December 2, 2019


Our Why from Otak on Vimeo.


Our why begins and ends with the people of Otak. Our teams, clients, partners, and colleagues have shared values and a common desire to enrich the communities where we live, work and play, while also preserving the environment and our natural spaces. Whether planning, designing, building and managing private and public buildings, civic spaces, wetlands and woodlands, national parks or neighborhood playgrounds, the core values of our people guide us in all that we do.

Our core values extend beyond the workplace and are intrinsic to who we are, how we serve our communities and how we live each day with our friends and families. These core values also form the basis of our work and guide us to deliver more than just projects, but to create vibrant centers for living for today and for generations to come.


This is our why and the people of Otak are at the heart of our why.

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November 7, 2018

On a recent Saturday, nearly 20 Otak employees and their friends joined in planting the riparian buffer of the Otak-designed Zackuse Creek Fish Passage and Stream Restoration Project.

The City of Sammamish partnered with King County to upgrade three undersized culvert pipes to fish-passable box culverts in the first 400 feet of stream above the confluence with Lake Sammamish.  Otak designed the third fish-passable culvert, under a major arterial, and realigned and restored over 400 feet of the creek upstream of the culvert and within private property.

Improvements included creating a more sinuous, stable channel with step pools, boulder bands, and woody debris appropriate for Kokanee spawning. Many key stakeholders were involved from the early stages of planning through design and permitting, including assisting during public outreach. This level of public involvement was greatly reflected in the diverse group of 100 people who came to help replant the area near Zackuse Creek, including the Snoqualmie Tribe (who organized the revegetation work party), families from the neighborhood, City staff, and other community members. 

In addition to design, Otak also provided construction support on the project. It was a special opportunity for many on the design team, to put the final touches on a project they had been creating and visualizing through a computer over the previous two years! And such a treat to do so on a sunny day with friends and coworkers! "It felt like Earth Day," said Kaela Mansfield, water resources engineer. "The Snoqualmie Tribe did a great job of advertising the event."

Congratulations to Otak's team: Greg Laird, project manager; Ryan Hawkins, construction management/inspection; Kaela Mansfield and Mike Rafferty, water resources; Eva Ho, Touta Phengsavath, and Dave Cole, civil and utility support; Bob Doherty, culvert/structures; Kevin O'Brien, permitting efforts; Ben Schneider and Lindsay Martin, planting restoration design; and Jeff Gray and Kevin O'Brien, permitting support.

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October 15, 2018

Five Otak employees from our Redmond office (left to right: Kevin Kraxberger, Joe Schober, Ellen Webster, Dave Cole, and Kaela Mansfield) went flyfishing on Saturday, October 13, at Rocky Ford in eastern Washington. The event was sponsored by Flycaster Brewing in Kirkland, Washington. They enjoyed a BBQ lunch and Flycaster beer on a sunny day, fishing for rainbow trout just downstream of the state-run Rocky Ford hatchery, which sits on a natural spring in the Columbia Plateau. Part of the group stayed the night in Ephrata and golfed in the morning at Moses Lake.

At Otak, our employees enjoy spending time together after hours...just as much as we enjoy working together! And yes, they went home with some fish!

Here's Dave Cole in action:

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August 21, 2018

Employees began congregating in the lunchroom and adjacent conference room around 4:00 p.m. They lined up to fill their plates with food and their glasses with wine, beer on tap, or kombucha. After a busy day at work, it’s fun to relax with our coworkers.

Soon the attention was focused on the screen and Christina West and Nolan Dalman from the Architecture and Planning & Design teams, which hosted Wine-Down Wednesday’s brief program. We said goodbye to one of our summer interns, Nolan Dalman, and congratulated Otak’s two winners of the Daily Journal of Commerce Women of Vision awards: Li Alligood and Tammi Connolly.

First: a game! Employees viewed a series of project photos and competed to guess the name of the project. Was it the Beaverton High School gym repair and remodel; the Kronberg bridge, an elevated, meandering bridge through ecologically sensitive Kelly Creek; the new 22-story hotel and apartment tower in the Pearl District, Hyatt Place; or Yosemite Big Oak Flat visitor station? The first person who guessed correctly got a (fitting for the event) bottle opener.

Next: a rousing, quick game of Pictionary! Teams of two were called up and invited to draw, concurrently, the word on the piece of paper. The first team that guessed correctly went onto the next level of the tournament. Each team got just one try to get it right, but in the finals the best of three rounds won! All of the words related to Otak’s design and architecture work…bicycle lane, curtain wall, mass transit, rebar, crane…some of which challenged our creative attention. Creative Juices, the communications team (1/2 of which was a graphic designer), quickly learned it didn’t necessarily require drawing skills to win a round!

The winning team of Mandy Flett and Otho Belkhayat, titled “WOOOOW,” defeated the last remaining team from Marketing & Communications with the helpful name, “Don’t Eat Yellow Snow.”
Just another Wine-Down Wednesday in Otak’s Portland office, where every other month, we enjoy hanging out with our colleagues and laughing at ourselves!

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August 7, 2018

Redmond office picnicThe Otak Redmond Office celebrated summer with a picnic at OO Denny Park on Lake Washington in Kirkland on Saturday.

Our staff, their partners, kids, and dogs had tons of fun in and out of the water. There were tippy canoes and BBQ too. No one got arrested, no one went to the ER, and no one got left behind – so all and all a good day.

View more photos on Otak's Facebook page.

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July 2, 2018

Otak’s Redmond and Everett offices have an active fun committee that hosts engaging, entertaining events that build office camaraderie. It’s always more fun to work with your friends! Here are eight things we’ve learned about Puget Sound employees:

1. They like to learn about different cultures. Redmond employees celebrated the Chinese New Year with a luncheon and calligraphy demonstration. Employees had their names written in Chinese, thanks to Curtis LaPierre, Eva Ho, and Tasha Wang. They had a potluck with green smoothies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Pi Day, and on Cinco de Mayo, they celebrated Mexican culture with an office-wide potluck.

2. They love their dogs even more than your average Otak employee. Yes, the Portland office has a “bring your dog to the office” policy, but they allow only one dog per day! At the second annual Puget Sound camping trip in June, the 18 campers had 5 dogs among them. This ratio proudly exceeds Otak’s minimum factor of 1 dog for every 3 humans.

3. A little rain doesn’t dampen their spirits. Although the weather was mostly beautiful on the camping trip at Baker Lake near the North Cascades National Park, the campers were not deterred by a little shower. They enjoyed hiking, biking, rope swinging, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, swimming, floating on the lake, playing lawn games, hammocking, and a trip to the local Birdsview Brewing Company!  The coworkers and friends are already looking forward to next year.

4. Wearing ugly shoes = bonding. Eighteen Redmond employees and friends bowled the night away at Kenmore Lanes this past March.  The night included some amazing strikes and some unfortunate gutter balls.  In the end, there was plenty of pizza and beer to drown our sorrows or celebrate our successes!

5. The office that bikes together stays together! The Redmond office has an outstanding bike-to-work program and 5 active cyclists. Otak has received three grants from the City of Redmond to purchase seven bicycles, a large storage rack, helmets, and basic bike tools, in addition to funds for commute-trip reduction and motorized vehicle reduction activities. Many employees ride their own bikes to work, and anyone can reserve an Otak bike if they haven’t ridden their bike in. Employees have monthly cycling events for lunch, coffee, ice cream, happy hour, and outdoor concerts at the Chateau St. Michelle winery.

6. They’ll look for any excuse for ice cream! Nine Redmond employees hopped on their bikes on Thursday, June 21, to celebrate the summer solstice at Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.

7. Whiskey is even better than ice cream. Following up on a wine-tasting event last year, the Redmond Fun Committee hosted a whiskey tasting to showcase the different tastes inherent to different whiskey styles and regions! At least 37 attendees tasted 5 different whiskeys (a bourbon, a Highland Scotch, an Irish, a local rye, and a local single malt) in a pre-poured side-by-side comparison. Pairing food and whiskey may not sound as straightforward as food-pairing wine, but the Redmond office consumed almost 7 pounds of cheese (a half-dozen varieties), which were paired with bread and apples, and of course, various chocolates.

8. Even better when we enjoy projects we’ve designed! In May, employees enjoyed a bike and walking tour of the Redmond Central Connector Trail, which Otak designed and supported during construction. The Redmond office now has seven bikes that employees can rent for bike rides to meetings or for fun outings with coworkers, courtesy of a Go Redmond Grant, and some of the regular bike-muters take this trail to and from work – bringing this regional facility full circle.

Check out our open jobs at Otak to come join in the fun in Redmond. You too could be having fun at work!

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April 26, 2018

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky,” said British educator Margaret McMillan in 1925. 

Science shows us that time spent outdoors improves short-term memory, restores mental energy, relieves stress, improves concentration, and enhances thinking and creativity. That’s why Otak believes in creating spaces to promote outdoor education for our children.

On Friday, April 20, Washington Elementary in Vancouver, Washington, opened its first community garden. Otak architects and engineers were on hand to celebrate with the school community after helping to design and construct the garden.

The fifth-grade students at Washington Elementary School expressed a desire to create a school community garden after reading an article on urban gardening. The students appealed to their visionary principal, Kirsten Copeland, who found a way to fund the project and move it to reality. 

Over the next five months, fourth-grade teacher Melissa Hendy led a planning committee, which fleshed out a vision for an outdoor learning environment. The school enlisted Melissa’s husband Allen, a civil engineer at Otak, to manage the project and direct construction. Landscape designer Maggie Daly laid out the garden and prepared the project estimate, and Tim Leavitt (director of Otak’s southwest operations) helped with construction. The Otak team also helped secure donations from local businesses and provided guidance to the principal on getting the project started and constructed.

“The Otak team, led by project manager Allen Hendy, helped lead the design of this project. The team took great care to provide student voice throughout the design process,” said Principal Copeland. “The Otak team listened to the key elements students wanted and embedded those elements into the final design layout. Their efficiency allowed us to take an idea from concept to reality in less than 8 weeks – just in time for planting. Washington Elementary couldn’t have done this project with this level of quality without them.”

On March 3, we joined students, staff, donors, neighborhood volunteers, and community partners to install 13 raised beds—one for each class and one for the onsite Boys & Girls Club, which will maintain the garden during the summer. The students plan to grow onions, leeks, peas, broccoli, tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruits. 

We joined the community again on April 20 for the official dedication and opening ceremony. Watch the time lapse video to see the garden grow from start to finish. 

“One of the reasons Vancouver is a great place to be is because of local corporate citizenship,” said Tim Leavitt, who is also the former mayor of Vancouver. “This community is a better place to live, work and play because companies like Otak support local initiatives and provide incentives for staff to get involved with personally meaningful and important local causes. It’s quite rewarding for both the community and our employees!”

Thanks to Melissa Hendy, the school now has a curriculum to use with the garden as an outdoor learning space. We look forward to seeing the garden come to life in the coming months.

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March 2, 2018

On a chilly February Saturday morning, Otak’s Rose Horton joined volunteers in her neighborhood to plant 1,100 deer ferns and several dozen other native plants in the first Habitat Patch in the City. The Habitat Patch at Alberta Park is a part of Portland Parks & Recreation’s Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes program. The Stewardship Saturday was sponsored by the Columbia Slough Watershed Council and Portland Parks. At the next planting on May 5th, volunteers will be adding native pollinator plants including the red-flowering currant, western serviceberry, and Mock Orange to complete the understory landscape. For more information on the project, visit

Otak has a long history of community support and encourages employees to pursue volunteer opportunities in their communities. Volunteer categories include education, environmental stewardship, veteran and military families, disaster services, and youth programs, and additionally can include any activities that seek to “better your community.” Otak also organizes group volunteer activities with organizations including Habitat for Humanity, United Way, regional food banks, Friends of Trees, Depave, and many more. In addition, employees are eligible to receive compensation for these volunteering efforts: One 8-hour day of paid time off (PTO) for every 16 hours of volunteer time for up to 48 volunteer hours each year.

Otak is proud of Rose’s involvement in her community, and we encourage other Otakians to follow her lead!

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February 15, 2018

Otak Portland has revived a beloved office tradition – Wine Down Wednesdays! At the end of a long mid-week work day, Otakians gather and enjoy wine, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres while hearing from some of Otak’s project managers and specialists on recent work they’ve done on a significant project.

This year’s inaugural session showcased Otak’s work with Newland Communities on the Reed’s Crossing Project in Hillsboro. Presenters and topics included Steve Dixon and Ben Bortolazzo, who presented on master planning; Adrian Esteban, infrastructure improvements; Kevin Timmins, stormwater/greenway; and Scott Banker, erosion control. Eric Peterson from Newland Communities also presented on Newland’s work on the subdivision.

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February 14, 2018

Once again, Otak’s Portland office held a Valentine’s Day Bake-Off, and the results were exceptionally sweet. Otakians provided and sampled homemade sweet treats and in the process contributed to a good cause! Over $200 in donations were raised for the Morrison Park House.

