December 5, 2019


Congratulations Community Transit! Swift Bus Rapid Transit Green Line Recognized for Engineering Excellence; Receives 2019 PSRC Vision 2040 Award and 2019 WTS Innovative Transportation Solutions Award

Snohomish County in Washington state is a fast-growing region with rapidly expanding economic hubs and urban centers. It is also rich in rural areas, farmlands and forests. With another million+ residents anticipated over the next two decades, managing growth while preserving natural resources and building for a sustainable future is a key concern for the region. These are just a few of the challenges Community Transit was faced with when they embarked on the Swift Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project nearly fifteen years ago. From the start, Otak has been a trusted partner supporting the teams at CT and helping them deliver on their ambitious promise to the region.

While BRT in general is well established system for providing mass transit solutions, Community Transit (CT) has been on the leading edge in rapid transit development and the Swift BRT system has proven to be an innovative solution successfully integrating transit networks across communities and effectively connecting the broader region. Yes, the CT Swift BRT transit project has a primary goal of alleviating traffic congestion, but the Swift BRT solution is multifaceted. It’s not just about drivers and getting cars off the road. It’s also about pedestrians, bikers, trains, and commercial vehicles; as well as the property owners, businesses, and overlapping jurisdictions that are all impacted by the new transit system. 

Holistic Approach to Design and Development

CT recognized these complexities and the need for a holistic multidisciplinary approach to designing a solution. From the very start, CT partnered with multiple agencies, utilities, commissioners and community leaders, as well as civil engineers, landscape architects, urban designers and more. Otak was brought in early on the design and development of the Swift Blue Line and then the Green Line. The Otak team, led by project manager Windi Shapley, has been an integral part of the project leading station design and providing construction support for the Swift line transit stations including design, manufacturing, and installation of station platforms and shelters, amenities, ticket vending machines, shelter railings, passenger information signing and iconic station markers. The team has also been instrumental in providing surveying, civil engineering, landscape architecture, planning, utility coordination, and construction support services and inspection throughout the project. Shapley asserts that “to be successful and deliver the best possible solutions, you have to take a holistic approach. You need the expertise and insights from multiple disciplines because the smallest things can have a big impact, and everything is interconnected – especially in a multi-community transit project like the Swift BRT network.” 

Project Recognized for Innovative Design and Positive Impact on Regional Sustainability

The Swift BRT Blue Line was opened in 2009 as the first phase of the project. It was also the first of its kind and set the standard for phase two and the Green Line which began operating in March of 2019. The Swift BRT Green Line is a 12-mile route running between the Seaway Transit Center and the Canyon Park & Ride, serving the communities of South Everett, Mill Creek and Bothell in Snohomish County. The Swift Green Line is notable for connecting  the new commercial flight terminal at Paine Field and Boeing’s Everett Factory to Bothell, as well as the Swift Blue Line and the larger community transit network. In short, the addition of the Swift Green Line is an integral component to the long-term plan of creating a network of fast, frequent connections across the region and providing critical infrastructure for sustainable growth into the future.

The holistic approach has paid as the Swift BRT lines are effectively providing much needed transportation solutions while adhering to the vision and policies around regional growth, transportation and economic development planning within King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. The results are undeniable, and the CT Swift Green Line project has been recognized for innovative design and positive impact on regional sustainability by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and received a 2019 PSRC Vision 2040 Award

The Swift BRT Green line also won the 2019 WTS Innovative Transportation Solutions – Large Projects Award, not only for the innovative solutions, but also in recognition of the leadership by the all-woman team. The Swift Green Line project team has been led by Joy Munkers, Director of Planning and Development and June DeVoll, Manager of Strategic Planning and Grants of Community Transit. From planning through implementation, Joy and June have been supported by a project team which includes over 50 women. Women in lead roles include Grants/Funding - Melissa Cauley, Community Transit Grant Program Manager; OTHER CT; Project Management of Design, Permitting, and Construction Support - Windi Shapley, Otak; Traffic Engineering Lead - Katherine Casseday, Casseday Consulting; Right-of-Way Lead – Faith Roland, Contract Land Staff; Environmental Permitting Lead - Sharese Graham, Environmental Science Associates; 128th Street Improvements Design Lead – Yee-Fan Riu, WSP; and Geotechnical Lead - Debra Overbay, GeoEngineers.

Otak has also been nominated for an Engineering Excellence Award for the Swift Green Line BRT project. The Otak team has worked with CT for nearly fifteen years on the Swift BRT program and throughout, Windi Shapley has been the project manager. She attributes the project’s success in part to the consistent presence Otak has been able to provide as CT team members and project leads have changed over the years. “Fifteen years is a long time and staff changes are to be expected. We have been able to guide the project through these changes with the accumulated knowledge and expertise gained at all stages, and a steadfast commitment to the long-range vision, mission and purpose.” CT Manager, June DeVoll further asserts “Otak’s expertise, thoroughness, emphasis on team communication, and focus on quality and constructability has made them a trusted and invaluable member of our Swift Green Line team. They understand our mission, vision and expectations. The Otak team has proven they are invested in our success.”


The Swift BRT system will continue to expand with the development of the Orange line, which will connect the Blue and Green lines with city of Lynnwood, WA, and the new lite-rail line set to open in 2023. As with the Blue and Green lines, the development of the Orange Line will also include further roadway improvements and signal improvements to mitigate traffic congestion and potential interruptions to traffic flow – a top concern for commercial and delivery vehicles. The completion of the network will effectively connect the entire region with an attractive alternative to the automobile for fast, reliable and efficient commuting in an area that is committed to sustainable growth and protecting its natural resources.

