May 17, 2019

Otak was an essential part of the team that won this year’s National ACEC Engineering Excellence National Grand Award for design of the Linking Lookout: US 6 and 19th Street Interchange Project. Otak provided bridge and retaining wall design for this seamless connection between the residential, west side of the US 6 and the Colorado School of Mines and Downtown Golden. What was previously an at-grade intersection, which was dangerous to navigate on foot or by bike, became a safe, grade-separated crossing with US 6 dropped 25 feet below 19th Street.

The bridge crossing consists of a 40-foot-wide vehicular section and a 240-foot-wide, landscaped “lid” with multi-use-path connections, a single-track trail, and seating areas.  The lid required special waterproofing techniques to ensure structural integrity of the concrete girders that were covered by grass and plant material, with engineered fill up to 10 feet deep in places. Otak was also responsible for the design of approximately 70,000 square feet of soil-nail retaining wall, as well as urban design elements consisting of masonry pilasters and a decorative steel arch.

Dan Beltzer was Otak’s project manager and bridge engineer and Pete Loris was responsible for the retaining wall design. Otak (previously Loris and Associates) was a subconsultant to IMEG (previously TST).   

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   March 22, 2019

The Pearl District’s proposed mixed-use building on Northwest 12th and Flanders represents a new kind of sustainable design for hospitality and housing in Portland, helped by a change in the City of Portland’s building codes. The 23-story building will house a Hyatt Place Hotel on the first 11 floors, topped by 12 floors of housing and amenity space.

As Portland is growing faster than it can accommodate people, the demographics are changing. Population forecasts predict that each year over the next 5 years, the Portland metropolitan region will welcome nearly 6,000 new residents between the ages of 20 and 34 years old. Although more than 15,000 new housing units were built from 2010 to 2014, only a few hundred of these units ensure long-term affordability. At the same time, the number of vehicles sold to 18- to 34-year-olds has significantly dropped and TriMet’s ridership continues to increase.

Portland must provide growth capacity for 123,000 new households through 2035 and accommodate the need for a variety of housing types at different price levels. Through better implementation of an affordable housing bonus structure, the City of Portland can move closer to its goal of equitable, healthy and complete neighborhoods. 

Portland’s trendy Pearl District is the perfect place to live and work car-free, so it’s the optimal location for this creative new property, which will be designed by Otak.

It began with a vision

James Wong, co-founder and CEO of Vibrant Cities, wanted to build a livable, leading-edge, 11-story apartment building on what is now a parking lot. A multifamily real estate development firm, Vibrant Cities aims to build vibrant, smart, and sustainable communities in sought-after neighborhoods that people feel proud to call home.

Otak’s involvement

After interviewing several firms, James Wong chose Otak to design the building because he liked the company’s multidisciplinary approach and visionary philosophy focused on next generation communities. Casey McKenna, Otak senior project manager, is leading the design team made up of experts from all services offered by Otak: design, landscape architecture, land use planning, civil engineering, survey, and architecture. DCI Engineers will be the structural engineer and UEB Builders will be the general contractor.

A new opportunity for the Pearl

As Vibrant Cities continued to explore development options for the site, the concept of a hotel development arose.  Enter Ray Harrigill of The Sunray Companies, a hotel management and development company, who has formed a new partnership with James Wong called “Parq on 12th.”

The new Portland Central City 2035 zoning changes, which came into effect in summer 2018, transformed the opportunities for this 10,000-square-foot property. In response to recent urban growth, the City is allowing unlimited density, or floor-area ratio, and a new allowable maximum height of 250 feet for this property if it includes affordable housing. As a result, the proposed building concept transitioned once more into the current hotel/residential concept that includes affordable housing, and the height went from 11 to 23 stories.

Elegant design challenges

With a 23-story building on a small footprint, efficient and elegant design will be paramount. The two different types of use will require two separate entrances with a shared bank of elevators and a loading dock, with priority given to pedestrian experience. “Given the significance of this precedent-setting, innovative mixed-use building, the architecture must be exceptional,” said Brian Fleener, Otak’s Director of Architecture. “How this building transitions from the tower down to the pedestrian realm, and complements the neighborhood’s architecture and character, will be critical.”