As part of the festivities, samplers voted for their favorite dessert. The three winners this year were Michael Rafferty with his double chocolate caramel cookies, Kelsey Skaug with a cinnamon roll Bundt cake, and David Breneman with an Oreo and Nutter Butter cheesecake. Yum!

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October 31, 2017

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October 27, 2017

When entering or exiting the elevators at our Portland office, visitors and employees alike might find themselves caught off guard by a mysterious new guest. Prominently displayed near the front desk (at least for the time being, if we can find another place to put it), this odd-looking contraption has a name: Gizmo.

Just what is the Gizmo? In short, according to APWA, it’s “an award most people are willing to pay to not receive.” At the recent APWA Oregon Fall Conference, Otak’s own Ashley Cantlon was the “lucky” recipient of the “coveted” award, and became a part of this decades-old tradition. She had come close many times in the past, but it seems this was the year. However, over $7,000 was donated to the APWA Scholastic Foundation’s Kurt Corey Scholarship Fund in order for Ashley to earn Gizmo. 

This is Gizmo’s first appearance in our Portland office, but it has been with Otak before: the most recent Otakian to receive Gizmo was Gregg Weston at the 2004 Spring Conference. Gizmo will be a part of our office until the APWA Spring Conference, where, after being adorned with a new Otak-inspired embellishment, it will be awarded to another “honored” recipient.

Ashley is reluctantly honored to have received Gizmo, and she has already sensed some tension about it. As she puts it, “We have both Beavers and Ducks in our office. I think it’s already starting to stress out people who don’t like OSU...”

To read more about the Gizmo and see a list of past recipients, click here.

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October 20, 2017


Otak sponsored and attended the Architectural Foundation of Oregon’s annual Honored Citizen Dinner. This year’s dinner honored Donald J. Stastny, who worked side by side with Otak on architecture work at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.


As part of the festivities, Otak sponsored a Giant Jenga competition as a fundraiser which was a big hit! 

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September 27, 2017

On September 23, Otak’s Portland office held their company picnic at Willamette Park. Both the weather and the location were perfect, complete with food carts from Bunk and Koi Fusion, a covered picnic area, a playground, and space for the Otak Olympics. The Willamette River was smooth as glass, perfect for kayaking or canoeing. Many laughs were shared, and the Vantucky T-Wolves took home the gold.


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September 22, 2017

On Friday, September 15, cities across the world participated in PARK(ing) Day, an event in which parking spaces are temporarily converted to public parks. Teams from Otak offices in Portland and Denver contributed to parks in their respective cities, taking the opportunity to temporarily transform an ordinary parking space into a beautiful piece of urban landscape.

In Portland, designers from Otak’s PAD group collaborated with Friends of Trees to create a Micro Forest. The Micro Forest was a big hit—several Otak departments held meetings in the space, and diners from the adjacent Chipotle restaurant enjoyed having a cozy, shaded space to devour their burritos.

The landscape architecture team from Otak’s Denver office partnered with students and local designers to create the biggest PARK(ing) Day installation in the city, consisting of five parking spaces in front of Union Station. Otak oversaw the event and designed two of the spaces. The installation was designed to address adaptive reuse.

According to PARK(ing) Day’s website, “The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space and sustainable design, to generate debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human least until the meter runs out!”

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September 19, 2017

On September 16th, Vancouver Otakians held their first annual summer BBQ at Allen Hendy’s house. Allen’s garden provided a beautiful backdrop for the festivities, which included games of horseshoes, corn hole, and ladder ball. The group enjoyed dinner, provided by Hula Boys, a local restaurant, and provided some potluck items as well. Honorary four-legged Otakians, River (pictured) and Nala (not-pictured), joined in the fun. River even scored some points at corn hole, ironically for her owner’s opponent.

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September 8, 2017

As part of our Dogs in the Workplace pilot program, we’d like to introduce our four legged friends.

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August 15, 2017

Otak participated in the ninth annual Kickball Without Borders fundraiser on Saturday, August 12th. Shark Otak went only 1-2 on the field but won big in the raffle, with several team members winning prizes, including the grand prize!

The event was hosted by the Portland chapter of Engineers Without Borders. The funds generated by this event will be used for projects in Haiti, Ecuador, Tanzania, and Portland.

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August 3, 2017

On July 28th, a few Otakians hit the links for the 31st annual Western Economic Alliance (WEA) Golf Scramble. Otak’s foursome, including Don Hanson, Adrian Esteban, Ian Machan, and joined by Columbia County’s Chuck Daughtry, finished ninth overall! The theme for this year’s tournament was “Full STEAM Ahead” in support of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Otak was a proud event sponsor, and provided ice cream at Hole #10 to help keep the golfers cool in the hot conditions. The Golf Scramble is the only annual fundraiser for the WEA and helps raise approximately 10 percent of the organization’s budget. 

From Left to Right: Chuck Daughtry, Columbia County; Don Hanson, Ian Machan, Adrian Esteban, Otak

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July 7, 2017

Last week, Rachel Settecase, Otak’s interior designer, organized a tour of the Schoolhouse Electric Co. Warehouse in NW Portland. The tour highlighted the many functions of this Portland-based manufacturing company and design brand. The group was especially impressed with the facility, housed in a massive 115-year old factory building on Nicolai Street. “We found that [the Warehouse] is an exceptional model of local manufacturing,”. The first floor contains a Ristretto coffee shop and flagship store, and integrates the product design/ prototyping/ marketing studio under the same roof.

Schoolhouse Electric Co. was founded in 2003, when Brian Faherty restored a long-lost collection of cast-iron glass shade molds he found in an abandoned warehouse. His business, preserving and restoring manufacturing equipment, bloomed into a lifestyle brand encompassing a wide range of function and design. In addition to its headquarters, Schoolhouse Electric has a store in New York City.

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July 5, 2017

On Saturday, June 24th, a group of Otakians volunteered with Willamette West Habitat for Humanity to help construct homes at Allen Estates in Beaverton, Oregon. The group assisted by hanging sheet rock and exterior siding. Temperatures were at a record high, but luckily most tasks were accomplished indoors or in the shade.

This was the third time that Otak has volunteered at Allen Estates, and the project has developed significantly since Otak’s first build with them. Allen Estates is starting to look more and more like a community, with some residents already inhabiting the property, and substantially less like a job site.

Allen Estates is comprised of 2-3 story townhomes which are in various stages of completion. It will be home to 24 families once completed.

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June 30, 2017

On Wednesday, June 21st, engineers from Oregon and Washington enjoyed an afternoon away from the office hitting the links and enjoying the beautiful weather. Sunny skies, 70-degree temperatures and a light breeze made for perfect conditions for both golfing and eating ice cream, which Otak handed out to over 90 golfers. Otak’s station, led by Vice President & Director of Business Development Brian Burby and Marketing Coordinator David Kildal, also had a wine giveaway and an Otak-branded BAGGO cornhole game. Great times and only minimal sunburns were had by all!

Otak is proud to have been a major sponsor of the ACEC Networking Day Golf Tournament and we’re already looking forward to next year.

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June 27, 2017

Teresa Huntsinger, Alex Morton, Melanie Klym, and Ashley Cantlon volunteering at a Depave event.

On Saturday, June 24th, while many Portlanders were finding ways to beat the 100-degree heat, a few Otakians laced up their work boots and took to the pavement. As part of a Depave community project, several of Otak’s WNR team members joined with volunteers to remove approximately 2,800 square feet of asphalt from the parking lot of Faithful Savior Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland. The “depaving” was an initial step in the construction of a rain garden, which will help to capture and treat stormwater originating from the church’s parking lot.

Depave is a Portland-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the transformation of over-paved places to overcome the social and environmental acts of pavement. They host volunteer “work parties” as well as provide education and training about the benefits of pavement removal. Since 2008, Depave has seen the removal of over 151,000 square feet of asphalt and the creation of over 50 community greenspaces in Portland. With the help of motivated individuals, Depave has already begun expanding to other cities across the US.

To learn more about Depave or to RSVP for future Depave events, visit 

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May 31, 2017

On Friday, May 26, the architecture group took advantage of the beautiful weather and went on a site visit to two project sites in Southeast Portland that are currently under construction.

The team first toured a 63-unit apartment building at SE 44th and Belmont. According to Christina Kwiecienski, "There are going to be some great amenity spaces for 44th and Belmont. I’m particularly excited about the entry courtyard and rooftop community room with a view of downtown."


The team also toured a 121-unit apartment building at SE 50th and Clinton.


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May 26, 2017

Otak’s WNR team recently conducted a tour of four constructed projects to observe results and share project experience. On Saturday May 20th, 18 WNR team members caravanned to SE Foster Road to kick off the tour with a walk through the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project and a presentation by Kevin Timmins, PE. The City of Portland hired Otak to design a floodplain mitigation system to lessen the frequent flooding previously experienced along SE Foster Road. The project included the creation of floodplain storage area, restoration of Johnson Creek, and some stormwater management facilities at the 63.5 acre site. This project started in 2008 and was completed in 2012. (East Lents subconsulatants: Ash Creek, Nevue Ngan, NW Engineers, Reyes Engineering, and PHS)

After an alfresco breakfast in the parking lot at East Lents and the distribution of the official tour soundtrack (it’s not a WNR tour without “The Salmon Dance” by The Chemical Brothers), the group travelled to Lake Oswego to view the Rockinghorse Lane Drainage Improvements project located in Tryon Creek State Park. Access to this project involved a nice hike approximately 0.8 miles into the park, as the shorter, alternative access trail was closed due to a recent landslide. Ashley Cantlon, PE gave an overview of the project, which repaired a severely eroded drainage off the end of Rockinghorse Lane in conjunction with mitigating an active landslide. The drainage improvements project, constructed on the less than 1 acre site, was identified as a priority project by the City of Lake Oswego. This project started design in 2013 and was completed in 2015. (Rockinghorse subconsultants: Otak’s subconsultants included Pacific Habitat Services, Shannon and Wilson, AINW, and Todd Prager and Associates)

The caravan’s next stop was located in the City of Tualatin off of SW Blake Street. The Chieftain/Dakota Greenway project was contracted by the City of Tualatin to complete stream restoration work along Saum Creek in conjunction with water quality improvements to neighborhood stormwater runoff. Tour highlights included a project overview by Kevin Timmins, viewing of the constructed instream rock check dams and pools, and passing around a package of Firework Oreos (they put Pop Rock-like sprinkles in the filling!). This project started design in 2010 and was completed in 2014. (Saum Creek Subconsultants: Pacific Habitat Services)

After a hearty lunch and a round of microbrews at Industry in Tualatin, the group made their way to the final stop in the North Bethany area of northeast Washington County. Otak’s WNR team worked with Clean Water Services to create the North Bethany Stormwater Master Plan, and were excited to view the results. Josh Owens, PE kicked off this final leg of the tour with an overview of the Bethany Creek restoration work Otak completed, which daylighted a segment of the creek previously conveyed sub-surface in drain tiles. 

Tammi Connolly, PE then led the team through the adjacent single-family and multi-family developments, observing the regional water quality treatment and detention pond at North Bethany Creek, as well as many Low Impact Development Approach (LIDA) swales and planters throughout the area. (North Bethany subconsultants and contractor: Anchor QEA, Hardman Geotechnical Services, Kittleson, NEI)

Thank you to Josh Owens, our fearless tour organizer who put together a great itinerary and accompanying mixed CD for our caravanning enjoyment. It has already been decided that next year’s WNR tour soundtrack will include “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors, as well as a stop in Tigard to see the River Terrace community amenity standard in action!

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May 3, 2017

On April 22nd, the Oregon State University Concrete Canoe team competed with other Pacific Northwest at the 2017 ACEC Pacific Northwest Student Conference.The team placed Second Place overall!

1st in technical paper
1st in oral presentation
3rd in paddling races
5th in final product

Otak is a proud sponsor of the Concrete Canoe team. Congrats and Go Beavs!
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April 27, 2017

On April 20, Otakians from the Portland office celebrated Tax Day by hitting the links in a putt-putt golf tournament. The staff divided into nine teams and designed creatively tax-themed holes, which incorporated nonperishable food items to be donated after the event. Themed holes included a dollar sign, brackets, and The Beatles. For the first time ever, the tournament utilized three floors, including architecture’s new digs! Awards were given for lowest score (Nick Cook), highest score (Jose Zegarra) and most average score (Katie Kersten and Sarretta Tillmaand, who each won vanilla pudding, for what could be more average than vanilla pudding?). Overall, it was a fun event and a great way to “celebrate” Tax Day!

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April 19, 2017

Students on a site visit.

In March 2017, Jesse Reynolds, an environmental planner and GIS analyst in Otak’s Redmond office, teamed up with Professor Jairo Angel of Cali, Colombia, to help conduct an urban design workshop for an impoverished community on the outskirts of the City (Alto Jordan, Comuna 18, Cali). This effort was funded by a grant from the US State Department—a reverse exchange through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, which had also brought Jairo to Otak’s Portland office in November 2016.