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December 4, 2019

Otak is consistently ranked as a top design firm in the Pacific Northwest year over year and has long been recognized for engineering excellence and innovation in sustainable urban design and construction. What you may not know is this legacy of excellence is on a worldwide scale and, with the addition of K2, we’re now listed as one of the Top 50 PM firms in the UK.

Parent company, Hanmi Global is the number one PM/CM firm in Korea and ranked 9th globally and the newly acquired K2 is 26th in the United Kingdom. Otak broke ENR’s 2019 top ten list of design firms in the Northwest and is ranked ninth.

Our overall rankings are quite impressive and as we continue to grow, we’re confident Otak will continue to rise! 

 Otak Northwest Rankings

  • Top Design firms in the Northwest -  No. 9

  • Top Design firms in Oregon  - No. 5

  • Top Design firms Washington  - No. 13

  • Architecture firm in the Northwest -  No. 9

  • Transportation firm in the Northwest  - No. 9

  • Multi-unit residential design in the Northwest  - No. 3

  • Civil Engineering in the Northwest  - No. 8

Global Rankings

  • Top 500 Design Firms: Otak  - No. 249

  • Top  PM/CM firm in Korea: Hanmi Global  - No. 1

  • Top 20 Global CM/PM Firms (non-US): Hanmi Global  - No. 9

  • Top 50 PM firms in the UK: K2  - No. 26


The complete list of rankings can be found at

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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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December 18, 2018

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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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September 19, 2018

Otak is honored to announce that two of our senior women have been named Women of Vision by the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce: Li Alligood and Tammi Connolly.

Li Alligood, AICP, LEED Green AP, is a senior planner and project manager who has mentored young women through the American Planning Association’s mentoring program; elevated Otak’s Green Otak (GO) Committee, which focuses on sustainable practices, operations, and training; and enjoys working with a large team of positive, sharp, committed professionals to build vibrant community spaces. Recently, she has worked as a senior planner on “The Fields,” a 264-unit affordable multifamily development and 100,000-square-foot office development in Tigard.

Principal Don Hanson believes his decision to hire Li is one of the best contributions he’s made in his 32 years at Otak. “Li’s exceptionable performance has upped our game on complicated projects and given both our team and our clients confidence that projects will be successful,” Don said. “Before joining Otak, Li did excellent work in the public sector on community-based planning initiatives. Li provides much of the glue that unifies our team moving forward.”

Tammi Connolly, P.E., CWRE, ENV SP, is a water resources engineer with a true passion for helping others develop their technical and leadership skills. She’s a role model for young professionals through her commitment to diversity, sustainability, and community outreach. Tammi is on the board of Women Leading Water and chairs the annual Women in Leadership Symposium, a place for women to come together to talk about the challenges they face in the workplace, find ideas and support, and discuss how they can bring others along on the journey. She also co-chairs Otak’s GO Operations Subcommittee, coordinating sustainable operations at our offices, including composting, recycling, transit programs, and energy and water saving.

Tammi has been mentoring a young engineer, Jeremy Tamargo, P.E., for the past four years. “Tammi’s leadership manifests itself daily through her deeds, particularly her willingness and commitment to go above and beyond her job description to support team members. She always sets high standards, challenging team members to uncover latent abilities and talents which otherwise would remain untapped.” Jeremy concluded, “Tammi has made me feel like an appreciated and valued member of the team since my first day at Otak. Unsurprisingly, Tammi inspires a deep sense of loyalty and affection. I feel grateful to call her a mentor and a colleague.”

Otak is proud of Li and Tammi for what they have accomplished in their careers and for our communities. “Li and Tammi are with Otak not because they are women, but because they are leading professionals in our industry," said Jim Hamann, Otak’s CEO and president. "It’s our responsibility as a firm to ensure we continue to foster and increase our focus on establishing a culture of inclusion and equity for all. We look forward to the continued advancement of Li and Tammi, and all women in Otak, to make us a stronger and better firm in the future.” 

The Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce Women of Vision awards pay tribute to Oregon and Southwest Washington women who are shaping the built environment with their leadership, mentoring efforts, community involvement, and promotion of industry diversity. The awards ceremony will take place Oct. 18, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel.

Congratulations to Tammi and Li!

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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 13, 2018

Congratulations to the U Champion team, an amazing trio of students who participated in the 16th annual OAME Youth Conference.

Five Otak employees participated in this great event. Stephen Wasserberger, senior project manager with DAY CPM (a division of Otak), coached the U Champion team, which took first place!

Each team of young people developed their own product or service from concept to presentation. They conceptualized a need for a product or service, came up with a name, branded it, made a promotional video in only 20 minutes, and developed and made a final presentation. They needed to consider how to allocate $5,000 of seed capital, advertising, marketing, pricing, and most of all, how to add a “secret sauce.” A panel of judges evaluated the teams’ presentations, similar to the TV show “Shark Tank.”

“I very much enjoyed working with the students,” said Stephen Wasserberger. “They are a remarkable group of kids with a strong future ahead of them.”

The winning U Champion team came up with a service to help student athletes who might not be recruited by top-tier colleges and universities. U Champion would match young people with the right divisional levels and help first-generation athletes and their families navigate the scholarship process. The service would advocate for students in what can be a stressful and complicated process.

The U Champion team consisted of Michelle (pursuing her master’s degree in counseling), high school student Myles, and middle school student Isaiah. Stephen assisted this team with Phil Miller of Fortis Construction and two people from Hoffman Construction.

