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SALAZAR ARCHITECTS - This is the first affordable high-rise from Innovative Housing, with plans to be 12 stories tall.Twelve stories high might seem short for a new development in the Pearl District, but it’s the first of its kind for this developer.


The first affordable high-rise from Innovative Housing is in the works in the Pearl District, having been through three design reviews. It’s slated to go to the Design Commission for potential approval on September 22.

“We really wanted to do something that brought some energy and vibrancy to it that our residents would look and say, ‘hey, that’s cool, I live in a cool building,’” said Sarah Stevenson, executive director with Innovative Housing. “We didn’t want to build something that looks like all the other affordable housing in the neighborhood.”

The new building is planned to include 93 units on an empty quarter-block site at Northwest 14th Avenue and Raleigh Street.

Designing for density

The city requested at least 40 family units for formerly homeless families, but the end result is much denser at 93 units.

“We put in a proposal, offered them a menu of different choices as far as density and they ended up choosing the most dense option GARVERthat we put out there, which was the 12-story, 93-unit version,” said Julie Garver, the housing development director with Innovative Housing.

Garver said at first, the city was expecting a shorter building, because that’s the status quo for affordable housing.

“The City of Portland Housing Bureau was originally kind of focused on a six-story building because that’s what a lot of affordable housing is, and costs are a little lower if you stick with a shorter building,” Garver said. “As they continued looking into the site and looked at the proposals, they realized maximizing the density on the site would be a really good opportunity for this location: it’s near the I-405 freeway just before the Fremont Bridge.”

That means there are very large structures and massive structures nearby such as big concrete pillars.

“So, with the size and scale of the bridge and overpasses, having a 12-story building is a good fit,” Garver said. “Getting the density to 93 units is outstanding.”

There are other affordable buildings in the neighborhood: The Abigail and The Ramona, both six-story buildings.

Stevenson said they wanted this one to be more diverse and modern than other affordable housing projects.SUBMITTED: INNOVATIVE HOUSING - Sarah Stevenson, executive director with Innovative Housing.

“The Ramona and Abigail are both fairly square, brick buildings, so our architects took a slightly different approach looking at other influences in the neighborhood,” Stevenson said. “Along 14th Avenue, a lot of buildings are metal-clad.”

Environmental impact

Part of the economic reasoning for a high-rise is the site’s soil contamination, which is being cleaned up prior to construction under Department of Enviromental Quality guidelines.

“By the time we did some site work and environmental remediation, it would be the same cost whether you build five or 10 stories,” Stevenson said. “Economically, it was more efficient to put more units on the site.”

The city re-purchased the site from Hoyt Street Properties for $1.3 million after that developer didn’t build the agreed-upon number of affordable housing units in the neighborhood. Before that, the empty site was industrial and railway-owned, the reason for the environmental safety hazard.

While the building itself is projected to cost $21 million to build, the total development cost with the environmental cleanup is slated to cost about $31 million. Innovative Housing is using low-income tax credits and an investor partner, Raymond James Tax Credit Fund, who has been involved on several other properties with Innovative Housing including the Erickson Fritz apartments they redeveloped last year in Old Town near the Burnside Bridgehead.

“It’s also an interesting tie to history in the design because there were a lot of immigrants who worked in the railyards and surrounding the industrial area, and so we’re trying to key off some of those diversity themes for the design of the building,” Garver said.

And in the workforce: the general contractor Bremik Construction was able to subcontract 92 percent certified minority, women and emerging small businesses (MWESBs).

“Especially on design build for mechanical, electric, plumbing and fire sprinklers, on a high-rise it’s pretty unheard of,” Garver said. “We have some new partners in those trades we haven’t worked with before and we’re really excited about it. We’ve achieved goals similar to this on the last several projects, but haven’t reached this level previously and we are really excited to get such a high percentage on Raleigh.”

COURTESY: SALAZAR ARCHITECTS - The rooftop of the 14th and Raleigh building incorporates outdoor living space and solar arrays.