During the week-long workshop, an engineering and architecture team made up of students from Colombia worked with professors to help design open space areas, stormwater infrastructure, and public gathering spaces to enrich the community and surrounding areas. Jesse helped the team throughout the design process and also gave presentations on Low Impact Development and the use of GIS as a tool to aid in design.

Jesse presenting at the conference.

(left) Jairo and Jesse in the community's library. (right) Professor Orlando Cundumi and Jesse.

The community.

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April 14, 2017

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March 27, 2017

On March 4th, Otakians from the Redmond office volunteered to give back to their community by helping clean up Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland, WA.

Working with the City’s Green Kirkland Partnership, volunteers worked to remove invasive Himalayan blackberry from the park and cover the cleared areas with mulch. The efforts from these workers allowed for more opportunities for native plants to spread.

To learn more about the Green Kirkland Partnership and upcoming opportunities to volunteer, visit their website here.

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February 22, 2017

On Saturday, February 18, Doug Beyerlein, senior hydrologist in Otak’s Everett office, ran the USA Track & Field (USATF) 50K Trail Championships on the trails in the Sierra foothills near Auburn, California. Doug won his age group with a time of 7 hours, 19 minutes. This is his second national championship, having previously won his age group at the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships in October, 2016.

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February 16, 2017

Otak Portland found an extra-sweet way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and for a good cause. As part of the Office-Wide Bake-Off, over a dozen Otakians shared their delicious homemade creations. In addition to sampling the tasty treats, the Portland office raised over $400 in donations to the Oregon Food Bank. To quote a representative from the Food Bank, “$400 is about 1,200 meals that we can provide to the community! And with every meal going to help 1 person, it’s pretty impressive to think that you just helped out 1,200 of our neighbors in need!”

The samplers also voted for their favorite dessert. Nick Morozov took First Prize for his delectable Double Chocolate Macaroons. Second Prize went to Amy Scheckla-Cox for her Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies, while Third went to Kelly Buchanan and her Pink Heart Sugar Cookies. Yum!

Between the sweet treats and helping out those in need, it’s safe to say the Valentine’s Day Bake-Off was a great success.

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February 2, 2017

After a couple of really busy weeks, some of the Otak crew went to cheer on the Winterhawks as they battled the Kamloops Blazers. The game was scoreless in the first period, but the Hawks pulled off a 4-2 win in the end. There was another reason to celebrate, though: The Otakians were sitting in the winning row, and they all got some great hockey swag, including hats. Plus, we were featured on the big screen during a special announcement. One of the highlights of the night was Kyle’s 2 year old son Killian cheering “Go Hockey!!” And he was right; it was definitely a good night for hockey.


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November 30, 2016

Doug Beyerlein, Otak senior hydrologist, ran the Seattle Marathon on Sunday, November 27. This was his 11th Seattle Marathon and 114th marathon overall. Doug finished in a time of 3 hours, 43 minutes and placed 348th overall (1,498 finishers) while winning his age division.

Following the race Doug was in good spirits, but said that he was very tired.

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November 22, 2016

Otakians celebrated Thanksgiving with a huge potluck in the Portland office today. Otak provided the ham and turkey, while others brought in stuffing, salads, deviled eggs, and more. The desserts were possibly the best part, and once the sugar wears off, don't be surprised if you hear people snoring.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the extended weekend!

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November 2, 2016


Did you take the Ecochallenge? Dozens of Otak’s own took action in this two-week event focused on sustainability, community, and building healthy new habits. 

The good people over at Northwest Earth Institute developed the challenge to target nine different categories: food, community, water, transportation, health, waste, nature, energy, and simplicity. Last year they had 4,333 participants, so it’s great to see Otak join year after year, and we made a respectable impact in our own right.

Can you believe the Otak crew saved 4,871 gallons of water in just two weeks? We had 215 meatless meals, traveled 861 miles by bus (and were late for work maybe only once or twice), exercised for 2,035 minutes, and spent 2,790 minutes outdoors. 

The team captain Zaq provided the heirloom seeds that were given to the first and second place winners—Scott Sanders and Kelly Youngberg, respectively. Rachel Laura provided some really great artwork for a prize as well. 

If you want to learn more about the challenge, or if you want to better prepare yourself for next year visit the website here.

Budding Lyrics, Recycled art by Rachel Laura

(given as the prize to Amy Scheckla-Cox for most blog posts)

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November 1, 2016

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October 31, 2016

Otak’s Redmond Office shows some Halloween spirit with a lunchtime potluck. Planned by the Fun Committee, folks came to eat, drink, socialize, and show off their creative costumes.

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October 11, 2016

By Mandi Roberts

One of the best ways to enhance community livability and strengthen neighborhoods is to design certain core streets to serve multiple purposes—as complete streets for multi-modal transportation and as festival streets, designed as pedestrian and open air market shared space that can be temporarily closed to vehicle traffic during special celebrations and events. Otak was proud to co-host a “walkshop” of our Georgetown Festival Street Project at the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) annual conference, held in Seattle in late September. The theme of the conference “Designing Cities” offered sessions and mobile workshops on a variety of innovative and interesting urban design and innovative street design topics. Otak partnered with Fehr & Peers and the City of Seattle Department of Transportation to host the walking tour of the vibrant Georgetown Neighborhood, focused on the recent festival street improvements. For the Georgetown Walkshop guide, click here

The Georgetown Festival Street Walkshop hosts highlighted neighborhood history and background, revitalization of the area, some of the unique challenges of designing a festival street, the importance of neighborhood engagement, the role the improvement area serves in hosting street parties, design references (including best practice built examples and the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide), and some of the innovative features and public art elements integrated into the design. Two Walkshops were offered on two separate days of the conference and each was well-attended. Each group made special stop at the World Famous Fran’s Chocolates factory and guest gallery, a sweet spot at the end of the tour! Special thanks to our Walkshop team: Art Brochet and Therese Casper with SDOT, Will Lisska with Fehr & Peers, and Lori McFarland and Mandi Roberts with Otak.

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October 4, 2016

Kevin Timmins rode the new US20: Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville alignment on Saturday as part of the Play on the Grade event. He checked out the drainage the Otak team designed and walked through the new elk culvert.

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September 20, 2016

For PARK(ing) Day 2016, Otak created a “Dream Lounge” to invite passersby to relax and enjoy a temporary parklette within the city.

To engage participants, we posted writing prompts on two whiteboards. One was a “continuous story” where each participant added a sentence. The resulting story was the following:

Everything was quiet. Too quiet. That’s when I noticed the dragon terrorizing the village. I pulled on the dragon’s tail to see what would come from its mouth. Instead of fire, there came confetti and candy! 

“We all have our own reality,” replied the wizard…

I woke in a cold sweat realizing I was late for work, hurried to the car, commuted 25 miles and realized I only have ONE shoe. So, I took off my other shoe. Then I remembered it was Saturday. I decided to visit the Farmer’s Market so I could hear the bard’s song, the famous and beloved ballad “The Merry Dance of the Sugar Daddies.” 


The other whiteboard asked, “If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?"

PARK(ing) Day temporarily transforms metered parking spaces into community spaces. Bringing together citizens, artists, and activists, this global event collaboratively brings new forms to public space in urban contexts. We enjoyed sharing our parklette with the city and look forward to creating enduring community gathering places in our future projects.

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September 1, 2016

Otakians Tammi Connolly, Matt Klym, Gary Wolff and Melanie McCandless helped to clean up Johnson Creek on August 29th.

105 volunteers worked in the creek to remove 269 bags of trash and lots of larger items that didn't fit into bags. By removing trash, water quality and habitat conditions improve for the wildlife including Steelhead and Chinook salmon that call the creek home. The clean-up extended from the creek’s confluence with the Willamette River up through I-205 in Portland.

After the clean-up volunteers enjoyed a barbecue and awards ceremony at Mill Park where the Golden Garbage Can award for strangest item found was given to team captain Paul for the child’s pegasus costume. Runners-up included a bowling ball on a chain, a slingshot, and complete apartment furnishings (desk, chair, toilet, bed, and countertop stove).

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August 26, 2016

Thirteen Otakians came out to participate in the eighth annual Kickball Without Borders kickball tournament fundraiser on Saturday, August 20th at Glen Haven Park in Portland. Team “Shark Otak” had an undefeated morning but just missed the point spread for the final game. Otak joined 22 other local A&E firms for a sunny day of kickball, a great barbeque, and a raffle to raise money for the Portland Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

The fundraiser was the organization’s largest yet, raising $20,500 for their projects in Haiti, Ecuador, Honduras, and Tanzania.

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August 15, 2016

Otak’s summer celebration at Punch Bowl Social brought our local team together for an afternoon of food, drinks, and fun! Ping pong and bowling brought out the competitive spirit, while our in-house talent rocked the karaoke room. Whether socializing inside or enjoying the sun on the patio, staff kept cool with root beer floats, chocolate shakes, and local microbrews and snacks.

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August 15, 2016

After the summer party at the Punch Bowl, this cheerful group of Otakians made their way to Providence Park and saw Portland Timbers win their Champions League match against Salvadorian Club Deportivo Dragón. The final score was  2-1 on a 90th minute goal. #TeamBuilding

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August 3, 2016

On Tuesday, August 2nd the Architecture, Planning and Design Team kicked off their lunchtime sketching sessions with a trip to the Ira Keller Fountain. Sketching sessions will be held at a different downtown location each week.  The team is looking forward to enjoying Portland’s great urban spaces and the beautiful summer weather.

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July 27, 2016

The Architecture, Planning, and Design Group staff and their families recently took time to relax and have fun at a potluck picnic at the countryside home of one of its architects. Along with the epicurean delights and good conversation, a plethora of activities were enjoyed by the picnic participants. Games included full-size Jenga, frisbee, archery, and tight-rope walking. Activities for the kids, young and old, included petting and feeding the baby goats, jumping in the bouncy house, and having their faces painted with fun designs.

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July 20, 2016

As Biketown, Portland’s bike share program rolls out this week, four Biketown founding members from Otak go for a ride.

(from left to right) Glen Bolen, Tammi Connolly, Katie Kersten, and Andy Kutansky 

We walk towards the orange bike hub located one block from our office. Excited to try out the new system and see what it’s all about. After entering the code and pin, unlocking the u-lock and placing it on the bike, and wearing our Otak hardhats for safety, we’re off.

We ride the streets of Portland shifting gears with smiles on our faces. This will be a great way to travel around town and get some exercise. After our 20 minute 2.5 mile ride we’re back at the hub, locking them up and heading back to the office. 

The overall consensus was they were easy to check in and out, not as heavy as we imagined, and fun to ride. We recommend trying it out!

If you’re visiting Otak, the hub at 3rd between Morrison and Yamhill is closest to us.

Have Questions? Below is a link to frequently asked questions.

Biketown FAQ

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July 8, 2016

Yellowstone National Park, Brink of Upper Falls Overlook came in at number one to receive a $250,000 grant!


For more information click here.

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June 14, 2016

Otak’s overlook rehabilitation design at the Brink of the Upper Falls in Yellowstone National Park is one of 20 national park unit projects competing for a $250,000 grant through a public voting contest. Brink of the Upper Falls is just one of several sites from Phase 1 of our Yellowstone National Parks Overlooks and Trails Project, which will provide much-needed restoration and improvements to the deteriorating north and south rim trails and overlooks that wrap the Canyon Rim—from Inspiration Point to Artist Point. Phase 1 design solutions include re-routing trails away from dangerous areas and installing stone and boulder barriers; connecting historic overlooks with new walkways; creating safe, accessible viewing areas with new informational signage; and using natural materials to integrate the infrastructure into the spires and Canyon cliffs.



Show your support for Yellowstone and our project by going to and voting daily until July 5th. Once you’ve signed up and voted, you can also enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Yellowstone National Park—each day you vote, you get an additional entry! 

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May 20, 2016

“Otakians Tim Ervin, Trista Kobluskie, and Melanie McCandless braved the rain for the East Portland Sunday Parkways on May 15. The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services invited Otak along with several other community partners to have booths at the Foster Floodplain Natural Area to provide environmental education opportunities. Otak’s booth featured a stream simulation table which demonstrates how rivers respond to common engineering practices such as large wood structures and boulders. Many participants, especially children, built dams across the river and the flow rate through the table was increased to show the effects of flooding and dam failure. People were able to make the connection to the Foster Floodplain Natural Area and the flood mitigation design, understanding that rivers need room to flood in ways that minimize property damage.” 

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May 19, 2016

On Saturday, May 14, several Otakians volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help construct homes at Allen Estates in Beaverton, Oregon.  The group assisted by hanging joists, adding decking, and putting up sheet rock.  

Several team members volunteered at this site before and enjoyed seeing how the project has progressed with recent completion of several of the homes.