“Sponsor support is critical to maintaining successful programs that champion education of our youth,” said Stephen. “I am proud to be a part of Otak/DAY CPM’s commitment to mentoring the leaders of tomorrow.“ 

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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 16, 2018

(Photo courtesy of the City of Twin Falls)

The residents of Twin Falls, Idaho, gathered to celebrate the opening of their new Downtown Commons last week. Otak designed a major reconstruction of seven blocks of downtown streets and a new public plaza next to city hall.

A professional base jumper parachuted into the street to kick off the festivities, city leaders shared their excitement in these new amenities, and it was rumored that the mayor was one of many to partake of the new splash pad and fountains during the festivities. Children and adults frolicked and splashed in the plaza’s central feature to escape the 90-degree heat.

The Downtown Commons also includes artwork, a beautiful walkway with landscaping, a special events space, and a restroom and storage building. The Main Avenue streetscape, also designed by Otak, was completely rebuilt from building face to building face with new sidewalks, public gathering spaces (including stretches of curbless festival streets specifically designed for events and markets), on-street parking, furnishings, lighting, trees, landscaping, and other features.

Otak principal, Mandi Roberts, and an integrated design team made up of Otak civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban designers, has worked with the City since 2014 when the planning stage began. “Seeing the Downtown Commons come to life has been gratifying to me because Twin Falls is where generations of my family lived,” said Mandi.

Mandy Werbeck Flett, another member of Otak’s project team, grew up in Twin Falls and supported the robust community and stakeholder engagement program that helped shape the design. “We worked hard to help the community visualize how downtown could once again become the vibrant, active heart of the community like it once was decades ago. It was incredibly rewarding to work with residents to come up with a design that is helping transform their hometown and build a stronger community. Judging from the turn-out at the grand opening and feedback from many residents, the community is embracing and loving the new improvements, and we are really proud of that.”

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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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April 23, 2018

We were excited to have strong Otak representation at the 2018 Women in Leadership Symposium on April 19. Organized and hosted by Women Leading Water, a nonprofit that provides women in the water business with personal and professional development tools and opportunities, the symposium had record-breaking attendance.

Otak not only sponsored this annual event, but water resources engineer Tammi Connolly also led the symposium planning team. A Women Leading Water board member, Tammi has been on the symposium planning team for several years, finding the planning to be just as rewarding as the main event. Liz Gilliam, Morgan Clay, and Julie Jensen also attended this year’s symposium at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Washington.

The symposium began with a keynote presentation by JaNell Cook, HDR’s west region director, who imparted her insights on how to lead with authenticity. Our HR director Julie Jensen shared her “Top 10 Things to Succeed in Business” and participated in the Organizational Transformation Panel, where panelists discussed how they are creating more diverse and inclusive organizations. Attendees also learned about engineering leadership and how to wing it when plans go awry.

During the interactive Cultural Competence Workshop, participants learned how communication styles can cause tension between coworkers or within a team. Being aware of others’ styles may keep information flowing and help individuals to feel supported by their teammates. During one breakout session, participants identified their communication styles and discussed the strengths and challenges of each style. 

Beyond learning leadership skills, participants had an excellent opportunity to network with other women from both public and private organizations at all stages of their careers. The symposium hosts work to provide an atmosphere that is open and nonjudgmental, allowing participants to speak freely about their experiences and goals. This open communication leads to shared stories, inspiration for solutions and alternatives, and a shared understanding that we are not alone in our career journeys. 

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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 27, 2018

Congratulations to Morgan Clay from our Vancouver office on being voted into the Board of Directors for River Restoration Northwest! Morgan was also recently promoted to Vice Chair on the Salmon Creek Watershed Council.

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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 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 21, 2017

Otak's Portland stormwater engineers attended the 2017 Sustainable Stormwater Symposium on September 13th and 14th at OMSI. Otak was a platinum sponsor for the event, which was co-hosted by the Environmental Water Resources Group and the American Public Works Association. Symposium presentations included keynotes by the U.S. Geological Survey, Denver's Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Otak's Melanie Klym presented on a project which used channel restoration to address flow-duration design standards. A presentation by the City of Gresham highlighted Teresa Huntsinger’s work with the City to develop a stormwater retrofit assessment tool.

The Symposium included a half-day bike tour around Southeast and Southwest Portland to visit stormwater facilities and hear from those involved in their design, construction, and maintenance. Several Otakians served as bike tour leaders. Matt Klym, an engineer on Otak's Transportation and Infrastructure Systems team, presented at the fourth bike tour stop, giving an overview of the OHSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building (LEED Platinum) site design and stormwater management. We are already looking forward to the next Symposium in 2019!

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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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July 26, 2017

Tuesday, July 18 marked the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Cascades Tissue converting plant in Scappoose, OR. The plant will convert 4,600-pound rolls of paper into various commercial and household paper products. Among the prominent Oregon dignitaries in attendance were Governor Kate Brown and Senate Representative Betsy Johnson. Prior to the ribbon-cutting, Governor Brown spoke about the importance of providing jobs in rural areas. The plant provided 200 jobs during construction and will provide 80 full-time jobs during operation. By providing local jobs, the facility will help reduce commuting, and improve participation and quality of life in the local community.

Otak provided planning, engineering and architectural services for the project. The offices and warehouse are an impressive 286,300 sq. ft. of space in the master-planned industrial area in Scappoose. The building design strives to fit within the local context and features local heavy timber and cross laminated timber at the entry and patio spaces.

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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 6, 2017

Earlier this week, our Vancouver office moved to Suite 300! Stop by and say hello next time you're in the area.

Of course things would not run smoothly without IT. Thanks Steve, Victor, Joe, and Drew!

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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 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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June 22, 2017

Otak’s trail planners enjoyed a beautiful summer afternoon talking about current regional trail initiatives at Metro’s 7th Annual Barbara Walker Trails Fair event held at the Convention Center Plaza. 