Sustainability at the forefront

The design and development team embraced the opportunity for innovative, sustainable design and has chosen to use Green Globes to guide its sustainable design practices. The team is also working with the Energy Trust of Oregon to explore incentives and rebates for sustainable and efficiency elements.

A green roof will form the team’s strategy for stormwater retention. Fortunately, Otak has plenty of experience with green roofs. In fact, Otak designed the city’s largest green roof in 2004 at Portland State University’s Broadway Housing facility, a LEED-Silver certi?ed project, with Gerding-Edlen Development.

Amenities for the Pearl

Residents of the Pearl District will benefit from a new spot to grab coffee, wine, or a bite to eat…either in a new café or on the sidewalk under the new tree canopy.  The building will offer hotel conveniences to tenants and fit in seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhood. This new building will be designed to fit the way people live, work, and play. “It’s our responsibility to leave a lasting legacy for future generations,” said Vibrant Cities CEO James Wong. “Sustainability and integration will be at the forefront of our design and construction as we create a great place to live and stay.”

Moving from planning to construction

The design team is in the design advice review stage with the City and has also met with the Pearl District Neighborhood Association’s Land Use and Transportation Committee. Li Alligood, who leads the Otak planning effort, will submit the land use application once the design is complete. By 2022, the Pearl District will have a new architectural innovation—Portland’s first new combined hospitality and housing space!

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   February 11, 2019

Gary Larson first knew he wanted to become an architect at age 13. Growing up on the Olympic Peninsula and working with his builder father to design houses, he had design in his blood. After graduating from Washington State University, he moved to Boston and joined Kallmann McKinnell and Knowles Architects and got his start working with the team that designed the competition-winning Boston City Hall.

During his 50+ years in the business, Gary has played a central role in defining and shaping the urban environment, for which he has achieved national recognition for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects and major architectural publications. In 1976, while with ZGF Partnership, Gary was project designer for the three-building, 230-foot-tall World Trade Center on Portland’s waterfront, linking three buildings on three blocks with a unique, glazed space frame bridge and roof structure, redefining the city’s urban experience forever. 

In the past 50 years, he’s worked as senior principal, global design leader, partner, and design director for notable firms such as ZGF Partnership, MG2, and Walker McGough. He also cofounded his own design firms, Parker Larson Architects in New York City and BML Architects in Portland.

Shortly after retiring from MG2, Otak’s Brian Fleener, Director of Architecture, asked to join him again. Intrigued by the possibility of working with Brian to help sculpt and elevate the company’s architecture practice, Gary agreed to come out of retirement to join Otak. He quickly stepped into the fun challenge of mentoring Otak’s younger architects, working with a fascinating team of people working on great projects that have significant meaning in their communities.

“Gary and I have worked together for many years,” said Brian. “The passion he brings to project design is unequaled in this industry. Every time we get into a discussion about design, I leave the conversation full of energy.”

Since Gary and Brian have joined Otak, the company has teamed with Kirkland Development to design the boutique Hotel Indigo on the Vancouver waterfront and is working with James Wong from Vibrant Cities to design Hyatt Place, an innovative, mixed-use hotel/housing high-rise on a small site in Portland’s Pearl District. Next they will tackle revitalizing a mixed-use building, Jasmine, in the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown.

Gary’s design portfolio includes iconic northwest projects such as the KOIN Tower, the Veterans’ Medical Center, Bellevue Towers, and Tower 12 residential mixed-use project near the Seattle Waterfront, Pacific Tower, as well as the Kaiser Interstate campus, Oregon Graduate Institute’s Cooley Science Center, Kah-Nee-Ta Vacation Resort, Convent of the Holy Names, Temple Beth Shalom, St. Luke’s Hospital, and Spokane County City Public Safety Building. Beyond the northwest, he’s designed Chengdu’s 57-story Suning Plaza and the Wuxi Chong An Towers in China. 