Allen Estates is comprised of 2-3 story townhomes which are in various stages of construction.  It will be home to 24 families once completed.

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May 11, 2016

Last week at the annual Daily Journal of Commerce Top Projects awards banquet, Otak and Hamilton Construction were presented with an award!

In the category of Infrastructure, Otak was awarded Second Place for our Colorado Dam Safe Passage (now called Bend Whitewater Park) in Bend, Oregon. This project is a great example of Otak’s integrated design using our in-house planning, civil engineering and bridge design, environmental and specialty services.

Otak and Hamilton reserved a table at the banquet and were joined by our client’s Michelle Healy and Brian Hudspeth from Bend Parks and Recreation District, and two project subconsultants: John van Staveren from Pacific Habitat Services and Mike Faha from Greenworks. 

“Everyone enjoyed getting to reconnect at the table. There was a lot of laughter, reminiscing, catching up, etc.” said Nichole Hayward, of Hamilton Construction.

Our team’s design process brought together a diverse group of river stewards and stakeholders to successfully create habitat solutions while also creating the West Coast’s first “adjustable standing wave” white water kayak/surfing run. The Park is open and Bend Parks and Recreation has a live camera feed of the whitewater run on their website.


For project information click here



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April 29, 2016

On Thursday, a group from Otak’s architecture team visited the multifamily project under construction at 14th and Oak in SE Portland to see how our designs are taking shape. This four-story market-rate apartment project will offer 41 units supported with a lobby, mail room, bike storage, a pet wash room, and on-site below-grade parking. Construction method is wood frame over podium and the project is being built by Essex General Construction Inc. for Buckman, LLC. The project will open to residents August and feature large windows for great city view. Neighborhood amenities at this close-in location are the nearby Revolution Hall and a wide assortment of restaurants and pubs.

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April 19, 2016

Congratulations to our very own dOnT AsK!  (Otakian and friends) Portland office co-ed volleyball team for winning their division league championship games in the final match of the winter season. Excellent work by Kelly Youngberg, Troy Kent, Kelly Buchanan, Jeremy Tamargo, Chad Maxwell, Scott Zelenka, Scott Sanders, Tammi Connolly and Kristin Lessard. After winning two seasons as a Softcore level team, this team is moving to midcore level! Our team is organized through Underdog Sports Leagues - an adult co-ed, recreational sports league in Portland, Oregon. 


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March 23, 2016

Otak staff got together with longtime teaming consultant Kittelson & Associates, Inc. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness basketball. Kittelson planned the event at their Portland office with food, drinks and games. While a basketball game played on the big screen, the two firms socialized. Don Hansen and Mike Peebles from Otak shared stories about working with Kittelson from the beginning (1981.) It was a great chance for our firms to get together, reflecting on all that we’ve done together and looking forward to the future. 


“ We really enjoyed spending an afternoon together better getting to know your staff, enjoying some social time, and learning a bit of history between the firms” Diego Arguea, Kittelson & Associates, Inc.


Thank you to Kittelson for hosting a fun and engaging get together!

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March 15, 2016

Volunteering at Johnson Creek Watershed Council's Watershed-Wide Event

Watershed Wide is an epic day of volunteerism coordinated by Johnson Creek Watershed Council and partners: Portland Parks and Recreation, City of Gresham, Friends of Trees, Friends of Tideman Johnson, and the Crystal Springs Partnership. This community event brings together hundreds of Johnson Creek supporters at ten different work sites that span the entire length of the watershed.  

Five Otakians joined nearly three hundred volunteers on March 5th to restore the health of the Johnson Creek Watershed. Riparian conditions were improved by planting over five thousand native plants across the ten sites. Emily Leete, Morgan Haines, and Ami Cobb joined Melanie McCandless at a site near the Foster Floodplain Natural Area (formerly known as the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project). Michael Rafferty provided needed maintenance on native plantings at the Westmoreland Park in a restored area of the Crystal Springs floodplain.

A big thank you to event sponsor Clackamas Water Environment Services!

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February 9, 2016

The 8th Annual Beaverton Mayor's Ball was a great evening of socializing, dining, dancing, and bidding! Otak was a corporate sponsor at this year's fundraising event which has three local beneficiaries: The Beaverton Arts and Culture Foundation, the Beaverton Civic Theater, and HomePlate, an organization which helps at-risk and homeless youth. The main event was a live auction, where the auctioneer had the entire room on the edge of their seats and generously giving to these outstanding causes. Otak continues to do great work with the City of Beaverton and was pleased to be a part of such an exciting and admirable event.

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December 21, 2015

Otak's Redmond office hosted a food drive for Hopelink this year. Hopelink is a social services nonprofit agency that services King County, Washington, through food banks, energy assistance, housing, a family development program, transportation, and adult education. The staff generously donated enough food to feed many families this holiday season. To learn more about Hopelink, click here.

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September 25, 2015

On September 18th, Otak participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual international event where participants turn metered parking spaces into temporary public parks! The purpose, aside from having fun, is to encourage thought and conversation about how public space is created and allocated in our cities.

Otak’s park, Where Plants Meet the Pavement, filled two parking spaces with native plants, many of which were donated by local nurseries. Our park created a safe, comfortable place for people to hang out while learning about the many benefits and varieties of native plants. We also wanted to highlight the importance of green space in creating healthy, sustainable urban communities.

Another key ingredient in creating healthy communities is the work of nonprofit organizations. Otak is lucky to share an office building with Guide Dogs for the Blind, and we frequently see staff and volunteers training dogs and handlers to help empower the visually impaired. We decided to sell the native plants in our park and donate all proceeds to Guide Dogs for the Blind. At the end of the day, we collected $405 for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and all pieces of our park were recycled, reused, or planted.

This was Otak’s second time participating in PARK(ing) Day, and we’re already looking forward to creating a new park next September!

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September 15, 2015

Otak’s Tempe Office participated in a volunteer effort for Habitat for Humanity, Central Arizona at their ReStore facility in Mesa, Arizona. Habitat’s ReStore operates through the sale of new and gently-used furniture, home goods and building materials. ReStore receives all goods for their five Phoenix Metro-Valley stores through donations from various establishments, corporations and individuals. All proceeds, after operating costs, go directly back to Habitat for Humanity, Central Arizona. 

Our team provided tasks that included stocking newly inventoried items, furniture assembly and general store clean-up. We are looking forward to participating in similar events in the future!

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September 4, 2015

The Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers went head to head at Century Link Field on Sunday, August 30th. Several Otak employees from the Portland office drove to Seattle to join Redmond employees for some friendly rivalry.

The soccer action started with a goal in the 6th minute by Seattle’s Obafemi Martins, who took advantage of Portland’s failure to clear the ball out of the goal box. Portland had the majority of the possession in the first half, with several shots on goal, including a break away by new Portland player Lucas Melano, all of which were stopped by Seattle keeper Stefan Frei. Just before halftime, Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey was called for a questionable foul in the box on Martins, leading to a penalty kick which Brad Evans converted to a 2-0 lead.

Portland’s Diego Valeri connected on a corner kick with defender Jack Jewsbury to pull back a goal in the 58th minute. Portland continued to attack throughout the second half, but could not find the back of the net and the game ended with a 2-1 victory for Seattle.

Fun was had by all!

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September 2, 2015

Otak's Josh Owens tests the Colorado Dam Paddle Trail project.


Two breweries have released a special beer with the proceeds being donated to help fund the Bend Whitewater Park project that Otak designed and is nearing the end of construction.

To read the press release, click here.

For more information about the beer, click here.


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August 24, 2015

Fifteen Otakians came out to defend their Kickball Without Borders championship title on Saturday, August 22nd at Glen Haven Park in Portland. After an undefeated morning, a great barbeque, and raffle, team “Shark Otak” came in second to a very deserving team with a final score of 2-3. Otak joined 13 other local A&E firms to raise money for the Portland Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, who currently have projects in Haiti, Ecuador, Honduras, and Tanzania.


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August 24, 2015

Earlier this month, Greg Laird (Otak Principal and Water Resource Engineer) hosted the Redmond, 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. Everyone enjoyed the delicious food and drinks! We thank Greg and Cathy for the fun-filled day!

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August 21, 2015

Two breweries have released a special beer with the proceeds being donated to help fund the Bend Whitewater Park project that Otak designed and is nearing the end of construction.


To read the article click here

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August 17, 2015

Otak’s Portland staff celebrated the summer last week at Punch Bowl Social! We enjoyed complimentary food and drinks while playing darts, ping pong, Skee ball, and bowling. The real highlight came when a few of our talented singers took over the karaoke machine and rocked the mic. We can’t wait for the next performance from our musically talented – and musically well-intentioned – staff!

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August 14, 2015

Congratulations to Otak’s Underdog Sports League Kickball Team on winning the Kickball Championship! Otak won the Underdog Sports League Volleyball Championship earlier this year, so this is our second Underdog Sports League Championship in 2015 so far.  Let’s hope our winning streak continues!


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July 14, 2015

On Saturday, July 11, several Otakians joined other Habitat for Humanity volunteers and future home owners to help construct homes at Allen Estates in Beaverton, Oregon. The homes were in various stages of construction, and volunteers participated in tasks ranging from blocking and sealing to constructing walls. The team enjoyed the slightly cooler weather and the opportunity to use power tools and pound in lots of nails!

Habitat for Humanity homeowners are required to spend 500 hours volunteering with the organization to work on their homes before they get their zero interest mortgages. The houses that we worked on cost approximately $85,000 to construct and are worth about $180,000 on the market.

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June 15, 2015

We are proud to announce that Otak Attack, our Portland office’s co-ed volleyball team, won the Underdog Sports Softcore Spring League Championship! In addition to winning the championship, the league recognized several members of Otak Attack as “Player of the Week” over the course of the season. Congratulations, Otak Attack, and good luck defending your title next year!

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May 13, 2015

Otakians joined over 3,000 other people to celebrate the Foster Floodplain Natural Area (formerly East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project) during this year’s East Portland Sunday Parkway. Members of our water and natural resources team ran a stream simulation table on loan from River Restoration Northwest. The stream simulation table allowed kids (and adults) to ‘play engineer’ by shaping various river forms, adding flow obstructions such as culverts and large woody debris, and building a dam or two. The table shows how rivers respond to human modifications and is an engaging way to show the value of floodplain restoration projects. Otak staff also informed visitors about the design and function of the Natural Area, which is now in its third year of vegetative maintenance. To date, the project has exceeded expectations and has prevented flooding of Foster Road.

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May 6, 2015

Otak will be hosting a Young Architects Forum at our Portland office tomorrow, May 7, from 5:30-7:30. Come enjoy food and drinks while meeting with your peers in the industry!

Our office is located on SW Third and Yamhill at 808 SW Third Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97204.

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April 28, 2015

Otak’s Amber Swanson and Ben Bortolazzo delivered a presentation at the AIA Portland’s Fast ForWARD event last week. Organized by the AIA Portland’s Forum for Women in Architecture and Related Design (ForWARD), presenters delivered pecha kucha presentations – 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each – on the theme of “Getting From Point A to Point B: From public transit to grand stairways to innovation – How design can compel people to move forward.”

Amber and Ben spoke about Otak’s Southwest Corridor Connector project, which involved moving pedestrians and cyclists to and from future rapid transit stops along SW Barbur and/or SW Naito to the Lair/Marquam Hill area. After studying the site’s history and meeting with stakeholders and the general public, Otak created two concepts that take advantage of the picturesque forest hillside and incorporate scenic views of the river and the city.

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April 23, 2015

In celebration of Earth Day, a group of Otakians and their family members participated in the Oaks Bottom Restoration and Cleanup in Portland. They joined Portland Surfrider, Portland Parks & Recreation, and other volunteers in enhancing the Oaks Bottom wetlands and forest by cleaning the area and planting native plants. It was a fun way to celebrate Earth Day by improving our environment and connecting with our community!

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April 16, 2015

Otak's Ben Bortolazzo and Ron Dean will present a Pecha Kucha presentation on Otak's Southwest Corridor Connector project on Tuesday, April 21, at 6pm at AIA Portland on 403 NW 11th Ave. in Portland. The event is free and light refreshments will be provided. Come check it out!

For more information about AIA Portland, please click here.


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April 1, 2015

The Oregon Chapter of APWA held their Spring Conference at the Valley River Inn in Eugene. Otak usually hosts a booth at each APWA conference where we display photos of our recent and local projects, but due to the increasing popularity of the conference and the smaller event space this year, the exhibit spaces were full by the time Otak signed up! In lieu of a booth, Otak joined two other firms that did not receive booths to host a pizza and game evening where attendees could team up and heckle each other over a fun game of miniature golf. Otak maintains involvement in APWA through conference attendance, as well as participation in subcommittees such as Sustainability, Water Resources, and the Young Professionals Network.

