March 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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