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June 19, 2017

On May 19, 2017, the ForWARD committee of the American Institute of Architects Portland chapter hosted Future Vision, a symposium dedicated to discussing equity, specifically, “The Value Proposition of Equity.” Otak was one of the sponsors of the event.

Among the attendees of the symposium was a diverse group of Otakians, consisting of employees from three Otak offices and five different disciplines (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, Water & Natural Resources, and Human Resources).

According to attendee and Otak Portland architect Amy Scheckla-Cox, “We all learned from some great speakers taking back statistics regarding pay equity, challenges due to work/life flexibility, value of licensure, becoming a parent and more.” Other topics discussed included the differences between Equality and Equity, and recommendations for firms who wanted to move forward toward a more equitable environment. Such recommendations included considering inclusive bias training, pay transparency, and re-entry programs for employees who have been out of their field of work for an extended period of time.

Otak's attendees are planning to hold a lunchtime presentation to share their experiences and key takeaways with the offices.

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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 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 13, 2017

Last week four Otak staff attended the 2017 Women in Leadership Symposium put on by Women Leading Water. The Keynote speaker was Jennifer Williamson, Oregon House Majority Leader. She said that overall, Oregon is doing well with female and minority political representation, but we could do better. Her message was to find issues you’re passionate about and get involved! Other sessions covered setting your path and how to overcome obstacles and rework your plan as needed, being decisive and taking charge of your life, standing up for yourself in the workplace, how to get involved in an organization you’re interested in, and practicing mindfulness.

It was a great opportunity for women from the Portland/Vancouver area to meet and learn from each other’s experiences.

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April 5, 2017

As part of the ACEC and ODOT Region 2 Brown Bag Lunch Series, Scott Banker, Melanie Klym, and Chad Maxwell gave a presentation on the US20: Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville (PME) Environmental Mitigation Measures. Environmental mitigation measures for stream and wetland impacts associated with the construction of the US20 PME project were constructed during 2016 and 2017, with additional habitat enhancement measures to be completed by the end of 2017. 

The contractor moved approximately 74,000 cubic yards of existing material, isolated creeks to perform channel grading and installed large wood structures. Mitigation efforts also included roughly 25 acres of planting and seeding. The presentation reviewed the unique aspects of the design and primarily focused on the challenges of constructing a large-scale mitigation project using traditional ODOT plans and specifications.

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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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March 1, 2017

In February, Otak presented the design for a multi-purpose building in Rocky Flats, Colorado in the third "Sharing Session" hosted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The community meeting, held at the Broomfield Community Center, was well attended by over 100 interested members. Amy Scheckla-Cox, Architect, presented the main building design goals which include a LEED Silver certification level and Net Zero Energy. 

An exhibit hall will feature of the life cycle of the site, which includes Cold War-era developments of the nuclear plant facility, the decommissioning of the facility, the remediation of the Superfund site and the Department of Energy transferring a portion of the property to the USFWS to restore the land as a wildlife refuge.

Currently, the design is at 25% completion and Otak is working with Stantec. Otak is providing architecture, landscape architecture, and structural design.

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February 23, 2017

“We are excited to see that the project is functioning as designed and reducing the frequency and severity of flooding on Foster Road. It is also gratifying to see the vegetation becoming established and providing additional wildlife habitat and refuge.” - Melanie Klym, PE

To view KOIN's article and video click here

For project details click 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 14, 2017


Otak was proud to sponsor the 16th Annual Stream Restoration Symposium in Stevenson, WA last week. 

The annual symposium is a gathering of all the various river restoration practitioners in the Northwest to share knowledge and explore project opportunities. Gary Wolff, a Senior Hydraulic Engineer from the Portland office, facilitated a session on Stream Restoration in the Built Environment. Morgan Haines, an Engineering Designer from the Vancouver office, led the discussion during the Young Professionals luncheon. 

Other Otak attendees included Ashley Cantlon, Melanie Klym, Kathy Mai, and Michael Rafferty from Portland, Ryan Makie from Vancouver, and Dave Stewart from Redmond.

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January 21, 2017

ACEC Washington presented Otak with three Engineering Excellence awards on January 20.

In the category of Unique or Innovative Applications, Otak was given a Gold Award for our Willapa Hills Trail Bridge Replacement project in Willapa Hills State Park. 

Along the trail within Willapa Hills State Park are numerous stream and river crossings. In 2007, a devastating flood destroyed two trestles, sending the center steel truss spans downriver. 

The alternatives analysis started after the survey, geotechnical investigation, hydraulic analysis, and environmental reconnaissance were completed. Ten bridge options were studied for each site, and after review, it was determined that a clear span bridge was the preferred option. The solution was a bridge with side steel trusses with post-tensioning tendons inside a grouted duct, which was installed inside a HSS bottom chord.

Both bridges were a success!

Otak was also awarded two Bronze Awards. 

Dungeness River Railroad Trestle Replacement project in Sequim—This is a 750-foot long pedestrian bridge—designed, permitted, and constructed all within eight months. The river and resulting habitat enhancement are a success for the native salmon. The Tribe, the local community, and trail users were extremely pleased.

Bucklin Hill Bridge & Estuary Enhancement project for Kitsap County—This project included replacing roadway embankment and two 72-inch culverts with a 240-foot three-span bridge, widening the road to five lanes, traffic signals, roadway and pedestrian lighting, storm drainage improvements, and amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

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January 20, 2017


Otak was well represented at the annual ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards banquet on Wednesday evening (January 18th) at the Multnomah Athletic Club in downtown Portland. In attendance were members of Otak’s staff, the City of Lake Oswego, and Clark Regional Wastewater District, all of whom were there to support two projects that had been submitted for awards.


