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  • 26 Dec 2014

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Streetcar's odd turn boosts Lloyd District

New $200 million development linked to transit system


by: COURTESY OF GBD ARCHITECTS - Artists rendering shows Lloyd District superblock project along Eastside Portland Streetcar line.A little-noticed jog in the Eastside Portland Streetcar alignment is poised to pay big dividends for the Lloyd District.

Few people outside of streetcar and Lloyd District planning circles noticed when a decision was made to run a portion of the eastside line along Northeast Seventh Avenue. The jog took it east several blocks from the front doors of the Oregon Convention Center on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The alignment established a station between Multnomah and Holladay streets, next to four combined blocks that include the Lloyd 700 Building and a number of parking garages. The new station was also within a block of an existing MAX station on Holladay.

Now the wisdom of that alignment is clear. Ground was broken Tuesday morning on the largest single mixed-use development in Portland history. The catalyst is the proximity of the Portland Streetcar and MAX stations, which will allow residents and workers to come and go without relying on personal automobiles. It is expected to lead a renaissance of revitalization in the Lloyd District.

“The decision was made to support the development, which had been in the works for many years,” says Rick

Gustafson, director of operations for Portland Streetcar and a principal at the Shiels Obletz Johnsen consulting firm.

Fourteen men in matching hardhats threw symbolic shovels of dirt in the air at the groundbreaking. They included Mayor Charlie Hales and representatives of various public agencies and private businesses involved in the project.

“Place-making takes a lot of partners,” Hales said. “It’s not just dry planning, but real architecture and real buildings. That’s why this project will succeed.”

New commercial space

The project is called “Hassalo on Eighth,” a name dreamt up by the Wieden+Kennedy ad agency. Hassalo refers not only to the adjacent street but also a famous steamboat that was based in Portland. Eighth is the avenue that will be re-established though the “superblock” where the project will be built.

The parking garages have already been demolished. They will be replaced with three new buildings over underground parking garages. One will be 21 stories, another will be six stories and the other will be five stories. The three new buildings will house 657 residential units and 58,000 square feet of new commercial and retail space. The project will also retrofit 240,000 square feet of existing commercial, retail and associated space in the blocks.

The project is expected to cost more than $200 million. American Asset Trust, a real estate investment trust headquartered in San Diego, is behind the project. It bought the area from Ashforth Pacific, an office building construction and management company. According to Gustafson, Executive Vice President Henry Ashforth was deeply involved in future plans for the district and the streetcar alignment.

“There have been plans to revitalize the corridor between Seventh and Ninth avenues for 20 years or more. The goal has always been to turn the Lloyd District from a separated, auto-dependent part of town into a walkable urban center. This project will start that transformation,” says Gustafson.

John Chamberlain, American Asset Trust’s president and chief executive officer, agrees.

“Portland is a city of neighborhoods,” Chamberlain said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This project is about returning that human scale to the Lloyd District.”

To help achieve that goal, the new Northeast Eighth Avenue will be pedestrian-only to encourage walking.

An Eco-District

The project is being designed by GBD Architects. It includes green features, such as systems to reduce energy use 25 percent compared to similar buildings, solar water heating, rainwater storage and gray water recycling. A self-funded Eco-District was also formed in the area in 2011 to help with the environmental features.

“An Eco-District shows how buildings can work together to create sustainable neighborhoods, not just existing in isolation, and represents the future of green design and development,” Chamberlain says.

Contractor Turner Construction estimates that the project will create 2,400 construction jobs.

American Asset Trust is already making plans to redevelop several adjacent superblocks it also bought from Ashforth Pacific in the future.