October 29, 2013

Otak has been a financial supporter of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP) for many years, and earlier this month, Otak sponsored a table for LCEP's annual art auction and gala. The event brought together individuals from the policy, public, and scientific communities and highlighted the important environmental and educational work that LCEP conducts throughout the year. Otak recognizes the importance of the Lower Columbia for our communities and our environment, and we are delighted to support LCEP's efforts to protect and restore nature and clean water for future generations of fish, wildlife, and people.

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   October 28, 2013

Following the depaving of the St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church parking lot last month, approximately 30 volunteers joined Melanie McCandless and John Notis of Green Lents in creating a rain garden and peripheral planting areas. Prior to the project, the only green space on the church lot was a small bed at the south end. The addition of over 500 native plants will improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat and aesthetic enhancement.

The central rain garden will allow water to soak into the ground rather than flooding the church and the rain garden will treat the water before it enters nearby Johnson Creek. The plantings along the edge of the parking lot will reduce the amount of runoff reaching the rain garden while providing a screen between the church and neighboring properties.

This project was a partnership between Depave, Green Lents, and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council and was funded by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ Community Watershed Stewardship Program.

There will be a rain garden celebration in Spring 2014. For more information, contact Melanie McCandless at

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   October 18, 2013

Otak’s Lot 5 at the Yards project has recently earned LEED Silver Certification! This project, which is the last phase of the transit-oriented Yards at Union Station Development, converted an unsightly brownfield into an aesthetically pleasing building that provides 80 affordable housing units in Northwest Portland. The five-story building contains a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. The project includes many sustainable measures such as flow-through plantings, energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency windows and building envelope, linoleum floors, and materials with highly recycled content. We are proud to add Lot 5 to our portfolio of LEED Certified projects!

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   October 15, 2013

Ron Dean, Otak architect, created an attractive display board of our Lot 5 at the Yards project for this year’s AIA Portland Design Awards People’s Choice exhibit. The boards are on display in Portland’s Pioneer Place Mall, across the street from our Portland office. The public has the opportunity to view the display boards and vote for your favorites by clicking here.

Lot 5 is an 80-unit affordable housing project in Northwest Portland and recently achieved a LEED Silver rating. Otak’s design team included Sinan Gumusoglu, Jennifer Nye, Ron Dean, Kevin Janik, and Ben Bortolazzo.

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   October 10, 2013

Otak was a sponsor at this year’s American Planning Association - Washington Chapter Conference in Bellevue, Washington. Over 400 professionals attended the two-day event, and our firm was well-represented. Mandi Roberts, Otak principal, spoke on several topics including Otak’s Cascade Loop Scenic Byway Plan, professional ethics, and our award-winning Cool Planning Handbook. She also moderated a panel titled Growing Transit Communities on the Eastside. Mandi and other Otak staff members are currently working with the Growing Transit Communities Partnership of Puget Sound Regional Council to transform Puget Sound’s Eastside station areas into more vibrant, economically healthy neighborhoods, and you can read more about this project by clicking here.

The conference also featured an update to the APA’s Game Changing Initiatives and Actions document, which features contributions from several Otak planners. This document provides recommendations on how to create great communities in spite of economic, political, and environmental challenges.

The conference provided a wonderful platform for exchanging knowledge with our peers, and we look forward to next year’s event!

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   October 10, 2013


Last Saturday, Dr. Lauren Allsopp, Adjunct Instructor of Historic Preservation at the University of Oregon, brought a group of her students to Otak’s Portland office to discuss green preservation and relevant projects in the Portland area. Don Hanson, Otak’s Director of Planning and Design, led the discussion and focused on changes he has seen while serving on the Portland Planning Commission. Otak’s Derek Chisholm also shared his experience in green preservation projects, as well as research he’s performed on the topic. The students toured Otak’s office in the historic Director Building and visited case-study sites. We thank Dr. Allsopp and her students for stopping by!

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   October 9, 2013

Otak has formed a strategic partnership with Urban People and Space Design Studio (UPS), a talented design firm in Beijing, China. Yubo Zou, founding principal of UPS, visited Otak’s Portland office with two members of his team. Otak’s Martin Glastra van Loon and Derek Chisholm worked in partnership with UPS on a master plan for a downtown civic center, and Otak is supporting UPS with water resources, engineering, and transportation design. UPS also met with some of Otak’s designers and engineers and toured Clean Water Services’ facilities, which represent some of the most advanced and sustainable designs in the world. We are looking forward to our collaborative efforts with UPS!

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   October 7, 2013

Two Otakians, Melanie McCandless and Matt Klym, joined more than 50 other volunteers on Saturday, September 28, to break up part of a parking lot in the Lents area of Portland, Oregon. Volunteers from St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Depave, Green Lents, and Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) removed 2,400 square feet of asphalt (at least 30 tons), filling four and a half ten-yard bins. The central depaved area will be converted to a rain garden, while areas along the fence will be landscaped with drought-tolerant native plants.

The project is funded by a City of Portland community Watershed Stewardship Grant, and additional funds were raised at a traditional Ethiopian dinner at the Church this past June.

Twenty-five to thirty volunteers are needed to help plant the depaved areas on Saturday, October 26, from 10 am – 2 pm. To register, please contact JCWC Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Amy Lodholz, at

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   October 7, 2013


We are excited to host a Design Week Portland (DWP) Open House on Tuesday, October 8, from 4-7 pm at our corporate office on SW Third and Yamhill. The public is welcome to tour our architecture and design studio, view our work, and chat with our designers while enjoying snacks and beverages.

The DWP Open House is part of the Portland Design Festival, which is an annual city-wide celebration showcasing the full-spectrum of design disciplines. Otak is proud to be an event-level sponsor of this year's Festival, and we look forward to meeting you at our open house!

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   October 2, 2013


On Monday, September 23, Otak hosted an open house at our Portland office. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, and Jordan Schnitzer from Harsch Investment Properties were featured guests along with over 200 clients, teaming partners, and friends and family spanning our 32-year history. Otak’s President and CEO, R. Nicholas Loope, FAIA, provided brief remarks about Otak’s new downtown location, as did Congressman Blumenauer and Mayor Hales. The event provided a wonderful opportunity for Otak staff to tell guests about our services and exciting projects while enjoying beverages and appetizers. We thank everyone who attended, sponsored, and worked at the event and helped make it a memorable evening!

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