The Rockinghorse Lane Drainage Improvements and Landslide Stabilization project was submitted by Otak’s Portland office as the prime consultant selected to work with the City of Lake Oswego to repair a highly degraded drainage outfall and adjacent landslide. ACEC honored us with the Small Project Award for our efforts. The project required a careful balance of environmental permitting, thoughtful civil and water resource engineering design, and geotechnical consultation. Ultimately, the project installed approximately 300 feet of fused HDPE pipe to convey stormwater through the steepest topography, created 250 feet of open channel, repaired the State Park’s trail crossing, and constructed a large shear key to buttress the slide that included 1,500 tons of stone embankment.


The Tenny Creek Slide Emergency Repair project was submitted by Otak’s Vancouver office, and included stabilizing and repairing the broken sewer line, moving the creek laterally and reconstructing the slide area, providing a streambed design that met fish passage requirements, and restoring the area with upland plantings as it is in a habitat buffer area.  We were given an Honor Award for our this project.

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December 20, 2016

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December 14, 2016

This holiday season, Otak’s Redmond office is supporting the employees of Community Transit in their effort to help homeless teens in Snohomish County. 

Their goal is to surprise students in local high schools with backpacks filled with special gifts, hygiene kits, and gift cards. These students continue to attend school and seek their education despite not having homes or the support of legal guardians.  

On December 8th, Community Transit employees exceeded their goal and delivered 70 filled backpacks for these students. Otak was honored to help out by providing backpacks to such a great cause and would like to thank everybody involved.

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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 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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October 28, 2016

Congratulations to Melanie Klym, PE, ENV SP, Otak Water Resources Engineer, for her 2016 Women of Vision award, which she received based on her commitment to the natural environment, water resources design work, and community involvement.

She has completed many stream and wetland projects that have won design awards, so it was no surprise to us that she would be selected for such a high honor. Recently, Melanie led a team of six Otak staff to relocate U.S. 20 from Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville. The project replaced a 10-mile segment of old U.S. 20 in Lincoln County with a 5.5-mile segment that will be straighter with wide shoulders and passing lanes.

Thanks for all your hard work, Melanie, and once again, congratulations.

Melanie with her Women of Vision award

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October 20, 2016

Ashley Cantlon, PE, LEED AP BD+C, ENV SP, a Senior Water Resources Engineer in Otak’s Portland office, was awarded the Young Leader Award from the Oregon chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA)!  An awards banquet was held on October 14 in Bend, Oregon.

This award recognizes and encourages young APWA members who have demonstrated an initial commitment to the profession and the Association, and show potential for future growth within the Association. The award promotes the concept that length of career does not necessarily indicate leadership abilities or potential for service. The Young Leader Award is sponsored by the Leadership and Management Committee.

Ashley was also a runner-up for the annual Gizmo Award. While not an achievement award in the traditional sense, the Gizmo (AKA Golden Knuckle) Award nonetheless is an important function of the chapter. First presented in 1987, the award has raised thousands of dollars for scholarships given by the chapter's Scholastic Foundation. Ashley narrowly lost out on the Gizmo award to Krey Younger.

Award nominations are submitted APWA peers. Here’s what the nominator had to say about Ashley and her great work:

“Ashley is a role model for young professionals at Otak and within the community through her design work at Otak, affiliation with APWA, and community outreach. Ashley has 12 years of experience as a water resources engineer. She is a Professional Engineer, a LEED Accredited Professional, and an Envision Sustainability Professional. Ashley has been an APWA member for five years; she is currently an APWA board director, previously chair of the Water Resources committee and the Young Professionals committee. She recognizes the importance of attracting new talent to the engineering field and through her connections with local academic institutions she regularly meets with students and academic groups. Each summer for the past 10 years, she has donated a week of her vacation time to serve as a counselor or administrator at the Satori Summer Camp for academically and intellectually talented middle school students. At Otak, she uses projects as teaching opportunities for younger staff by reviewing designs and reports with them. Ashley is also a member of Otak’s safety and CAD coordination committees. Ashley has prepared many sustainable stormwater designs for municipalities, and her project experience includes LID and “green street” approaches in urban environments. She is continually advancing her knowledge about LID techniques related to stormwater management, so that she can advise on a variety of projects.”

Congratulations to Ashley on winning this award! We are grateful to have her at Otak.

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October 20, 2016

Great Oregon ShakeOut 2016

On October 20, Otak staff participated in Oregon’s annual statewide earthquake drill, the Great Oregon ShakeOut. This annual event brings awareness to earthquake preparedness and safety and is observed in cities all around the world.

Following the drill in the morning, the Otak Safety Committee led an open house discussion of how the company will respond in the event of an emergency. Based on the outcome of the discussion, Otak is gathering additional resources and refining communication plans so the company is better prepared for an emergency scenario. 

The Otak Safety Committee encourages everyone to gather their own emergency kit to keep at their desk. For ideas about what to include in your own kits, refer to the Red Cross guide here: 

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October 18, 2016

From September 28 through October 1st, Otak staff members attended the ASCE National Convention held in Portland, Oregon. 

Otak’s Doug Sarkkinen, PE, SE presented his team’s 2015 fast-track design and construction of the Dungeness River Railroad Trestle Replacement project. Designed and constructed in seven months, this project resulted in restoration of the Discovery Trail over the Dungeness River near Sequim, Washington.  Otak was hired in May 2015 and the bridge was re-opened December 2015.  Otak’s team generated 10 design options with the final selection proving to be salmon friendly to the river’s several anadromous fish runs and “river worthy” by virtue of foundations capable of withstanding deep scour forces and seasonal debris buildup.   

