The general public was invited to the Portland Building on Tuesday, May 16, for an update on the renovation of the famous building, which is home to 11 city bureaus and 1,350 workers.
Rather than tear down and replace the 1982 structure, which is a tourist attraction and on the National Register of Historic Places, the city opted to spend $195 million on a full renovation. Staff will be moved out of the building this fall to satellite sites and should return by 2020.
In a windowless meeting room, the city presented four fly-through video renderings (which are also viewable on YouTube) that showed the new light filled public spaces on the first and second floors, where the public will have concierge-like access to the different bureaus instead of roving throughout the building.
The key aims of the design are to:
n Incorporate structural and seismic upgrades.
n Improve sustainability and accessibility.
n Increase daylighting.
n Create flexible work spaces for City staff.
Team members were on hand from Portland's Office of Management and Finance, lead architect DLR Group, contractor Howard S. Wright, and owner's representative DAY CPM.
To stop rain leaks, the building will be given a new skin, consisting of terracotta rather than the ceramic tile. A two-foot thick concrete wall will encase the core of the building around the elevator shafts to bring it up to earthquake code.
Jessica Engeman is a project manager with historic preservationist firm Venerable Properties, which renovated Washington High School/Revolution Hall and the White Stag Block in Old Town Chinatown. Engeman said the new lighter blue will match the original intent. But the job's complexities are more than skin deep.
"It's a complicated set of problems and goals," Engeman told the Business Tribune. "It's complicated to figure out what the right fix is, and to defend the budget. Also we have to get approval for the submission from the Landmarks Commission on the exterior piece." They will meet about that on June 26, 2017.
Venerable is a go-between for the owners and the Landmarks Commission. "I'm trying to find a way to meet the goals of the project and get through the process with the least pain."
Usually historic preservation is about repairing as much as possible — fixing windows, repointing masonry — but in this case, "This building is not made of materials that are easily repaired. You can't go out there and put more caulk on."
She says the next step is the permitting process, "which can be very time consuming."
The single-paned dark glass was designed to keep heat out in the 1980s. It is being replaced by more efficient triple paned clear glass.
Carla Weinheimer, senior associate at DRL Group, said "Last fall we wanted to make sure it was really a project with the budget of $195 million and 2020. And find what is the best value way to take the mandate from the city and make it the best value project."
It was decided everyone should move out completely during the work. "These decisions were not made until the design build team was in place," said Weinheimer.
Now with a lot of attention paid to the building's envelope, she says they are "coming into the phase of looking at the design and seeing the best way to resolve it in the building." For example, what exactly to do with the loggia? They looked at other issues on the building's base, such as closing the loading dock. (Fortunately it can be used for construction deliveries.)
To cube or not to cube
"One question was how much money is there really in the budget for reinventing the way people use the interior." The radical rethink will see 10-by-12 foot huddle rooms and phone booths cluster around the center of the building, and an a flexible open plan everywhere else, which can have cubicles or not as people wish. Every floor will get a flexible kit of parts for furniture, to give an identity and a style.
The 15th floor will be a shared floor for all workers, not just bosses.
"It's such a great floor," says Weinheimer. "Collaboration was important, having third places to go and be quiet and work, without having to go across the street to a café for a meeting. All that and becoming the employer of choice were all important." Employer of choice is a city term.
"The city wants to become an employer of choice. That means that people want to work there," she said. To do that the architect had to ask, "What is driving the next generation? Technology's allowing for more flexibility."
Todd Miller a vice president with Howard S. Wright has been planning the move-out. He knows the numbers.
"We're doing 10 to or 11 moves of 150 people, starting in August. There's 1,402 seats and 1,350 people."
Moving them back in is an art. "We'll build out 10 floors, including the lobby, then move in two thirds of the staff while we finish the remaining four and a half floors. It allows them to get out of the lease space earlier," to save money on rent.
"Because we're renovating, we can move them in from the bottom up or the top down. We haven't decided yet." Much of that is dependent on how much they are paying for rent in swing space, and which teams need to move together.
Staging will be easy — having a whole city block and a basement helps. Bigger elements will need just in time delivery, such as panels.
A self-elevated crane was used to build the building in the 1980s. It was jacked up every few floors as the building grew. The holes in the concrete where that crane's feet fit are still there, now patched over. Howard S. Wright will unpatch some of those holes to fit a tower crane on the roof.
Miller says the construction element should be quite straightforward. "It's the quantity of moving parts and pieces...There's 11 different bureaus, and the interface for them and communication for them, and the fact that we're moving them offsite...The complexity is the people part of the business rather than the building part."
Colocation, colocation, colocation
Kristin Wells, the project manager with the city of Portland, said last year they did not know the scope of the project because they were leaving that to the design build process, where all the teams work together onsite in the old daycare center.
"When we went out with RFP (request for proposals) we had the basic parameters but we intentionally did not detail the scope." Then they found the designer, DLR, and contractor, Howard S. Wright. "Then we did the visioning and the programming together in the fall."
Colocation works for Wells. "Any time a question comes up you can walk a couple of desks over and get an answer. For example, the change to the Fourth Avenue entrance has been a lot of back and forth: how it would effect the coast and the structure."
They are talking a lot about the generator, whether to replace it or not. (It was replaced not that long ago.)
She bounces between the "colo" and the 12th floor right now. So has Wells picked out her future office yet?
"I really like working in an mobile office environment. Presumably I'd have a cubicle, but I'm happy being a floater."