“I’m enjoying working at Otak and sharing my commitment to outstanding design and quality,” said Gary. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to cultivate and mentor the next generation of architects by sharing my passion for enhancing the urban experience through sustainable, elegant, and functional design.”

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   January 29, 2019

When Gary Reddick, president of award-winning architectural firm V3 Studio is asked why he was drawn to Otak, he talks about the Multnomah County Courthouse. “Otak is there, and everybody else isn’t,” said Gary. “Otak got chosen to manage construction of two of the largest building projects downtown—the courthouse and the Portland Building—and that says something about the company’s commitment to outstanding project management and client service.” Gary was attracted to the way Otak combines great design and solid project delivery to deliver the best service to our clients. 

Gary’s company, V3 Studios, is bringing their extensive experience to advance Otak’s vision of combining science and art, and architecture and engineering, into the way the firm designs and creates next-generation communities. Gary’s portfolio and experience elevate Otak’s design capabilities several notches, in addition to the legacy of senior designer Gary Larson. 

Recognized as a leader in design, V3’s award-winning work illustrates a passion and commitment to urban projects that are responsive to their locale and context, which complements Otak’s urban development work in hospitality and housing. Both Otak and V3 believe that projects have become too complicated for either art or science. Instead we must integrate art, structure, sustainability, and water management to design projects that serve our changing world.

Their work and expertise complement Otak’s portfolio of multifamily housing, high rises, master planning, and hospitality projects:

  • Gary Reddick, AIA: A recognized expert in urban planning and smart growth, Gary has dedicated his career to designing high-quality architecture and increasing the livability of communities in the United States and throughout the world. His multifamily housing, hospitality, and master planning designs span the globe. A leader in the field, he’s frequently asked to speak at conferences, universities, planning departments, and civil organizations on urban architecture and master planning. A graduate of the University of Oregon and well known in Portland as a civic leader and architect for 40 years, Gary is also an accomplished fine artist with over 250 repeat collectors around the world.

  • Chris Maykut: Specializing in international urban planning and building design from conceptualization through design development, Chris is dedicated to strengthening and engaging the built urban environment through pedestrian-oriented sustainable communities. His senior design experience includes master planning large, high- density mixed-use developments, small urban infill projects, and retail projects ranging from dense multi-story urban malls to pedestrian lifestyle centers in the United States and overseas. Chris graduated from the Portland State University School of Architecture.

  • Jason Marshall: Jason joined V3 Studios in 2018 after earning his master’s in architecture from UCLA and designing museums and single-family residences in Virginia, Tennessee, Nebraska, and California. He then expanded into hospitality, residential, retail, and mixed-use projects in the U.S. and internationally. The company he founded, Lime Design Collective, worked with big brands on exhibit and environment design, as well as retail and consumer experience. 

“Gary brings an exceptional 40-year history in Portland and beyond,” said Jim Hamann, Otak CEO. “We’re fortunate to have Gary and the V3 team join Otak and continue to elevate Otak’s design capabilities and portfolio.”

Otak’s inclusive architecture practice combines civil engineering, land use planning, and landscape architecture, with a focus on the art and science of development. This varied expertise allows the company to tap into resources quickly and apply them collaboratively, offering innovative design solutions that are both functional and cost-effective. Otak has a reputation for smart, creative design that integrates natural and built environments. By bringing this design philosophy into communities, Otak transforms the way people use, experience, and enjoy the spaces they inhabit. 

Architecture | Oregon | Sustainability | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   January 7, 2019


By Nick Grenfell

Fueled by excitement and several cups of hot chocolate, Cody Christianson, a senior project engineer at Loris, a division of Otak, attended a community thank you event, celebrating the successful completion of the Castle Creek Bridge/Hallam Street Improvement project in Aspen, Colorado. The event had a hot cocoa bar and site tours guided by the City of Aspen, Gould Construction, and the Otak/Loris design team.

The project team held the event to thank the Aspen community for their patience, participation, and understanding of the construction process, as well as to highlight the value of the critical capital asset project and close the loop on community education for the improvements and value added.

