Blog
   October 10, 2014

Last weekend, a group of volunteers transformed four blocks of Third Avenue in Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown district into a “pop-up plaza” by reclaiming 1,000 linear feet of roadway as pedestrian space and a protected bike lane. The project was the latest, and largest, project undertaken by Better Block PDX, a group that aims to “create inviting and interactive places that challenge the notion that streets are only for cars.”

For three days, space normally reserved for parking and driving was filled with pedestrians, attracted by ping pong tables, outdoor seating, vendors, musicians, and space for painting and art. Local community associations and businesses initiated the project, and restaurants and cafes moved seating into the expanded pedestrian space. Although the project was temporary, supporters see it as a first step towards a permanent solution for a safer and more appealing Old/Town Chinatown.

The pop-up plaza took place a few blocks north of Otak’s corporate office, and we were proud to sponsor the demonstration project. In addition to financial support, Otak’s Ron Dean, Ben Bortolazzo, Nick Tahran, and Martin Glastra van Loon (and his son, Max), helped with setup and take down responsibilities. Otak believes in creating unique and engaging people places as catalysts for urban revitalization, and this project successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of “place-making”.
 
We look forward to our future involvement in transforming Old Town/Chinatown, as well as future participation in Better Block PDX events!

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   October 9, 2014

Otak's Tammi Connolly joined about 120 volunteers last weekend to help plant over 5,000 trees in Oregon's Washington County. Although it was a tiring three hours of crawling around and tearing up root balls, it was gratifying to see all the newly planted trees! The weekend before, Tammi and Otakian Kelly Youngberg participated in a SOLVE Beach Cleanup on the Oregon Coast.

SOLVE is a state-wide non-profit organization that organizes over 1,000 cleanup and restoration projects throughout Oregon.

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   October 8, 2014

Otak’s Portland office participated in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commute Challenge again this year! Here are a few numbers from our team:

226.5 total trips
2.338 total miles ridden
2,291 pounds of CO2 saved
114,562 calories burned (That's over 148 basic Chipotle chicken burritos or 734 12-oz cans of PBR!)
432 - most miles logged by a single person (Ron Dean)
100% - highest commute rate (completed by Megan Karner, Ron Dean, and Tim Ervin)
63 - most miles Ridden on a Single-Speed Bike = Jason Lien with 63 miles

Participants were entered into a raffle for a wide variety of coveted prizes, including bike spoke reflectors, temporary tattoos, a Metal Earth 3D Laser-Cut Praying Mantis Model (assembly required), and a bicycle-themed mug.

Congratulations, team, and we look forward to participating again next year!

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   September 10, 2014

Otak is pleased to welcome 12 new hires!

Oregon/Southwest Washington

Melissa Toman has joined Otak as a job captain working out of our office in Portland, Oregon. She brings four years of experience in the design industry, and prior to joining Otak she served as the lead production member at a private architecture firm. Her responsibilities included producing design development drawings, 3D models and construction documents, and communicating with clients and consultants. Melissa earned her Bachelor of Architecture from Woodbury University in San Diego, California.

Jeremy Tamargo has joined Otak as a water resources engineering designer working out of our office in Portland, Oregon. He brings extensive experience collecting urban stormwater field samples, laboratory work, producing written reports, and generating computer models. He earned his Master of Science in Environmental Engineering and his certificate of advanced study in sustainable enterprise from Syracuse University and his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

Ben Bross has joined Otak as a project engineer working out of our office in Vancouver, Washington. He brings over 15 years of experience in civil engineering, and he spent the past 10 years working for the Washington Department of Transportation as a civil engineer and construction inspector. His responsibilities included designing transportation and infrastructure; preparing contract plans, specifications, and estimates; and coordinating multidisciplinary design groups, as well as coordination with stakeholders. Ben earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Washington State University.

Aaron Richard has joined Otak as a recruiter/HR generalist working out of our corporate office in Portland, Oregon. He has been working in the human resources field for the past 14 years.

Srivarshini Balaji has joined Otak as an on-call architectural designer working out of our office in Portland, Oregon. She has served as an architectural designer and intern in India, working on a wide range of projects including housing, health care, institutional, industrial, commercial, and prefabrication. She evolved concepts, worked on schematic design, design development, and construction document deliverables. Srivarshini earned her Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon, and her Bachelor of Architecture from Manipal University in India.
Tempe

Jeffrey Sherman has joined Otak as a landscape architect working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. He brings experience in urban design, land planning, open space planning, transportation, transit, and multidisciplinary projects. Prior to joining Otak, Jeffrey owned and operated an award-winning urban design and landscape architecture firm while simultaneously owning, operating, and managing a major manufacturer of urban street and transit furniture. He earned his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arizona, and he studied architecture at the University of La Salle in Mexico City.

Richard Johnson has joined Otak as a project architect working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. He brings 27 years of project experience working on the planning and design of new and re-use projects for public, commercial, educational, and healthcare clients. His experience includes working directly with clients, contractors, and design teams throughout all phases of project development. Richard earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arizona, and he is a registered architect in Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Skyler Flood has joined Otak as a landscape design professional working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. He is well-versed in research, drafting plans, and both hand-rendering and 3D modeling programs. Skyler recently earned his Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Arizona State University, and he is active in the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Geoff Brady has returned to Otak as a landscape design professional working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. Geoff brings extensive experience in landscape design and GIS analysis. His specialties include desert-adapted and arid planting design, urban planning and design, and modeling. He has worked on a variety of projects, including master-planned communities, private residences, commercial complexes, streetscapes, and parks and community areas. Geoff earned his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Arizona State University.