The trail and bridge over the Dungeness River is owned by the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe.  A February 2015 flood damaged the adjoining railroad trestle and bridge and associated foundations.  Fast-track completion by Otak of this project restored use of the Discovery Trail to numerous hikers, bikers, pedestrians, and commuters who count on it as an important multi-modal transportation route.

ABOVE: Doug Sarkkinen, PE, SE, highlights Otak’s Dungeness River Railroad Trestle Replacement project at the ASCE 2016 National Convention

The event  was an excellent backdrop for connecting with partners and staying current with the latest advances in how to prepare our communities for the future. 

ABOVE: Jim Hamann, Otak President and CEO (left), and Brian Burby of Otak (right) meet with representatives from leading universities throughout the West. 

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October 14, 2016

Please congratulate Jesse Reynolds, in our Redmond office, who recently passed his Certified Floodplain Manager exam through the Association of State Floodplain Managers. This national program recognizes continuing education and professional development that enhances the knowledge and performance of local, state, federal, and private-sector floodplain management professionals. The role of a floodplain manager is expanding due to increases in disaster losses, the emphasis on mitigation to alleviate the cycle of damage-rebuild-damage, and a recognized need for professionals to adequately address these issues. 

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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 27, 2016

The 40th Annual Washington State Public Transportation Conference was held last week in Wenatchee, Washington. Held since 1976, this year’s 40th annual conference was hosted by the Washington State Department of Transportation and focused on key areas of Community Engagement, Local Solutions, and Statewide Investments.

Otak sponsored the conference and hosted a session entitled “Active Transportation on the Rise, Integrated Design of Shared-Use Paths,” which featured speakers Doug Sarkkinen, Windi Shapley, and Mandi Roberts. The session highlighted some key challenges related to implementing shared-use paths and how these challenges can be addressed through integrated design. (click here to view the presentation)

Brian Burby and Allen Hendy also attended the conference, hosting Otak’s exhibitor booth and networking with existing and potential clients. The conference and our session were well attended, and we received very positive feedback from a variety of the session participants, as well as conference attendees who stopped by the booth.

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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 31, 2016

Otak hosted representatives of the Republic of Iraq earlier this month at our Portland, Oregon office. The Iraqi Delegation was visiting as part of the U.S. State Department International Leadership Program under the sponsorship of the World Affairs Council of Oregon. Republic of Iraq visitors were representatives of their country’s Ministry of Oil, Diwaniyan Governate, and Diyala Province.

Otak Director of Contracting Shawn Goodpaster and Vice President Brian Burby made a presentation to our Iraqi guests entitled American Professional Services Consulting and Construction Contracting: An Overview. A wide range and depth of questions were posed by our Iraqi guests posed and answered by Shawn and Brian benefitting all who participated.

Our thanks to World Affairs Council of Oregon Director Ms. Amy Barrs for the opportunity to engage with the Iraqi Delegation. We appreciate this and previous international visitor hosting opportunities (e.g., the Afghanistan and Pakistan Delegation visit to Otak in 2015) to exchange ideas with visitors from around the world!  

To find out more about the International Visitor Leadership Program, please click here.

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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 4, 2016

The Discovery Corridor Wastewater Transmission System (DCWTS) is Clark Regional Wastewater District’s 20-year, multi-phase program to provide for the conveyance of wastewater from the Ridgefield Urban Growth Area to the Salmon Creek Wastewater Management System. This project increases Ridgefield’s wastewater capacity and supports future economic development and growth in our region.

Otak helped the City of Ridgefield study wastewater treatment and conveyance options for more than six years, including performing studies to determine the best route, projecting population and flow, and determining the best connection point in Ridgefield. We developed an engineering report that met Washington Department of Ecology standards, as well as 30 percent plans and a design report. Otak led the team that developed construction documents for Phase 1 of the DCWTS. This $25 million project includes upgrades to two pump stations, construction of two new pump stations, and construction of eight miles of a 14- to 16-inch force main. 

After more than a decade of planning and two years of construction, the first phase of this major project connecting Ridgefield junction to the Salmon Creek Treatment Plant held a grand opening on Wednesday! The event was well attended.

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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 29, 2016

On July 22nd, Bucklin Hill Road NW in Silverdale WA was opened after an almost 13-month closure to replace the old two-lane roadway embankment with a new four-lane bridge! 

The community turned out in large numbers to celebrate with local dignitaries and the residents of the adjacent Crista Shores Senior Living Community as they cut the ribbon and crossed the bridge.

The residents weren’t the only ones to benefit from this crossing – salmon and other estuary inhabitants now have free passage under the 240-foot, three-span bridge allowing the restoration of natural functions to the long-blocked passage of Clear Creek. Increased numbers of fish and macroinvertabrates have already been documented along with recent sightings of additional bird species.



The project also improved vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, with new lanes, better sidewalks, improved grades and accessible routes for all.



Gray skies and threats of rain couldn’t dampen our fun. Having worked on the project since 2010, Otak’s team was almost as excited as this guy!

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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 16, 2016


Otak’s Doug Sarkkinen and Greg Mines presented last week at the ODOT 2016 Bridge Design Conference in Salem.

Seismic design of bridges in Oregon currently uses state-of-the art probabilistic ground motion predictions. However, guidelines are based on horizontal ground movements under a seismic event and ignore the effects of vertical ground movement. Doug’s presentation provided a summary of expected vertical seismic ground movements and what types of bridges in Oregon would be vulnerable to these effects.