A large round of applause goes to PR Studio for assembling an event of this magnitude and for their diligent efforts in public involvement during project construction. Additional thanks go to the City of Aspen; members of the Otak/Loris design team, which consisted of Connect One Design, Z-Group Architects, KL&A, and RMH Group; and Gould Construction, for taking this project from conception to completion.

We were honored to be part of this important project, improving the community amenities in the City of Aspen.

Colorado | Engineering | Otak Denver | Transportation | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   January 2, 2019

By Mandi Roberts

Believing that diversity fosters innovation and strengthens our skills, we’re working to build a culture of equity and inclusion so everyone has a level playing field. Our professionals come from diverse backgrounds, and we regularly collaborate across the disciplines of planning, architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, structural engineering, project and construction management, natural resource sciences, and other areas of expertise. This interdisciplinary dynamic embraces equity, inclusion, and valuing each other’s unique perspectives. We continue to explore how to foster this aspect of our culture even more and to a greater level of depth throughout all our offices and teams.

To that end, Otak’s Executive Management Team (EMT) has been focusing on equity & inclusion in the past year. In October, the EMT participated in a workshop hosted by the Medici Group of New York. The workshop helped us learn more about how diversity can directly contribute to innovative ideas and our success in business.

Our thought leaders from Medici, Sharang Biswas and Juliana Echeverri, facilitated interesting discussions and group exercises, helping us experience first-hand the magic that can happen when diversity and inclusion overlap with innovation and strategy as shown in their signature approach graphic to the right.

The EMT participants broke into five small teams organized to include people of diverse disciplines, backgrounds, interests, ages, genders, geographic locations, and technical expertise. Each person shared information about themselves in short phrases and key words, writing on a large piece of paper in the form of a mind map. Then team members asked each other questions to gain a better understanding of each person’s story. The next step got participants’ ideas flowing—each team was asked to randomly pick two items on the mind map and come up with a new business-related idea or concept. The last step was to repeat the same exercise, but to brainstorm new ideas that were specific to an aspirational goal in Otak’s Strategic Plan:

Otak strives for client relationships that go beyond our work and develop into personal relationships

This process churned out some amazing and interesting ideas. EMT members had a blast getting to know each other better and sharing their unique ideas, making this monthly meeting one of the most interesting yet.

The Medici Group, founded by Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect (Harvard Business Press), a foundational book on innovation, and The Click Moment (Penguin Portfolio), helps companies activate diversity into an innovative edge by breaking down silos and leveraging diverse talents. Just as the Medici family catalyzed the Renaissance by bringing together people from different disciplines, cultures, and backgrounds, the Medici Group inspires the Renaissance of today.

Who were the Medicis?
The Medicis gained prominence in Italy in the early 15th century as wool merchants and bankers whose businesses were extremely profitable. They were leaders in business, politics, religion (three popes were Medicis), and the arts. Together with other prominent families, the Medicis inspired the Renaissance by funding creators from a wide range of disciplines—scientists, sculptors, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters, architects, and others, who converged on the city of Florence, where they learned from one another, broke down barriers, and forged a new world based on new ideas.

When I spent time in Italy last summer with the University of Idaho Landscape Architecture program, we stayed in Florence for several days and visited Villa Medici, one of the many estates built by the family, as well as Renaissance-era architecture, gardens, and works of art throughout that region. This was an incredible experience, and I highly recommend walking in the footsteps of the Medicis for anyone seeking enlightenment about how embracing each other’s unique qualities can inspire our success as innovators.

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   December 27, 2018

By Adam Tycaster

It’s the future. Throughout the Puget Sound region, light rail carries residents and commuters on their daily commute. The morning is brisk and unseasonably bright. You find yourself in Mountlake Terrace, walking down the station steps. What do you see?

On Tuesday, December 11, the City of Mountlake Terrace and Otak met with residents to answer that question, sharing initial design concepts for a new pedestrian plaza outside of its upcoming Sound Transit light rail station. The aptly named “Gateway Plaza” is intended not only to be visitors’ first impression of the city, but an entrance to Snohomish County itself.

