Rooms with a view
Towers on Portland's west side now have some competition for the best views of the city.
Harsch Investment Properties' Seven Southeast Stark project tops out at just 10 stories — four floors of creative work space over six levels of parking. But the project's location next to Interstate 5 along with its column-free upper levels and generous placing of terraces allow for views that have created a buzz among brokers even before the building has finished construction.
From the top floor of the building on a recent May morning, for example, one of the terraces offered a sweeping view of a carnival setting up along Waterfront Park in preparation for the 2019 Rose Festival as well as glimpses of the Moda Center and the spires of the Oregon Convention Center.
A smaller terrace on the southwest corner of the building provided views of Ross Island and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry while the east provided views of at least eight construction cranes working on nearby creative office and mixed-use projects.
"You get a taste of every part of the city," said Steve Roselli, a senior vice president and Portland regional manager for Harsch.
The nearly 80,000 square-foot, steel-and-glass structure features a design by Works Progress Architecture that calls to mind a series of stacked boxes. Open spaces on the parking garage levels allow daylight to fill those areas, like the light that fills the glass-walled creative office floors.
Designing and constructing a free-standing creative office building is new ground for Harsch, which usually focuses on developing industrial and business park projects.
"This is the first undertaking of that type of project of this magnitude," Jim Sather, Harsch's senior vice president of development, said.
When Harsch purchased the site on which Seven Southeast Stark sits as part of a three-property parcel in 2012, the triangular slice of land housed a small shed-like building and some space used for parking.
Far more interesting to the Harsch team was a three-quarter block included in the parcel that held an unoccupied building. With an eye toward meeting demand in the city, the team earmarked that structure for renovation as creative office space.
Because street parking is in short supply in the area, the development company decided to fill the pie-slice-shaped land, nestled between the railroad tracks and the freeway, with a parking garage. However, during the design phase for the project, Jordan Schnitzer, the president of Harsch, asked his team if they had ever taken any drone shots at certain elevations to see what the views looked like from above the freeway.
"We did that and came back with some pretty impressive views," Sather said.
The resulting images convinced the team to put aside the quarter-block plan and move its full focus to the Seven Southeast Stark site by adding four floors of creative office space on top of the originally planned six levels for parking.
Turning the structure into something that would contain tenants required a new approach for the building exterior, however.
"Knowing we were sandwiched between two pretty significant components ... we went through a pretty significant study to determine what the noise generation was from both the freeway and the trains," Sather said.
The team determined it was limited in what could be done to minimize the sound from passing trains. It was the equivalent of downtown workers occasional being interrupted by sirens from emergency vehicles.
The focus, instead, was placed on ambient noise. Studies showed the freeway generated "a bit more" noise than from the area along the tracks, Sather said.
"Working with the glazing manufacturer ... we upgraded the building's skin through glass thickness and some laminated glass on the north, west and south sides."
It sits at the high end of ratings found in most standard office spaces, according to Sather. Even though it's an all-glass building next to the freeway, it has been engineered so the ambient noise from traffic won't be noticeable to occupants.
Into the future
As Hoffman Construction works to wrap up shell and core work on Seven Southeast Stark by July, a leasing campaign already is underway. The building is slated to open during the third quarter of this year.
During a recent tour for Portland-area brokers, a makeshift welcoming area was set up in what is slated to become a 1,500-square-foot retail space. Although there's no tenant signed on for that yet, the Harsch team said the most likely option will be a small restaurant or coffee shop for tenants.
Workers in the building also will be offered amenities to suit their tastes in transportation to and from work. In addition to secured bicycle parking, along with showers and lockers, the building boasts 266 parking spots, which will be more than the tenants in the building likely will need. Tenants in surrounding buildings without parking already have expressed interest in any unused spaces, according to Roselli.
As for the building on the quarter-block that originally was going to be renovated into office space, any plans for that building have been placed on hold while the developer gauges interest in Seven Southeast Stark.
The same wait-and-see approach is being taken with the third property in that parcel, a building formerly occupied by Coast Auto Supply. It sits on Stark across the railroad tracks from the new building. Hoffman currently is using the building for its project offices during construction.