite a few interesting conversation pieces: a lot of them came from the barn itself, some other ones we sourced from all over," Haldeman said. "A real big helper for us was a place called Aurora architectural salvage. They had fantastic stuff: a big huge yard filled with old wood, a big basement that's got old windows and doors, and also, they helped us a lot by finding some really cool pieces."
The Doug fir barn rafters were repurposed as baseboards, and Lodgepole pine and Ponderosa pine were also used in the renovation.
The reclaimed barn wood was incorporated into cabinetry, work stations, the welcome desk, a bike rack and an art timeline wall, along with serving in the conference rooms as focal piece wood walls.
Haldeman's favorite antique is the old window that now decorates the steel conference room, and his favorite decor is a painting also in that room.
"It's estimated to be somewhere from the mid-1850s, somewhere around there: it actually has brass lifter hinges to lock the window it lifts the entire window with the operable hinges," Haldeman said. "(My favorite) other element would probably be the painting in the same room that my wife (Liz Lake) painted."
Mortenson moved in during July, after completion.