Greg’s discussion focused on the aging Fifth Plain Creek bridge that was replaced with a modern, precast concrete bridge. The stream channel was restored for improved fish habitat and to mitigate flood concerns.  The bridge construction used touch shoring to control concrete stresses and deflections in the slender structure during construction.

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May 10, 2016

Over the past few months, two members of Otak’s architecture team have participated in the residency program Architects in Schools, a program organized by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon. Amber Swanson and Nate Erwin volunteered at Rigler Elementary School in the Cully neighborhood of Portland. During their residency, they spent time with three third grade classes teaching students about architecture, urban design and the bridges of Portland. The students’ culminating activity was to construct models of the different bridges of Portland using the knowledge they learned throughout the residency. The model bridges are on display at the DOWA-IBI Group office located at 907 SW Stark St. until May 24th.


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March 30, 2016

Last Tuesday evening, Lori McFarland, Eva Ho, Marina Howard, Matthew Scarsella, and Curtis LaPierre (past Otakian) attended the WTS Puget Sound Annual Scholarship & Awards Gala at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. This event recognizes outstanding transportation projects, programs, and people in the Puget Sound area. Dinner was served, Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit’s CEO, spoke on his support of WTS’ mission and opportunities in our region’s transportation system, and then our team, including client, City of Seattle Department of Transportation, accepted an award for the Georgetown Festival Street project. A good time was had by all!

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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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March 1, 2016

Otak’s design team celebrated the recent opening of the 15 West Apartments in Vancouver, Washington.  This five-story affordable housing project provides 120 new homes of one, two or three bedrooms, supported by on-site parking and common areas that include an exercise area, gathering spaces, as well as an outdoor terrace above the entry.

Otak also designed the nearby 13 West affordable housing project, slated to open in 2017. Both projects were designed for DBG Properties LLC; 15 West is the developer’s first project in Vancouver.

In addition to providing much-need affordable housing options to an area where rental costs are rapidly rising, the design provides a contemporary new urban addition to downtown Vancouver’s core area.  Live-work units support commercial activities while proving additional economic opportunity to residents.


For more information click here.

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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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January 25, 2016

In the category of Social, Economic, and Sustainable Design Considerations, Otak was given a GOLD Award for our Overlake Village South Detention Vault—Integrated Facilities in Redmond, Washington. This project is a great example of integrated design, involving our WNR, PAD, and TIS groups.

The Overlake Village neighborhood is projected to grow into the next urban center on the eastside of the Central Puget Sound region. Plans call for the neighborhood to provide a mix of commercial, retail, and residential uses in proximity to the employment uses at the Microsoft campus and the planned East Link light rail service, targeted to open in 2023. Otak brought together the interdisciplinary skills of water resource engineers, urban planners, and landscape architects to examine options for multiple purpose infrastructure to serve the projected growth and redevelopment of the neighborhood.

The Otak team worked closely with City of Redmond staff on planning, analysis, and conceptual design for an integrated system of community features to minimize, control, and treat surface water runoff, and to provide neighborhood parks, recreation opportunities, and green spaces for the 323-acre Overlake drainage basin. LID techniques within public rights-of-way (street and trail corridors) as well as LID opportunities on adjacent private parcels will allow for localized rainwater infiltration, treatment, and open space opportunities. For larger rainfall events, regional stormwater facilities collocated with City parks will provide storage and infiltration of runoff and allow for public use over the top of the facilities. 

Otak developed a strategic implementation plan for this proactive approach to balance the interconnected LID elements, regional facilities, and parks and open spaces. This approach allowed the most cost-effective means of providing stormwater management by locating the regional facilities in areas most suitable for stormwater facilities and with dual function as public parks and open spaces to serve the growing neighborhood. An overarching objective of the project was provide the maximum benefit to the environment while also supporting a vibrant urban center. 

This first phase of implementation successfully constructed the largest stormwater detention vault in Washington. The vault was constructed within a highly urbanized neighborhood requiring deep excavation near busy roadways and adjacent businesses. The successful construction of the regional stormwater facility has significantly stimulated economic growth in the Overlake Village area with several redevelopment master plans being submitted before construction was completed. This project shows how careful planning can create a win-win situation for developers who can now maximize their site development potential and be assured that the stormwater from their sites is properly managed and for the City who wanted to the maximum the amount of environmental enhancement, economic growth, and open space in an area that lacked all three.

“It was a pleasure working with Otak, and I appreciated your flexibility as the project took its many starts and stops. 

I would recommend you highly for this kind of work. Thanks to you and your team.” 

 - Steve Hitch, Senior Stormwater Engineer, City of Redmond

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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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December 15, 2015

On Saturday, December 12, the Muslim Educational Trust celebrated the grand opening of their new community center and school. There were over 30 speakers and 750 attendees at the event comprised of local officials, community leaders, faith leaders, and community members.
The Muslim Educational Trust Center is a new two-story community center and school. The new 30,800-square-foot building includes a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, meeting room and lecture hall to serve both the school and broader community. The school will include 14 classrooms serving pre-k through 12th grade, a cafeteria, library, science lab, art studio and administrative spaces. The design focuses on creating a welcoming educational center and integrate sustainability throughout. Otak provided architecture on the project.

For more information on the event click here.

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December 10, 2015

images courtesy of Adam Simmons

The East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project (Foster Floodplain Natural Area) was designed to reduce nuisance flooding of Johnson Creek and construction finished in 2012. With recent record rainfalls, we wanted to see how the project was performing. On Monday night Johnson Creek exceeded the flood of record from 1996. The storage area filled and channel benches were activated reducing the amount of water on Foster Road. The system has proven to contain both the more frequent flood events and reduce the flooding for the less frequent larger flood events. Prior to project completion, this area would typically flood about once every two years.