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March 18, 2015

Eight Otakians joined over 400 other volunteers in the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s 17th Annual Watershed-Wide Restoration Event. Volunteers worked at nine different sites throughout the watershed, planting nearly 7,000 native trees and shrubs, removing 33 cubic yards of invasive species, distributing nearly 15 cubic yards of mulch, and installing 1,000 feet of protective fencing. Tim Ervin, Ashley Cantlon, and Joe Primeau maintained plantings along the Springwater Corridor in the lower watershed; Melanie McCandless, Kevin Timmins, and Matt Klym helped install native plants and remove invasive species in the middle watershed just upstream of the Foster Floodplain Natural Area; Michael Rafferty installed native trees and shrubs near the confluence of Hogan Creek in the upper watershed; and Gary Wolff photographed volunteers at Tideman-Johnson Park in the lower watershed. Melanie McCandless has been volunteering with the Council since 2008 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2013.

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March 17, 2015

Otak’s Liz Gilliam recently volunteered with the Nature Conservancy at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge! The volunteers worked to restore a parcel of land back to a native habitat by planting 250 black cottonwood, 275 Oregon ash, 550 red-osier dogwood, 200 Pacific ninebark, and 250 Cascara.

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March 3, 2015

Melanie McCandless, Engineering Intern from Otak’s Portland Water and Natural Resources group, was invited by Tom Szymoniak to speak at Portland State University. She shared her experiences in water resources engineering with 40 students in an Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering course. Melanie highlighted Otak’s interdisciplinary approach to water resource management, touching on examples of sustainable stormwater, flood mitigation, and habitat enhancement design. She emphasized the importance of organization and communication to succeed as a consultant, providing examples of reports and memoranda she has written during her three years at Otak. The students were engaged and asked great questions about the work environment, opportunities for additional training, and advice on which courses they should focus their studies. Frank Dick from the City of Vancouver also had the opportunity to share his perspective as the capital program manager for wastewater services.

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February 23, 2015

Otak’s Theo Malone has recently been elected president of the Portland chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Theo is a Water Resources Engineering Designer in our Vancouver, Washington, office, and he has been volunteering with EWB since 2010. EWB-USA Portland Professionals has four international programs: a water and sanitation program in Ecuador, another water and sanitation program in Haiti, a solar program in Tanzania, and a new stormwater drainage program in Honduras. Theo is involved in the new Honduras project, which involves assessing a community’s need for river crossing to provide safe passage for foot traffic throughout the community. The chapter will travel on their first assessment trip in June. Congratulations, Theo!

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February 11, 2015

Members of Otak’s Water & Natural Resources group recently attended the 14th Annual River Restoration Northwest Symposium at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington. The symposium draws approximately 500 restoration practitioners, including engineers, biologists, planners, and regulatory staff, to exchange knowledge and techniques in restoration practice. Otak was a Gold Sponsor this year, and we displayed several of our natural systems projects at our booth. The Portland office was represented by Kevin Timmins, Liz Gilliam, Michael Rafferty, Melanie McCandless, and Gary Wolff. Seungjin Baek represented the Redmond office, and Luke Swan flew in from Colorado. Gary Wolff is an active RRNW Board member, and he coordinated the Monday short courses and the Friday field trip.

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January 30, 2015

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January 28, 2015

Otak recently won an ACEC Oregon Engineering Excellence Honor Award for the West Main Realignment project in Kelso, Washington! Awards were announced at the ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards Dinner last week at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

We are very proud of the West Main Realignment project, which realigned eight blocks of West Main Street through the business district of West Kelso to make a smooth connection and reduce congestion between SR 4 and the Allen Street Bridge. This project improved safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, and stimulated community revitalization in the West Kelso area.

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January 27, 2015

Last Friday night at their annual awards banquet, ACEC Washington presented Otak with an award!

 In the category of Social, Economic, and Sustainable Design Considerations, Otak was given a Silver Award for our Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA) Regional Infiltration Facilities and Miller Creek Enhancements in Burien, Washington. This project is a great example of integrated design, involving our WNR, PAD, and TIS groups.

Otak and the City of Burien have created a unique stormwater management system for the City’s Northeast Redevelopment Area. This project will lead to a faster redevelopment of an area impacted by airport operations. The system utilizes low impact development techniques and several different types of stormwater management methods to replicate natural hydrologic processes that have been observed in the area. The project results in improved water quality and reduced stream erosion in Miller Creek and enhances wetlands in the area. Public open spaces and trails have been integrated into the stormwater facilities and airport safety needs have been accommodated in the design as well. The response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re now making lemonade out of lemons by creating a new, compatible land use that will be a wonderful thing into the future.”
- Kamuron Gurol, Burien City Manager

“The systems save money, they produce beautiful areas, and they clean our water. It’s a real win for everybody.”
- Mark Powell, Washington Environmental Council


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January 7, 2015

Otak's Portland and Vancouver offices got into the season of giving, and friendly competition, to see which office could donate the most food. The Portland office filled three barrels of food for the Oregon Food Bank, and the Vancouver office donated over 400 pounds of food! The Portland office also had an internal competition with our different disciplines grouped into teams that tried to fill their assigned barrel. The winner of the internal competition was the water natural resources/finance team, with the transportation and infrastructure services/marketing team finishing in a close second. Although the competitions may have helped fill the barrels, the real motivation was helping those in need during the holidays.

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December 30, 2014

Otak's Portland office celebrated the holidays with a white elephant gift exchange last week. Lucky participants took home such treasures as a Snuggie ("the blanket that has sleeves"), a Grumpy Cat book, and Basket Case - the Headband Hoop Game. Otak provided food, including a chocolate fountain with several tasty items to dip.

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December 29, 2014

Otakians from our Portland, Vancouver, and Gearhart offices gathered at the Treasury Ballroom in downtown Portland recently to celebrate the holidays. Guests arrived in ugly holiday sweaters or semi-formal attire and enjoyed dinner, dessert, drinks, and dancing. A few special Otakians received awards, including the Otakian who logged the most hours in 2014 (Bob Hawes), longest-serving Otakian (Jack Carlson), and the person who travelled the longest distance to join Otak this year (Jim Hamann, our President and CEO who moved to Portland from Thailand.) Rachel Laura also received an award for selling her first painting this year. As an integrated design firm, our different disciplines often collaborate on projects, but this party provided a nice opportunity for Otakians from different disciplines to get to know each other outside of the office. 2014 has been an exciting and prosperous year for Otak, and we’re looking forward to an exciting and prosperous 2015!

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November 26, 2014

Otak’s Portland office celebrated Thanksgiving this afternoon with an office potluck. Otakians brought in a variety of holiday dishes, and Otak provided turkey, ham, a salad, and beverages. It was a nice way to spend time together before the long weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 5, 2014

Otakians in our Portland office celebrated Halloween last Friday with a pizza party! There were several impressive costumes, including a sumo wrestler, Spider-Man, a bloody nurse, and Gene Simmons from KISS, and a few people brought candy and Halloween-themed cookies.

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November 5, 2014

Otak participated in this year’s EcoChallenge from October 15 to 29. Organized by the Northwest Earth Institute, the EcoChallenge is an annual event that asks participants to change one habit that benefits both you and the environment for two weeks. It is a fun and convenient way to stop and consider your impact on the environment and to think of creative ways to lessen your footprint. The EcoChallenge website provides many helpful tips, and participants join teams for added motivation and encouragement.

Otak has organized an EcoChallenge team for several years, and this year was one of our strongest showings. Twenty-four participants joined our team, and their challenges ranged from selecting sustainable food options to energy efficiency to trash reduction. Participants earn points through checking in on the EcoChallenge website, posting blogs about their progress, and clicking “Challenge Met.” At the end of the challenge, we gave out prizes to our highest point-earners. This year’s winners included:

Emily Leete, who had organic foods in 20 meals, 20 meatless meals, and 30 meals with 0 waste. She won a piece of sustainable art designed by Rachel Laura.

Kelly Youngberg, who chose alternative transportation as her challenge and saved 34.46 lbs. of CO2. She won an Otak bamboo storage stick.

Theo Malone, who chose water conservation as his challenge and saved 400 gallons of water. He won a bamboo Otak thumb drive.

We're looking forward to participating in next year’s EcoChallenge!

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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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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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July 16, 2014

Last week several Otakians attended the groundbreaking for 15 West Apartments in Vancouver, Washington. The project is an 120-unit affordable housing building in downtown Vancouver, the first in Washington State by longtime Otak client Skip Grodahl of DBG Properties, LLC. Otak provided architecture, civil engineering, planning, financial advisory, and landscape architecture services for the project, which is scheduled for completion in June 2015. Vancouver Mayor, Tim Leavitt, officiated at the groundbreaking and was joined by Skip Grodahl, who presented Reach Community Development Corporation with a donation of $27,500 to support their activities in Clark County. Neighbors and members of the press and public also attended the event. Affordable housing is a crucial and often underserved element in creating healthy and diverse urban areas, and we are proud of our work on this important project. Congratulations to Skip Grodahl for his 29-year relationship with Otak and his first multifamily project in Washington!

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June 17, 2014

The Oregon WWII Memorial Dedication Ceremony took place on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day to celebrate the generosity, service, and sacrifice of a great community and to honor all 3,771 Oregonians who were killed in combat during the war. Otak was a proud contributor to the project providing pro-bono design services for the Memorial, including survey, civil engineering, landscape architecture, and structural engineering. In June 2011, Bob Plame, a previous client, solicited Otak’s assistance in working with the WWII Memorial Foundation, Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Oregon Memorials in the design and preparation of construction plans for the memorial. 

The dedication ceremony was held on a beautiful spring afternoon on Oregon State Capitol grounds with an overflowing crowd of over 1,000 attendees. Speakers and dignitaries included Gov. John Kitzhaber; former Gov. Ted Kulongoski; Bill Markham, a WWII combat pilot and former state legislator; Oregon National Guard officers; and Bob Maxwell, the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient. Otakians Don Hanson, David Haynes, and Mike Peebles attended the inspirational event, and it was a true honor to be among the many heroes that have served our country at home and abroad. 

As a contributor to the Oregon WWII Memorial, Otak was able to present names of WWII honorees for recognition on a plaque and/or at an information reader board at the site. These heroes have an Oregon connection and served in WWII.

Pvt. Clarence Martin Hanson, Army
Went through Normandy landing and served in France. Father of Don Hanson, a Principal at Otak.

Cpl. John Michael Beyer Jr., Marines
Served for 26 months in the South Pacific. Father-in-law of Scott Sanders, a civil designer at Otak.

John Albert Snider, Chief Storekeeper(AA), Navy
A Pearl Harbor survivor. Grandfather of Jennifer Snider, a project assistant at Otak.
Jack Alfred Emlet, Machinist’s Mate, First Class, Navy
Grandfather of Shannon Graham, an accounts payable administrator at Otak.

1st. Lt. Neil B. Faunce,  100th AAF Base Unit, Army
Grandfather of Tammi Connolly, a Water Resource Engineer at Otak.

For additional information:

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June 4, 2014

AIA Portland organized an Open Ideas Competition called STITCH, soliciting creative ideas to reclaim a site over the I-405 freeway with the objective of  stitching together downtown Portland to Goose Hollow and the Stadium District. The jury, including Otak’s Martin Glastra van Loon, selected three inspiring winners out of 40 received submissions, and AIA Portland is compiling the shortlisted entries into a book to give to the City of Portland and other local agencies. AIA Portland hosted an event last month to announce the winners, and you may view the winning entries here.

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June 2, 2014

Otakians Tim Kraft, Liz Gilliam, Gary Wolff, and Melanie McCandless joined others in celebrating Johnson Creek on May 22 at Reed College. Approximately 180 attendees were present for the raffle, State of the Watershed report, Riffle Awards presentations, and guest speaker Dr. Colin Thorne. Dr. Thorne spoke about the values of blue-green infrastructure in the United States and the United Kingdom and highlighted the importance of Johnson Creek in the region. Otak designed the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ East Lents Floodplain Project (now the Foster Floodplain Natural Area), which plays an integral role in flood risk management in the watershed. Melanie McCandless currently serves as the Treasurer on the Council’s Board of Directors.

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May 30, 2014

Friday, May 16, was National Bike to Work Day, and Otak celebrated by raffling off two $50 gift cards to Otakians who biked to work that day. The winners, Pete Miller from our Portland office and Matt Ellis from our Kirkland office, took home gift cards to bike shops of their choice.

Prior to Bike to Work Day, Otak’s Quinn Donnelly delivered a lunchtime presentation on basic bike maintenance and repair to a group of Otakians, and Carl Larson from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) spoke about bike safety.

While May 16 is the designated Bike to Work Day, several Otakians are regular bicycle commuters. Our corporate office building offers a locking bike-storage room, a pump, a tire repair kit, and showers for employees. We’re also regular participants in the BTA’s annual Bike Commute Challenge held every September. Biking is a great way to stay fit and get around without burning fossil fuels or having to pay for gas and parking - and it’s fun!