The building has plans to install energy-efficient appliances, a green roof and solar panels, following Earth Advantage Gold standards.

“We’re trying to make the building as energy efficient as possible so yes, we’re doing our part to save the planet, but also creating lower operating costs for the building and residents,” Garver said. “We put a lot of thought into conservation; our primary goal is to reduce costs to our residents.”

For the families

The building is planned to be split by thirds into one-, two- and three-bedroom units to accommodate families, ranging from 550 to 1,050 square feet, the larger being the seven ADA units. There aren’t many two- and three-bedroom housing options being built downtown for families right now, as the market is calling for studios and one-bedrooms.

“They’re expensive to build, more expensive to operate and the market doesn’t necessarily drive toward larger units,” Stevenson said. “We need units at every size and income level, but the city has definitely heard the need for family-sized units.”

The amenities are placed on the ground and second levels, including 16 parking spaces, “which were really important to us because we have residents that have ADA issues, or walking difficulty, or kids or things that would make having a car desirable and necessary,” Garver said.

There’s bike parking on both amenity floors (the ground floor and second level), which also include a resident service office, leadership office, community space with a kitchen, large outdoor courtyard, indoor/outdoor play area with playground equipment and sliding garage doors for rainy or sunny days, a laundry room, a play area and a rooftop deck.

“Frankly, one of the reasons for our laundry room concept is water conservation,” Stevenson said. “It’ll be easy to access, easy to use, but families might not run a load every day if they have to go to a laundry room.”

The laundry room has a glass wall showing an indoor/outdoor play space for kids, with a large roll-up garage door.

“If it’s raining, it’s still a place for kids to bounce around while meeting with case workers in the office,” Stevenson said. “Parents can keep an eye on kids and still get stuff done.”

Process and approval

“We were really pleased the first time we met with the Chair of the Pearl District neighborhood association. She said the neighborhood wanted more affordable housing and were very supportive of the higher density — they didn’t see it as a threat to their community or real estate values,” Stevenson said. “Instead, they wanted more families to have access to the opportunities and amenities in the Pearl, which was so refreshing to hear.”

The support here is unusual because that’s not always the case, especially in upper-income neighborhoods which can sometimes be unwelcoming to affordable housing developments. The neighborhood association did ask for commercial space, as did the city during design review.SALAZAR ARCHITECTS - Street level plans include a corner coffee shop.

“I think we have changed almost every single part of the exterior of the building to address design review’s comments,” Garver said. “The storefront and the ground floor layout has really improved by several of their comments, and design review’s comments really stretched our architectural team to find creative solutions.”

Collaborating and putting energy into the details ended up a good thing — at least, for the ultimate design.

“The planning staff really wanted to see active commercial storefront there. We had it on the side and they pushed us a little further, so now we have a great little corner coffee shop,” Sarah said. “We’re very happy with where the design has evolved, they were extremely helpful in getting us there.”

The team could have tried to go into a Type 2 design approval process, which is speedier and approved by city staff instead of going through the design commission meetings, but ultimately went to see the commission.

“We could have pushed through this process faster, we could have been further ahead on the design process,” Garver said. “We think what we’ve got now is definitely a better building, but it also cost us time and money.”

According to the projected schedule, construction is slated to begin in Spring 2017 with completion in Fall 2018.

“With all the changes we’ve made, we’re hoping to move it forward quickly now, hoping we can get a good decision from the Design Commission in September so we can get going,” Stevenson said. “There are too many people sleeping on the street and our housing crisis is really too great to continue debating design nuances.”

Northwest 14th Avenue and Raleigh Street

District: The Pearl

Developer: Innovative Housing, Inc.

Designers: LRS Architects; Salazar Architects

Contractor: Bremik Construction

Cost: $21 million

Funding: City of Portland, HUD/Home Forward, Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Sustainability: Aiming for Earth Advantage Gold


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