Puget Sound

Marina Howard has joined Otak as a civil engineering designer working out of our office in Kirkland, Washington. She has served as an engineering intern at Clackamas County, as well as private engineering firms. Marina earned her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Santa Clara University, and she is a LEED Green Associate.

Abu Dhabi

Mohamed Sali Jaleelulla has joined Otak as a material inspector working out of our office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He brings 30 years of experience working as a materials inspector in the United Arab Emirates, and he has worked on a wide range of road, bridge, and civil engineering projects. Mohamed earned his degree in civil engineering from the Board of Technical Education in Kerala, India.

Ali Mohamed Ahmed Ali has joined Otak as an electromechanical inspector working out of our office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He brings 20 years of experience in electrical engineering and 11 years of experience working in the United Arab Emirates. Ali earned his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Menofia University in Egypt.

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   August 29, 2014

Yesterday, the City of Mesa, Arizona, revealed design concepts for the Mesa City Center Design Competition. Otak is one of three design teams selected to submit a 15% concept design for a signature plaza in Mesa's city center.

 Otak’s team re-imagined the project site as the heart of a bustling, revitalized downtown, filled with people. The design features a Living Room Plaza surrounded and enlivened by eight acres of mixed-use development that will serve as a catalyst for downtown revitalization. These development opportunities, which can include housing, retail, office, and possibly a hotel, will attract people to downtown Mesa, not just during special events, but every day. Next, the City of Mesa will select one of the three concept designs to guide the future of downtown.

To learn more about Otak’s vision for a revitalized Mesa city center, watch the video below:

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   August 27, 2014

Otakians Tammi Connolly, Liz Gilliam, Matt Klym, Hannah Marre, Melanie McCandless, and Gary Wolff participated in the 8th Annual Johnson Creek Clean-Up on August 23 in Portland, Oregon. They were part of a 140-person effort to remove trash from the lower six miles of the creek (starting at the Willamette River and going up past I-205). Over 37 tons of trash have been removed over the course of the eight Johnson Creek Clean-Ups, averaging 4.5 tons per year. Volunteers work in teams led by captains familiar with the reach of the creek and remove trash that poses a risk to wildlife and water quality.

After the morning clean-up volunteers returned to Mill Park for a BBQ and awards for the most interesting item found in the creek. Notable items this year included nearly 30 tires, one mattress, a model pirate ship, a packet of love letters, legacy media (a floppy disk and a VHS cassette), a bowling ball, an electronic dartboard, and wildlife including a Pacific lamprey and the carcass of a steelhead trout.

The clean-up is co-organized by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, the Overland Park Coalition, and Green Lents and was supported by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services’ Community Watershed Stewardship Program (CWSP) grant. Melanie, Tammi, and Gary put in extra volunteer hours to contribute to the success of the clean-up. Melanie trained the team captains and coordinated the in-water work, Tammi wrote the successful CWSP grant application, and Gary served as event photographer.

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   August 21, 2014

Earlier this month, Greg Laird (Otak Principal and Water Resource Engineer) hosted the Kirkland, Washington, office picnic at his house and farm. The weather was beautiful, and Greg and his wife, Cathy, provided lots of fun for kids and adults of all ages. Events included horseback riding, a trampoline, badminton, horseshoes, ATV and golf carts, and feeding the horses, donkeys, and goats. Not only do the animals like carrots, but it turns out they love crunching on peppermint candies!

The various groups within Otak designed creative games such as walking through a lawn maze while blindfolded and directed by a team member, completing  three separate oversized jigsaw puzzles, and throwing objects into a wheelbarrow and then placing a team member in the wheelbarrow and rolling on uneven ground all while the participants’ ankles are tied together! Otakians also threw a water balloon...or 20.

Everyone enjoyed the delicious food and drinks! We thank Greg and Cathy for the fun-filled day!

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   August 20, 2014

Otak’s Portland staff divided into nine teams to create a putt-putt golf course at our office last Friday! Utilizing space, supplies, and design skills, each team created a par-three to par-five hole, with obstacles and challenges including ramps, water features, bubble wrap, and a photo of a dreamy Patrick Swayze. Otakians hit the links during the lunch hour and competed for personal pride, as well as gift certificates. Troy Kent received a Chipotle gift certificate for Best Score, Mandy Flett received a Subway gift certificate for Worst Score, and Megan Karner received a Starbucks gift certificate for getting a Hole-in-One. Everyone celebrated in the end by meeting in the Bistro area to celebrate August birthdays and eating birthday cake. It was a fun event organized by Otak’s Fun Committee!

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   August 20, 2014

Several Otakians from our Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, offices participated in the sixth annual Kickball Without Borders kickball tournament fundraiser on August 9 in Portland. Each year several engineering and architecture firms organize teams for the competition, and all proceeds go towards supporting the Portland chapter of Engineers Without Borders and their humanitarian work in developing countries. This year, Otak’s team, Shark Otak, took first place and earned the coveted title Kickball Without Borders Champion! It was a fantastic fun-filled day in the sun, and we look forward to defending our title next year!

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   August 14, 2014

A group of Otakians took a field trip to active projects under construction in the North Bethany area of Washington County, Oregon, to see how their paper drawings and specifications translate to soil, concrete, and plant life. The project sites consisted of several housing development locations where Otak prepared the grading plans, street layout, stormwater design, and survey for construction, as well as a County public street. The engineers and project managers talked about their work, challenges, and lessons learned in an example of the multidisciplinary cooperation that Otak is known for.

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