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May 22, 2014

Several Otakians had the opportunity to participate in the Pole Pedal Paddle event on May 17, in central Oregon. The Turkish Delight team was a pairs team, and Natural Disasters and McCurry’s Harem participated in the team category. The alpine leg begins at the top of Mt. Bachelor with a handoff to the 8 km cross-country leg. Then the bike leg is next, which is a total of 22 miles and descends into Bend with one steep uphill stretch. The run leg then proceeds on a scenic trail along the Deschutes River for 5 miles with an exchange to the canoe/kayak, in which paddlers proceed along the Deschutes River for 1.5 miles. The last leg is an approximately ½ mile sprint to the finish line. It was a fantastic weekend to be with fellow Otakians, as well as former Otakians and family and friends! We look forward to the event next year!

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May 9, 2014

Otak participated in the Oregon Chapter APWA Spring Conference, which took place in Seaside late last month. Otak’s booth included photo panels of recent and ongoing projects in Oregon, many of which were located on the Oregon coast. Otak showed its continued support and involvement in APWA through our attendees who were active participants in the Sustainability Committee, Water Resources Committee, Young Members Network, and the First-Timer program, all of which are ongoing efforts outside of the conference. This event kicked off the 50-year-anniversary celebration for the Oregon Chapter, which will continue at the Fall Conference in Pendleton.

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April 30, 2014

Otak’s Mark Swartz and Brad Bielenberg attended the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Arizona Conference recently in Tucson. Over 1,500 representatives from a wide variety of state and municipal agencies and consultant service providers attended the event, and Otak’s booth and expertise both garnered positive reactions. Mark and Brad discussed significant opportunities for a variety of Otak disciplines with both existing and potential new clientele. The conference golf tournament was also a success with Otak’s pairing helping to build our relationship with two significant clients. Fore!!!

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April 29, 2014

Kaela and I began carpooling when we started at Otak in October 2012. When Cheyenne joined our carpool a month later for the savings and witty conversation, I took on the task of designing a tracking system to ensure we paid everyone fairly. The resultant marvel of spreadsheet design and efficiency (a personal opinion) calculates who owes what to whom, what payments have been made, the amount saved per month, per person, and the total on tolls and gasoline. Our carpool grew with Chris and Jessica joining in Spring 2013, and from the start of our spreadsheet on November 27, 2012 through March 31, 2014, the five of us have saved a total of $6,550.90! The newest member of the Kirkland water resources team, Francesca, has already joined our carpool, promising more benefits.

In addition to the financial benefits of carpooling, each of us realized the environmental benefits as well. In the spreadsheet, we track saved carbon dioxide emissions using a typical conversion rate (one gallon of E10 gasoline emits 17.68 pounds of CO2 with combusted), and between November 2012 and March 2014, we saved 5.23 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere. The importance of this number cannot be overestimated with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicting large and negative effects resulting from climate change. While these problems may seem daunting, small actions can have immediate benefits and each one of us can make a difference.

I encourage you to evaluate your own commuting habits. Could you help your bank account with a small change or sacrifice? Or have you heard of the tragedy of the commons? We all can and should do our part to participate in grand solutions.

- Submitted by Neil Schaner

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April 29, 2014

Saturday, April 26, was SOLVe’s 25th Annual SOLVE-IT Earth Day event! Over 6,500 volunteers at 175 sites throughout Oregon worked together to improve environmental health. Otak’s Melanie McCandless led a group of 15 Portland State University students in a clean-up of green street facilities in the Lents Town Center. The green street facilities were installed in 2013 as part of the Streetscape Improvement project. Green streets manage stormwater quantity and quality, using biofiltration to slow down and treat the water before it discharges to Johnson Creek. The students removed approximately 60 pounds of trash and debris from the facilities and cleared inlets of accumulated sediment. The clean-up was a partnership with Green Lents, where Melanie serves as the Watershed Team leader; SOLVe; and the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ Green Street Stewards Program.

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April 17, 2014

Last Sunday, Otakians Jennifer Snider, Sarah McCloskey, Sami Auclair, Ae-young Lee, and Jason Karam donned sneakers and running gear to participate in Albertina Kerr’s Race for the Roses. The proceeds for this event benefit Albertina Kerr, a local nonprofit that helps children, adults, and families living with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges. It was a great way to enjoy a beautiful, sunny day in Portland while contributing to a wonderful organization.

To learn more about Albertina Kerr, please click here.

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March 25, 2014

Over the past two weekends, Otakians Kelly Youngberg, Katie Kersten, Tim Ervin, Joe Primeau, Matt Klym, Melanie McCandless, and Hannah Marre have joined other volunteers in helping Green Lents enhance two bioswales in Portland’s East Lents neighborhood.

Over the years, weeds had invaded the bioswales, and in 2010 Green Lents canvassed over 300 homes in the area to assess knowledge of the swales and their purpose and to gauge interest in enhancing the swales with native plants. Three enthusiastic homeowners agreed to take part in the pilot project, and Green Lents worked with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ Sustainable Stormwater Group to develop a planting plan for the bioswales with plants that could thrive in the fast-draining environment while offering a wide range of bloom times to offer year-round support to pollinators. The swales will be monitored for two years with results contributing to a revised planting plan for other homeowners interested in enhancing their swales.

Green Lents is an all-volunteer nonprofit with a mission to provide education, volunteering, and leadership opportunities in and around the Lents neighborhood to provide a thriving, sustainable community. Melanie McCandless is the Watershed Team Leader and a founding Board member, and she is currently serving as Records Keeper.

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March 6, 2014

Otakians Rose Horton and Melanie McCandless participated in the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s 16th Annual Watershed-Wide event on Saturday, March 1. Their efforts, combined with almost 300 other volunteers, had a tremendous positive impact on the watershed’s health. Over the course of three hours at ten sites, volunteers planted 7,760 native plants, removed six cubic yards of invasive plants, and cleaned up three bags of garbage. Volunteers celebrated their successes afterward at a pizza luncheon.

The Watershed-Wide event occurs annually on the first Saturday in March. Melanie hosted the Foster Place site as the representative Board Member and Rose participated at the Freeway Lands site just downstream of the Foster Floodplain Natural Area (formerly East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project).

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January 31, 2014

Our office in Kirkland, Washington, is ready to watch their Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday! Several die-hard fans came to work on Friday decked out in Seahawks gear to show their support.

Go Seahawks!

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January 27, 2014

Otakians Mark Shelby, John Longbotham, and Nico Vanderhorst attended the Grand Opening celebration for the new Aquatic Center in Snohomish, Washington, last Saturday. The Snohomish School District constructed this $22-million state-of-the-art facility as part of their most recent bond measure program. The City of Snohomish is providing free water and sanitary sewer service to support this community facility, and the ceremony concluded with an inaugural 50-yard sprint by the captains of the Snohomish High School and Glacier Peak High School swim teams.

Otak provided civil engineering and landscape architecture services as a subconsultant to DOWA.

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December 23, 2013

Otakians gathered in our Portland office to celebrate the holidays with food and a White Elephant gift exchange! There were around 30 white elephant gifts, and a few of the treasures included He-Man DVDs, a mullet wig, The Fuzz Massaging Pillow, the party game Apples to Apples, a tow rope, a set of marbles, and a reindeer hat/ring-toss game. Participants could open an unwrapped gift or steal a wrapped gift from someone else, and the most stolen item was a festively packaged six-pack of beer. While some of the gifts left us scratching our heads, it was a fun time to catch up with coworkers before the holidays. 2013 was an eventful year for Otak, and we are excited and optimistic about the new year!

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December 18, 2013

Otak’s Denver office, in conjunction with our neighbors YR&G, hosted a Holiday Party on Thursday, December 5. The celebration was held in our offices located in the historic Fire House No. 5, which was built in 1926. Despite the frigid -10 degree temperature in Denver, we had a great turn out! Joining the festivities was Russ Gaston from the Otak’s office in Everett, Washington.

This month marks Otak’s one-year anniversary in our Lower Downtown (LoDo) Denver location.

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December 9, 2013

A group of facial-hair enthusiasts in Otak's Portland and Vancouver offices put down their razors last month to participate in No-Shave November. On November 1, participants showed up to work clean shaven and let their beards grow until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. According to the No-Shave November website, the goal of the event  is to raise cancer awareness "by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free." Although facial-hair-growth contests are primarily aimed at men, a few women in the office found ways to participate through donating money to charity. One female Otakian contributed approximately 25 cents per participant per day to the Portland Rescue Mission, which added up to $50. Whether or not our participants choose to keep their beards, we look forward to participating in next year's No-Shave November!

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December 2, 2013

Fourth and fifth graders from Cub Scout Pack 419 in Tigard held their last Den meeting at Otak to learn about engineering and earn their Engineer Activity badge. The badge will help them earn the Webelos rank and their Arrow of Light award. Otak Principal, Kevin Timmins, taught the scouts about the different types of engineering, surveying, and architecture, and the boys had the opportunity to view construction plans for the St. Anthony Community Center project that is under construction at their school. They learned about property lines, how to draw floor plans of their homes, and they built a simple electrical circuit with a flashlight bulb, a switch, and a battery to learn about how electricity is generated. They also learned about different types of bridges and were given toothpicks and gumdrops to build a small bridge truss and see if their structure could support the weight of a pint glass. To complete the requirements for the Engineer Activity badge, the scouts will visit an active construction site.

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November 27, 2013

Otakians in Tempe donned 3D glasses for a Lunch and Learn presented by architect Don Larry. Don showed 3D images of his recent travels in Italy and New York, as well as images of Otak's Jade Bar and Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge projects, Revit models converted into 3D anaglyphic images floating in space, and superheroes from 3D vintage comics.

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November 25, 2013

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services added an interesting video about the opening of Otak’s Foster Floodplain Natural Area project. In an e-newsletter about the project, City of Portland Commissioner Nick Fish wrote:

“This is one of the many ways we are using cost-effective natural solutions to manage stormwater. The additional community dividend: a treasured place for East Portland families to relax, walk the trail, and watch wildlife.”

To learn more about Otak’s involvement in the Foster Floodplain Natural Area, please click here.

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November 25, 2013

Nine volunteers braved the cold winds to enhance a green street in Portland’s Lents neighborhood. Otakians Kelly Youngberg and Matt Klym joined fellow Otakian Melanie McCandless’ group, Green Lents, to add native plants to a previously weed-infested infiltration basin. The facilities were installed in 2006 as part of a street improvement project. The swale enhancement project has been in the works for over two years as Green Lents negotiated with Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services for permission to do the work – the first of its kind in Portland to retrofit existing facilities. After extensive canvassing to identify neighbor interest, three swales along SE Yukon Street were selected for the pilot project enhancement. The plants will improve water quality, enhance aesthetics, and support native pollinators. Two more swales will be planted in Spring 2014 and will kick off a pollinator monitoring study during the summer. 

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November 22, 2013

Otak's Kirkland office braved the cold last night for a very happy hour at the first ever Otak Turkey Bowl! We took up three lanes and played two and a half games before declaring Chris Ewing the big scorer of the night with a 184. The event, organized by the newly re-instated Fun Committee, allowed members of different groups (WNR, PAD, and TIS) to interact on a more personal and relaxed level. We all pooled our strike tickets and claimed some small plastic trucks and eyeballs as our grand prize! 

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November 8, 2013

Eight Otakians headed down to White Center (near West Seattle) on October 5th to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on a home maintenance project. The homeowner had been living in her house for 20 years and received support from Habitat to complete some big repairs. Our main tasks were building a staircase up to the front door, constructing a new back deck, replacing some siding, sealing windows, and laying pavers in the garden area. And what a treat we had at lunchtime, when the homeowner brought out her delicious Cambodian dishes for all to enjoy! 

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November 6, 2013

We hope you enjoyed Halloween last week! Otakians donned costumes and gathered in our different office locations for food and fun.


The Vancouver office enjoyed a Halloween Potluck in spite of a mad rush to meet a submittal deadline. Participating Otakians dressed up in costumes related to the dishes they brought to the potluck. Cory Kratovil dressed as the office redneck who brought what he called "roadkill stew." It actually turned out to be a great beef stew. Theo Malone dressed in green to match the broccoli salad he brought, and Greg Mines showed up as a cafeteria lady.


The Kirkland office hosted a Halloween lunch potluck last Thursday, complete with Scream pie, ghostly cupcakes, bloody deviled eggs, and several types of tasty chili. They also hosted a costume contest, and the winners were: Curtis LaPierre as Mr. Clean for funniest costume, Xiao Wu as #Obamacare for most news/blogworthy, and Gabe Orendorff as a Seattle Mariner for best sports costume! Each took home a gift basket of chocolates, wine donated by the principals, and other goodies. It was a spooky good time!


The Portland office celebrated with donuts and apple cider in the bistro and a few staff members donning costumes including a flapper, a cat, a cowgirl, Pancho Villa, and two water resources engineers dressing up as their fellow Otakian, Quinn Donnelly.