“It gives an identity to the area,” said Curtis LaPierre, Otak’s senior landscape architect for the project. Already heavily travelled, the plaza will add “a nice place for pedestrians to sit, meet up, and even to stroll through.” Listen to Curtis talking about this exciting project.

The meeting was a success, according to LaPierre. He and Jeff Betz, City of Mountlake Terrace’s Recreation and Parks Director, spent more than an hour with residents, taking questions and receiving ideas around the three preliminary focal concepts: waterfall, lighted, and community tree.

LaPierre explained that the biggest challenge for residents at these kinds of meetings is getting away from the placement of individual objects—like trees and paved paths—and explaining what they want to experience. This wasn’t the case for the December 11th meeting. “There was good communication and they had lots of good and useful ideas.”

The next community meeting will take place in January. Residents are encouraged to attend and comment through the City’s project web page, where they can find more information, including illustrations of the proposed concepts.

Check out MLTnews detailed reporting of the meeting here.

Landscape Architecture | Puget Sound | Sustainability | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   December 18, 2018

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   December 6, 2018

Nathan Dasler and Ryan Makie perform a final construction walkthrough with county project manager Steve Johnson and environmental coordinator Trevin Taylor before winter storms return flows to the stream.

The salmon returned to the Hunter Point Road culvert after 100 years away, thanks to the investment of Thurston County, Washington, in rehabilitating the culvert and the stream. See for yourself here!

The culvert was in a deep ravine and had a large drop at the downstream end, which blocked fish passage. Thurston County received state grants for culvert replacements, and Hunter Point Road was their highest-priority fish passage project. The project involved a new bridge and complete stream reconstruction, which was completed in fall 2018. Complications included high road embankments, a single access road (dead end), a stream confluence immediately upstream of the crossing, and the need to provide habitat function to the stream beneath the bridge structure. After consulting with the tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the team elected to include large woody debris in a variety of configurations along with specific stream bed geometries and materials.

During construction, the fish salvage team relocated approximately 500 fish from the downstream reach, indicating the high potential of future use upstream of the project. Otak structural engineers designed an 80-foot-span bridge to replace the existing 4-foot-diameter culvert. Shortly after construction was complete, in November 2018, videos captured the return of spawning salmon--after almost a century-long absence! This was truly a historic moment, and a tribute to the funding agencies and Thurston County for funding this project and hiring Otak to bring it to fruition! 

Otak’s team (Doug Sarkkinen--project manager; Elizabeth Sheehy—structural; and Nathan Dasler, Ryan Makie, Frank Sottosanto, and Mike Rafferty—water resources) is looking forward to seeing continued fish in the system, the new channel settling in, and the vegetation establish.

Engineering | Puget Sound | Sustainability | Transportation | Water | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   December 5, 2018

David Knowles has joined Otak to direct our transportation business. David will help build on Otak’s strong reputation for integrating natural and built environments; designing roads and bridges, trail/bike/pedestrian amenities, transit, aviation, and ports; and advancing our transportation planning practice.

With a record of directing major transportation and land use planning projects, David has worked on iconic Northwest programs such as the West Seattle to Ballard Light Rail Extension, Tacoma Link Alternatives Analysis, Oregon Passenger Rail, Willamette River Light Rail Crossing and Portland Milwaukie Light Rail expansion, East Link Light Rail Transit preliminary engineering, Rose Quarter Plan, and Portland Mall Revitalization.

He brings a valuable combined perspective of both client and consultant, with leadership roles at Portland Metro, David Evans and Associates, Sheils Obletz Johnsen, Inc., and the City of Portland. In the last nine years, David led CH2M HILL’s transit business and managed the Portland office, the largest outside of corporate headquarters.

“We’re looking forward to having David expand our transportation business, broaden our technical capabilities, and serve our transportation clients by lifting our project delivery to a new level,” said Jim Hamann, CEO of Otak.

“I am excited to join a company that is small enough to be nimble and strategic, while also having a deep bench of talented planners, architects, and engineers,” said David. “I was attracted to Otak by its reputation for smart planning and design that makes a real difference in the places we live and work, and Otak’s culture and creativity convinced me it was the right place to work.” 


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