The gilded age
A Eugene developer is showing what you can do when you squeeze every inch out of a Pearl District neighborhood.
Developers Paul and Cathy Rudinsky, with the McKenzie River Company, are set to open the Oro apartments. This is a yolk-yellow apartment tower, wedged into the last livable space between the I-405 ramp and the increasingly busy Northwest 14th Avenue.
The fences are still up, but according to Paul Rudinsky, residents will start moving in to the Oro (Spanish for gold) in the third week of May. Office tenants should arrive in the summer. Finishing touches are being put on the apartments and street-level mixed-use spaces. They may be used for retail or for creative office space. They are laid out for companies that like to group their workers around one long table, but they also have loft spaces that take advantage of the high ceilings, in one case with a kitchen. "It's the company doing work together, it's that creative environment," says Rudinsky.
On a recent hard hat tour of the Oro, Rudinsky showed off other unique selling points of the building. There's a triple-decker automatic parking machine in the garage. Drivers looking for their cars use their fob, and the machine brings it down to ground level within 12 seconds if it was on the second tier, or 35 seconds from the top tier. Free street parking has been abolished in the neighborhood, except for a couple of blocks under the freeway.
Dog washing station: check
"I'm a Realtor and price per square foot is just jargon. It doesn't mean anything," says Allen Ruggles of Ruggles Realty in Eugene. "One of the first questions you ask yourself is: Where's the kitchen? They can waste a lot of space. If I'm a tenant I ask 'How much cash am I paying and what am I getting?' That's why we do a lot of value-added amenities. We try to give them more than just a rented apartment. On a nice day, go to the amenity deck. On a rainy day, you want to think, go to the second-floor mezzanine, get a cup of coffee."
The building has three major common areas, which is a lot for just 67 units. The entry lobby on Overton will have a lounge area with a bar, a wall of books with a library ladder and a golden fireplace. The lobby mezzanine has booths, a bar and another lounge, and the roof deck looks east over the neighborhood.
(The company has Lower Burnside Lofts, at Southeast and 10th and 11th Avenues, which only has one common area, Couch9, at Northwest Ninth and Couch, and 11 Marche near Portland State University)
One-bedroom units range from $1,675 to $2,100. Office space rents for $250 a square foot.
Rudinsky is adamant that there is a market for small, work-from-home friendly apartments.
"Much of the younger group now, they live-work from home, that's what we've designed for. We're trying to give them extra space."
Hence the booths where people can come with their laptop when they need a change of scenery.
Space is tight. One-bedroom units are around 650 square feet, the smallest studio 400. There are Murphy beds and rolling barn doors. Facing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office across Overton Street, some residents will have tiny Juliet balconies.
At mid-rise level, the seven-story, 54,000 square-foot building is level with I-405 where it rises on to the Fremont Bridge. In one of the show apartments you can sit behind super insulated, floor-to-ceiling glass and lock eyes with a different driver every three seconds. Rudinsky praises the sound insulation, and the way the windows angle out at one side to give a view down 15th Avenue.
Essex Construction has its office on the second floor, where a small staff runs the plans on ProCore on a large screen. Most of the work is finishing off: staff peel the adhesive wood effect off damaged floors and replace them, one strip at a time, or touch up dings to the paint work.
Mini storage is a thriving business in the neighborhood, so the architect added 11 rentable storage units in signature yellow.
The elevator is a foot taller than usual, for bringing in tall items such as couches. "That probably runs an extra $50,000 for that extra foot, but it's worth it, it feels better and there's less wear and tear," Rudinsky said.
The roof terrace looks east over the neighborhood. Oro is built on a quarter block. To the east are two low-slung warehouses, and to the south a two-story building. The Oro bought their FAR or floor area ratio (height allowance) so even if it is replaced, it can't be tall enough to block Oro's view.
Units have washer-dryers and portable AC units that connect to a panel that exhausts to the street. Exterior air quality could be a challenge, with the freeway so close.
The Oro is on what was previously a surface parking lot at Northwest 15th Avenue and Overton Street. A small courtyard sits in the crux of the L-shaped building, with some basic plantings. If the other three quarters of the block were developed, they would do the same, creating an oasis at the center of the block.
A deal on rents
Rudinsky says it wasn't as hard finding labor as it was two years ago. "The work level, because of inclusionary zoning, has dropped dramatically. I think there's only been two new projects since that happened. Architecture is always the first to get work and lose work. You can tell they're getting a lot more nervous because they don't have the work scheduled out.
"I think they're going to be some of the least expensive in the Pearl District," says Rudinsky. "I'm hoping we're stabilized (95% leased out) by fall, and leased out by Thanksgiving. Rents are set and most people are giving anywhere from four to six free weeks rent to lease out."
Address: 1470 N.W. Overton St.
Owner's Rep: Urban Resources Inc.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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