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November 4, 2013

Otak participated in this year’s EcoChallenge! The EcoChallenge, organized by the Northwest Earth Institute, encourages participants to change one habit for the Earth from October 15-30. 166 teams signed up, and 18 Otakians joined our company-wide team. Some of the challenges taken on by Otakians included using reusable bags, eating a strictly plant-based diet, biking to the store, purchasing locally sourced organic food, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs. Otak has taken part in the EcoChallenge in previous years, and we always look forward to this event, which draws attention to our impact on the environment.

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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 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


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 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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September 30, 2013

On Friday, September 20, Otak's Portland office participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual international event where groups and individuals transform metered parking spaces into temporary public places. We converted the spot in front of our corporate office on SW Third Avenue and Yamhill Street into an interactive rock garden where people could use paint pens to draw or write on the rocks about their favorite places or why they were drawn to Portland. PARK(ing) Day draws attention to how much of our cities are reserved for movement and parking of cars, and tries to reclaim little pockets of that space for people to meet, congregate, and express themselves.

We thank all of the enthusiastic participants who helped make our first PARK(ing) Day a success, and we look forward to next year's event!

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September 30, 2013

Otak's Portland office participated in this year's Bike Commute Challenge. The challenge is a competition to see who can bike to work more during the month of September. Our team logged over 1,450 miles in over 160 trips. The Bike Commute Challenge is a fun way to get some exercise and empower people to explore biking as a form of transportation. The Bike Commute Challenge is organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), which is a non-profit organization working to promote bicycling and improve bicycling conditions in Oregon.

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September 10, 2013

A few of Otak’s water resources engineers joined the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and Portland Parks & Recreation to lead a tour of our East Lents Floodplain Restoration project - now known as the Foster Floodplain Natural Area.

To learn more about the tour and view the tour brochure, please click here.

To learn more about this project, please click here.

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August 29, 2013

Otak’s very own kickball team—made up of current and past Otakians, as well as several of our spouses and friends—played its first game at Montavilla Park last night. We lost 3 to 4 and got a little wet, but we’re all looking forward to our next game nevertheless. Go Grasskickers!

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August 28, 2013

Water and Natural Resources staff Gary Wolff, Theo Malone, Tammi Connolly, and Melanie McCandless got dirty for a good cause last Saturday in the 6th Annual Johnson Creek Clean-Up.  Over 100 volunteers were in the creek to remove trash from I-205 to the confluence with the Willamette River. Theo jumped into the challenging reach downstream of SE 82nd Avenue, and Tammi helped wrestle debris into the trailer for disposal. Gary served as event photographer, and Melanie co-organized the event with Amy Lodholz of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council and Norbert Loske of the Overland Park Coalition.

Over the past six years volunteers have removed over 30 tons of trash from the creek. Fortunately, this year continued last year’s trend of decreased trash loads – Johnson Creek is getting cleaner each year. Volunteers removed debris in the morning and celebrated in Mill Park afterward with a BBQ and award ceremony. The team of volunteers that found the oddest item in the creek won the Golden Trashcan, and the Dirty Olympics recognized the top three dirtiest volunteers with the bronze, silver, and gold soap-on-a-rope.

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July 16, 2013

Creating Vibrant Urban Neighborhoods Outreach and Information Gathering is part of Otak’s East Corridor Implementation Support project for the Growing Transit Communities Partnership.


What is the Growing Transit Communities Partnership (GTCP)?
Coordinated by the Puget Sound Regional Council and involving partners such as the cities of Bellevue and Redmond, A Regional Coalition for Housing, and others, the GTCP is a regional effort to help make the most of voter-approved $15 billion investments in regional high capacity transit. The Partnership is committed to implementing economically vibrant and diverse neighborhoods and communities around high capacity transit stations throughout the region. There are four focus areas of the East Corridor Implementation Support project sponsored by GTCP: Affordable housing, business retention and attraction, transportation access and connectivity, and partnerships. The Partnership is funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program.

East Link:
Derby Days:

On Saturday, July 13, Otak staff (Mandi Roberts, Liz Johnson, and Finis Ray) engaged eastside residents at the annual Redmond Derby Days in visioning future urban neighborhood settings along the East Link extension of light rail. Participants were asked to show what neighborhood elements are most important and appealing when considering urban living. Otak provided information in order to help residents visualize the planned redevelopment of east corridor station areas, such as Overlake Village, into vibrant, urban neighborhoods for all ages. Liz and Finis, urban planning interns in Otak’s Kirkland office, will be compiling the results with the intent to better understand what might attract families and multi-generational residents to the new urban neighborhoods that will emerge on the eastside around light rail.

Using an interactive visual preference survey, Otak captured the public’s suggestions and ideas about what makes a neighborhood vibrant and family friendly. A kids table invited children to draw the favorite things about their neighborhood. Participation was enthusiastic! A companion online survey will be live all summer and through early fall at Everyone is invited to participate in the online survey; we welcome all input! So please tell us what elements are most important for urban neighborhoods.

Derby Days was the first of several stops for Otak’s Vibrant Urban Neighborhoods booth. The display will also be hosted at other at future community events on the eastside this summer and early fall.

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June 18, 2013

Otak’s Denver office hosted an open house/tailgate party earlier this month in LoDo. Attendees toured the new office, took in the view from the deck and enjoyed the festive atmosphere before the first pitch of the Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field, only a block away. It was a fun way to connect with our clients and colleagues and we thank everyone who attended!

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May 21, 2013

Otakians in Tempe recently went on a team office outing to an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game! They hopped on the light rail and headed to the ballpark where their hometown Diamondbacks beat the visiting Atlanta Braves. It was a good win for the Diamondbacks and a wonderful opportunity for Otakians in Tempe to spend some time together away from the office.

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May 7, 2013

The City of Portland celebrated the Foster Floodplain Natural Area and the kickoff to World Environment Day on Thursday, April 24. Otak’s 63-acre East Lents Restoration Project became the Natural Area when construction was completed in 2012. The celebration was attended by staff from various City bureaus, local agencies, nonprofits, and neighbors. The site was blessed by Native Americans through song and dance, and several dignitaries including Dean Marriot, Director of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services; Mike Abbate, Director of Portland Parks & Recreation; Nick Fish, Portland City Commissioner; Amy Fraenkel, Regional Director of United Nations Environment Programme; and students from Kelly Elementary School. The students presented a book of poems about water to Ms. Fraenkel and read a few of their favorites. After the speeches, Maggie Skenderian (Johnson Creek Watershed Manager, Portland BES) spoke about the project’s impact in the neighborhood and the future plans for the area and led a ceremonial tree planting with students from Kelly Elementary.

Melanie McCandless planted a tree in recognition of her active participation in the community through Green Lents. Kevin Timmins led the site tour and Gary Wolff was available to answer questions about the hydraulic modeling intricacies of the project.

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May 7, 2013

Otak is working with the National Park Service, the Washington Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Feet First, a nonprofit advocacy group, on Beacon Hill Street Stories, a neighborhood walkability project for high school students. Otak’s Curtis LaPierre is collaborating with other landscape architects from Seattle to help teach skills like map reading, mapping spatial elements, and reviewing the benefits of walking for the students who are participating in the program.

To learn more about Beacon Hill Street Stories, please click here.

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March 11, 2013

The 15th Annual Johnson Creek Watershed Council Watershed-Wide Event was held, as always, on the first Saturday in March. I helped lead the Stonebridge Apartments site with Stream Team Captains from SOLVE and Matt Klym from Otak. With the help of 50 cub scouts, boy scouts and their families, we planted 250 trees, mulched  and installed protective fencing around the trees and picked up 12 bags of garbage. After the event we enjoyed lunch at Wall Street Pizza in Gresham or Pietro’s Pizza in Milwaukie. Overall, 470 volunteers attended the event in 12 different locations. The group planted 8,950 native trees and shrubs, removed 20 cubic yards of invasive plants, picked up 50 bags of garbage and moved seven yards of mulch. 

 - Submitted by Melanie McCandless

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January 22, 2013


Otak’s Melanie McCandless has recently been voted on to the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s Board of Directors! Melanie is a Water Resources Engineering Designer in our Lake Oswego, Oregon, office, and she has been volunteering with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council extensively since moving to the area in 2008. Congratulations, Melanie!

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December 20, 2012

Last Thursday, Otakians in our Lake Oswego office donned their finest reindeer antlers, Santa hats and Christmas sweaters to celebrate the holidays. We gathered near our beautifully decorated tree for music, food and fun holiday activities including a white elephant gift exchange. One lucky Otakian took home a “Whistling Flying Saucer” while another received a VHS copy of Lord of the Dance. Otak generously donated tickets to upcoming Portland Winterhawks and Trail Blazers games to be raffled off to participants in the holiday festivities. Otakians could also earn raffle tickets by bringing cans of food for donation to the Oregon Food Bank, and the Lake Oswego group responded in a big way. By the end of the party, two large boxes were overflowing with canned food that will go towards eliminating hunger in Oregon this holiday season. The party provided a perfect way to relax and spend time together while helping the community.

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November 26, 2012

Otak was pleased to host several business colleagues at the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) serving the Valley of the Sun. The breakfast meeting in Tempe, Arizona, featured keynote speaker Kevin Johnson (KJ), Mayor of Sacramento (pictured), a celebrated figure in Phoenix Suns history. Mayor Johnson also serves LISC as a member of the National Board of Directors and was introduced by President Michael Rubinger. In KJ's first seven full seasons in Phoenix from 1989-1995, the Suns won the most regular season games in the NBA and the second most playoff games, trailing only the Chicago Bulls.

KJ recounted his creation of St. HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Excellence) a community development corporation in his hometown of Sacramento while still an NBA player. Johnson served as CEO of St. HOPE until January of 2008, when he ran successfully for Mayor of Sacramento.

LISC also awarded Native American Connections, a 501 C (3) non-profit developer the Project of the Year Award for Devine Legacy on Central; a 65-unit mixed-income Transit-Oriented Development in Central Phoenix.

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November 20, 2012

Otakians Mark Cole, Keith Bates, Neil Schaner and Darcey Miller recently volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. They participated in the remodel called Westway 3.5 in Federal Way, Washington. The work party installed insulation, built a fence, disassembled part of the carport, and replaced a whole roof in a day! In addition, some high school students also removed shrubs and dug a ditch for a water line. Good job team!

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November 1, 2012

Several of our Otak offices celebrated Halloween this year, and while it might be difficult to pick an award for best costume, the Vancouver, Washington, office easily won the award for best lunch! Engineer Greg Mines initiated a “harvest” potluck, and everyone pitched in with some great dishes. Doug Sarkkinen brought in fresh venison, and other Otakians contributed sweet potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, ham, beef brisket, pasta salad, vegetable soup, cornbread with honey butter, and fresh apple cider. Of course no Halloween would be complete without sweets, and the Vancouver staff topped off their meal with peanut butter bars and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this elaborate feast is that after eating all of this delicious food, nobody took an afternoon nap.

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October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

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September 21, 2012

At Otak, we have built a reputation based on creativity, integrity and skill. Speaking of skill, structural engineer Steve Wilson utilized his climbing skills while performing an inspection of the 120-foot-high Tokul Creek Trestle in Snoqualmie, Washington. Steve is an experienced climber and he used all the appropriate safety equipment to perform this inspection. Don’t try this at home!

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July 19, 2012

Otak architect Don Larry has been recognized as an Arizona CultureKeeper for his 25 years of research and documentation of early brass bands and their music during Arizona’s territorial period (1863-1912) both as a historian and brass musician. He is one of the 100 CultureKeepers honored in Arizona for the state’s 2012 Centennial celebration. A euphonium player since the age of 8, Don is the founder of the Territorial Brass, Arizona’s Official Historical Brass Band, which has produced two CD recordings. Don was invited by the Historic Brass Society to speak at their international symposium earlier this month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Part of the talk included a section about former NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and his boyhood days in 1890s Arizona Territory as the son of an Army bandmaster. Word got out about this portion of the talk, and Fiorello’s granddaughter, Dr. Katherine LaGuardia, contacted Don and asked to watch the presentation. Dr. LaGuardia and her husband attended the symposium as special guests, and Don had the honor of introducing them before an audience of over 150 historians and music academicians gathered from North and South America, Europe and Australia. Don’ presentation was well received, and we are proud to have an Arizona CultureKeeper working in our Tempe office!

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July 10, 2012

The Group Health Commute Challenge is a friendly competition to see who can get more people biking to work during the month of May.

 Our team from the Kirkland office – Panic Otak - logged 47 trips for a respectable 672 miles reducing our CO2 emissions by approx. 658 lbs and burning up thousands of calories while having a blast cycling in the gorgeous and scenic Pacific Northwest - Is that why those burgers tasted soooooo good? The Group Health Commute Challenge was a huge success. According to the event's website:

Together, we reduced our region's CO2 emissions by nearly 1.5 million pounds. We also burned a whopping 74,311,558 calories (that's 150,000 cheeseburgers!) and logged 106,408 pedal-powered trips -- about the number of cars that travel on I-5 in one direction during a 24-hour period. Imagine all those empty freeway lanes!

 A huge thank you to the following participants - Keith Bates, Steve Wilson, Josh Christofferson, Danielle Urbany, Bill Lawrence, Stephanie Smith, Ryan Hawkins, Brennan Elder, and Brenda Elder.

Keep on Rolling!


- Submitted by Brenda Elder


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June 8, 2012


This year two design professionals from our Lake Oswego office lent their expertise to high school students in the Portland Metro area. Engineer Scott Shumaker, and landscape architect Kaitlin North, served as mentors with the ACE Mentor program of Oregon. This 12-week program is an engaging and informative way for high school students to learn about career possibilities in architecture, construction and engineering. Scott’s team of 12 students and six mentors was responsible for designing a bike shop on the east side of the Willamette River in Portland. “They brainstormed, proposed, argued, and compromised,” said Scott, “many of which happen during a real project!” Kaitlin’s team designed a visitor center and students created all kinds of drawings and plans from building sections and elevations to planting plans and even cost estimating! At the end of the program, the students presented their creations to a packed auditorium of teachers, parents and design professionals. This was Kaitlin’s first year volunteering with the ACE mentor program, but, according to her, it probably won’t be the last: “I will definitely volunteer to be an ACE mentor again because it was so rewarding to work with these incredibly talented students!”



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May 25, 2012


Otak’s Windi Shapley and Vanessa Lee helped dedicate the Centennial Trail on a beautiful Saturday morning in Snohomish, Washington.  This project completes a missing portion of Snohomish County’s 30-mile-long trail within a former rail corridor.  The trail serves as part of a growing regional multi-purpose path network.  It is anticipated that the new trail will provide a convenient alternative to driving and promote community health through walking and cycling to destinations such as the Boys & Girls Club, Senior Center, library, skate park and play area.

The Phase 1 improvements include a 12-foot-wide asphalt trail, parking facilities, frontage improvements at street crossings, park signage, timber trellis and kiosk, and approximately four acres of meadow mix, drought-tolerant shrubs, and larger park trees.  These improvements are guided by an overall Master Plan that Otak’s Curtis LaPierre developed in conjunction with Snohomish city staff and community. The master planning, design, and construction services efforts were led by Project Manager Nico Vanderhorst, and included Windi Shapley, Tyler Christofferson, Curtis LaPierre, Tyson Housel, Vanessa Lee, Jack Seeds, Marissa Chargualaf, and Steve Wilson.



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May 1, 2012

Volunteers from Otak’s Lake Oswego and Vancouver offices planted trees as part of an Earth Day celebration with other volunteers from throughout the Portland area. It began on Saturday morning near the I-205 Multi-Use Path in the Gateway area of Portland where volunteers were taught tree-planting basics. Then the volunteers set to work lugging trees and tools up the steep incline, digging holes in the rocky soil, setting trees in the holes, covering the soil around the trees with burlap sacks, securing the sacks to the ground with stakes, and driving wooden poles into the ground on the sides of the trees. After four hours of work, the volunteers had planted 180 native species, making it the largest-ever planting in over three years of planting along the I-205 Multi-Use Path.

The event was organized by Friends of Trees, a group which aims to bring people in the Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield metro areas together to plant and care for city trees and green spaces. The Otak volunteer group worked with Friends of Trees through EarthShare.

To learn more about Friends of Trees and find out how you can get involved, click here.




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April 16, 2012


Howdy from LA and the APA national conference. Attended really interesting sessions on healthy food planning, LA planning and city planning as viewed from literature, and an awesome master plan and implementation project in Fort Worth called Trinity Point (Texas attitude meets smart growth!). Visited Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall and LA's Union Station/Olvera Street today. 




Sent from my iPad



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April 15, 2012

Hi! The International Featured Presentation I moderated yesterday was fascinating. Dr. Aisa Kirabo-Kacyira, Assistant-Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Habitat from Kenya gave an insightful and challenging lecture to our audience of about 200 attendees. Lots of questions from the audience, and good marks all around! Sorry about no photo...couldn't take a photo of myself and Dr. Kirabo  while doing the human-interaction thing. This page from the conference program will have to do!




Sent from my iPad




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March 12, 2012

Dave Speck was one of the first people hired at Otak. “I always thought that Dave was too skinny and that he needed more meat on his bones and that he would never last,” said co-founder Greg Kurahashi. “I was wrong.” Dave worked as a land surveyor at the Lake Oswego office for over 30 years. Not only did he “last,” but he made a lasting impression on everyone who had the pleasure of working with him. “He has earned our trust, respect and admiration many times over,” said CEO and co-founder Nawzad Othman. “I have been lucky to have had him as an employee, and, even more, as a friend.” Dave retired on March 2nd, and his retirement is well-deserved. Jack Carlson, Otak’s Principal-in-Charge of Surveying and Mapping, had this to say about his coworker:

Dave was one of the constants that good companies must have in order to be successful. He was there every day and he anticipated what was needed. Clients knew that if Dave was on their job, no task or item would fall through the cracks. He never talked up or talked down to anyone. He was the consummate partner with everyone he worked with and for.

Friends and co-workers from throughout Dave’s time at Otak met at Gametime near the Lake Oswego office to celebrate his retirement and wish him well. Once again, we thank Dave for all he’s given Otak and wish him a long and joyful retirement!



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March 8, 2012

On March 1st the United Way of King County held its annual Spirit of Caring Celebration to honor the community’s most outstanding companies, most creative campaign coordinators, and most committed volunteers.

Otak’s United Way campaign team consisting of Curtis LaPierre, Tyler Christofferson, and Marissa Chargualaf, attended the event where they were nominated for a Spirit of Caring Award this year in the category of Campaign Coordinator of the Year. During our more than ten year history of participating in United Way, we ranked as one of the top firms for the amount of dollars pledged per employee among A&E firms in Puget Sound.

All of us at Otak thank the Kirkland team for serving their community and organizing Otak’s campaign—we are proud that they were considered for this award!

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January 16, 2012

This is our third consecutive year where several Otak staff volunteered at the Oregon Food Bank (OFB)! This year we were responsible for packaging elbow macaroni. We had an assembly line of workers who had one or several of the following tasks:

1. moving pasta from a very large container to a more manageable smaller container

2. scooping approximately 2 pounds of pasta into a plastic bag

3. weighing the bag and supplementing additional pasta or removing pasta to ensure the 2-pound limit

4. placing a twisty around the bag

5. placing 11 bags of pasta into a box and sealing the box

6. moving the box to another station where it was weighed to ensure accuracy

At the end of our session we helped box 10,500 pounds of macaroni for distribution! It was a rewarding few hours of our time.


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January 6, 2012

Otakians in UAE decked the office halls last month and celebrated the holidays and New Year with a lunchtime feast. They filled the table with food and filled the air with carols, but, like many holidays, the real action involved presents! They played a type of white elephant gift exchange where players can grab a present from under the tree or steal someone else’s gift. Director, Fares Kekhia, got in the holiday spirit and raffled off two cameras to lucky attendees. It was an exciting end to the year and hopefully the good times will continue in 2012!




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December 21, 2011

Otak’s Vancouver office celebrated a holiday luncheon December 20, which was catered by a local restaurant, Beaches. They had a “crazy holiday sweater” contest that included three categories: the brightest, the tackiest and the most original. Grant Evenhus, Greg Mines and Marilou Davis were the chosen winners! We had a toast to the New Year and recognized everyone for their dedication and hard work. We look forward to a prosperous and happy New Year for our staff, clients and colleagues.


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December 16, 2011

The Kirkland staff is very excited to have had the opportunity to participate in the Adopt-A-Family program. Together, they collected just under $400. It is an honor knowing that we had the chance to help make Christmas very special for a family.  Below is a picture of the gifts they will be given this holiday season. Each child will receive a pair of pants and three shirts, plus at least one of their requested toys.

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December 14, 2011

Last week, our crafty Kirkland Otakians sold a beautiful variety of handmade goods at the Otak Holiday Shop. Unique Items for sale included handmade cards and gift tags, cinnamon bun candles, paper white narcissus, sugar scrubs, quilted coasters, delicious jams, hats, fishing rods, and cutting boards made from recycled pallets…staying green.

Thank you to everyone who dropped by and made it a HUGE success! Our vendors sold over $800 worth of items, of which we donated ten percent to our Youth Eastside Services Adopt-A-Family.

Budding plans are developing for next year’s Holiday Shop!

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November 23, 2011

Last week Otak sent a team of ‘Intellectuals’ to WorldQuest for Grownups. This evening of international trivia supports The World Affairs Council of Oregon’s Global Classroom which educates Oregon kids about the world. Otak was one of the two sponsors for the event.

The ‘Intellectuals’ came to the event dressed to impress, sporting berets and a varied combination of tweed, sweaters, ties, blazers and corduroy. Eight trivia rounds of eight questions each - wildly ranging across various topics of world culture - provided the evening’s challenge. Questions ranged from geography and current events to world economics and ancient history.

Muddling through the tremendous pressure and responsibility connected to the chosen team name, the ‘intellectuals’ performance hit the mark, answering correctly 38 out of 64 questions, finishing only 2 questions out of third place.

Unfortunately there was not a ‘team attitude’ award for the evening, otherwise the Otak team would have clearly been the undisputed winner. Despite this minor setback, it was a great evening for a great cause, with auctions during the event raising more than $20K.


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November 9, 2011

Otak water resource engineers Tim Kraft and Kevin Timmins spent Saturday evening at the Portland Art Museum for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP) Dinner & Art Gala. They enjoyed an evening among friends and colleagues in support of LCEP Outdoor Education programs. No one at the table went home with any artwork, but the table successfully landed a bottle of Port wine during the Live Auction and quickly made it disappear. Otak contributed to the LCEP again this year with a sponsorship that will fund "Big Canoe" field trips for three classes and pays for their bus ride to and from the dock! This is the eighth year in a row that Otak has been a sponsor.

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October 4, 2011

Otak’s Lake Oswego office recently participated in the annual Bike Commute Challenge organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). This year, 12 riders braved the traffic and elements and biked to work at least once during the month of September. The Otak team logged 79.5 rides (a round trip is 1 ride) for the month and traveled a total of 1,492 miles or about the distance from Portland to Tucson, Arizona. Otak’s ride percentage of 4.9% was several percentage points higher than last year. Using the BTA’s formulas, the Otak team saved 1,462 pounds of CO2 and burned 73,123 calories.

Overall, the challenge included 12,064 riders actively logging trips, and a total of 1,372,667 miles. BTA estimates the effort saved 1,345,213 pounds of CO2. Bike commuting is a great way to get exercise, relieve stress, save money on gas, and reduce your carbon footprint. 

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September 7, 2011

Yesterday, Otakians at the Vancouver office arrived at work to the smell of pancakes and bacon, orange juice, fresh fruit and scrambled eggs. Rich Darland, project manager, treated staff to homemade breakfast as a thank you of their many hours of hard work. “Morale is good and we’re full, happy and busy,” said Marilou Davis, project assistant.




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August 16, 2011

What do Otakians do when the sun finally comes out? They play lots of kickball.

Last month, a few Otak employees formed a team, the Mulletteers, to compete in the charity tournament for Engineers Without Borders. After a full day of friendly competition, the Mulletteers placed second out of 15 teams, and more importantly, helped a great cause ($14,000 was raised).  

Last week, another Otak kickball team, the Grasskickers, won the championship! They secured a spot in the finals after playing a double header and winning both games. Congratulations!


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June 24, 2011

Chris Brandt, a landscape architect in Otak’s Carbondale office, recently won first place in the Land8 Doodle contest. His piece titled “Coffee and Cyclocross” uses spilled coffee as inspiration. Brandt said, “The spilled coffee made me think of riding in the mud.” To check out this masterpiece, along with a few other works of art, please click here.


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May 4, 2011

A few Otakians participated in Pub Trivia at Players last night for a team building event...

With the opening pitch, Martin hit it out of the park for a "parfait" answer (French word for a type of ice cream that translates to perfect)! Rainman Kilby pulled a "tornado" out of thin air to whirl the team into second place at the half. Unfortunately, we crashed and burned with our lack of knowledge in NASCAR racing, and apparently need to ask for forgiveness for our lack of knowledge in religious studies. But, in true Vegas style, we went all in (gotta go big or stay home) and wagered the maximum points to correctly answer a five-part final bonus question with our resident lushes (DH, Leslie, and Kaitlin); who knew Dan Aykroyd's signature drink includes vodka, Dr. Dre's is congnac, and Danny DeVito's is a Limoncello?!?! With our trivia skills and beginners luck, we were able to pull it out in the clutch for the victory!

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