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November 11, 2015

Otak joined in the community-wide celebration on November 7th to mark the grand opening of the new Bothell City Hall. Serving as a community gathering place at the center of the City of Bothell’s municipal campus, this project is part of the first phase of the City’s ambitious downtown revitalization plan. In fitting fashion, a live band kicked off the grand opening for the building last Saturday.

Otak served as the lead civil engineering consultant on the project, working closely with The Miller Hull Partnership, GLY Construction, Vulcan Real Estate, and the City of Bothell. Otak was responsible for demolition, TESC, site layout, site grading, storm drainage, water and sanitary sewer utilities, parking/pavement, and franchise utility coordination. Additional project elements included frontage improvements along the entire City block, off-site utility extensions, and preparation of an early site demolition/preparation package to facilitate the aggressive construction schedule.

The new City Hall includes a 53,000 square foot, four-story office building with Council Chambers and community meeting spaces; a large plaza; and a 254-car parking garage. The garage is designed for shared parking with future development and will be used for public parking during evenings and on weekends. To model sustainability in the built environment, the new structure is designed to LEED Gold specifications and features a solar array, a living wall, and additional LEED-designed components.

Otak is honored to be a part of the City of Bothell’s downtown revitalization efforts and looks forward to working with the City on future projects. More information on the project can be found by clicking here.

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October 20, 2015

The Lake Oswego / Tigard Water Partnership recently celebrated the ribbon cutting for the Waluga Reservoir No. 2 in Lake Oswego. This project is part of an overall water system upgrade shared by the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard to provide reliable drinking water to their citizens. Otak provided civil site design and storm system engineering on the Waluga Reservoir.
For more information on this project, visit the website:

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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 26, 2015

On Monday, a group from the Architecture department at Otak took a trip to see the nearly completed MET Community & Educational Center. The project features a large community pool, K-12 classrooms, a gymnasium and worship space, as well as a smaller community meeting room and administrative offices. The project was designed around a large existing tree that was able to be preserved.  As with a community funded project, many of the interior finishes were sourced within the community, donated or otherwise.

MET's Mission
To view the mission click here.

The Muslim Educational Trust (MET) was founded in 1993 with a mission to serve and bring the community together through Education, Outreach, Scholarship, and Recreation and to enrich the public’s understanding and dispel common myths and stereotypes about Islam. MET seeks to serve the growing Muslim community’s educational, social, and spiritual needs in order to develop generations of proud and committed Muslims who will lead our community to the forefront of bridge-building dialogue, faith-based community service, and stewardship of Earth and humanity.

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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 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 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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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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May 5, 2015

Otak’s Don Hanson recently co-chaired the City of Portland’s Southeast Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The 27-member committee held 14 meetings to discuss and review a draft of the Southeast Quadrant Proposed Plan. The committee recently held its final meeting and recommended the proposed plan to the City of Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission.

The Southeast Quadrant Plan is part of the City’s ongoing Central City 2035 (CC2035) project to update the City’s plan and policies. Otak was also involved in the West Quadrant portion of CC2035 through leading a week-long design charrette. Don Hanson, a long-time Portlander, has served on a number of committees and commissions for the City, including the Planning and Sustainability Commission, Development Review Advisory Committee, Stakeholder Advisory Group for Vision 2000, Urban Renewal District Status Committee, and the Citizen Advisory Committee reviewing the Title 34 Land Development Ordinance.

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May 5, 2015

Otak was a sponsor of this year’s Oregon Opportunity Network (Oregon ON) Spring Industry Support Conference in Salem, Oregon. Oregon ON is a statewide association of affordable housing and community development organizations that provide housing and economic opportunity for working families, people with disabilities, seniors, and others struggling to meet their needs in communities throughout Oregon. Otak’s Jennifer Nye and Amy Scheckla-Cox attended the conference and spoke with representatives from various nonprofits, public agencies, and affordable housing advocates. Otak has been involved in many affordable housing projects, and we are proud supporters of Oregon ON’s mission.

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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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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 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 12, 2015

Otak’s Rudayna Abdo and Aaron Schemeck recently spoke at the Abu Dhabi Future Landscape & Public Realm Conference at the Westin Abu Dhabi Hotel. Their presentation, titled Personalizing Our Public Spaces: How Everyone Can Benefit, offered an animated reflection upon how we use our public realm and what opportunities and responsibilities we bear in taking ownership of our open spaces.

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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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November 24, 2014

Three of Otak’s Water and Natural Resources staff are teaching in Portland State University’s River Restoration Professional Certificate Program. There are five core courses in the River Restoration Professional Certificate Program, and the courses that Liz Gilliam, Kevin Timmins, and Gary Wolff are teaching include:

• EPP 221 - Introduction to River Restoration, Part I: Physical Processes
• EPP 223 - Site Evaluation and Assessment
• EPP 225 - Restoration Project Management

Liz just wrapped up her fifth year of teaching with the program, and in addition to the courses mentioned above, Kevin will be a guest speaker in the Project Management course in December, and Gary will teach Hydraulic Modeling next spring. We are proud to play a significant role in this nationally recognized program!

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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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August 29, 2014

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

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

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

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August 27, 2014

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

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

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

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August 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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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 23, 2014

Otak’s Tonya Finley, CFCM, Senior Associate, has been elected to the ACEC Oregon Board of Directors! She is one of two women currently serving on the board, and she is the first non-technical woman to be elected to the position. Tonya is Otak’s Risk Manager/Contracts Administrator and has been active in ACEC since 2003. She is currently the co-chair of the ACEC Oregon Risk Management committee and recently rotated off as an elected ACEC ODOT Liaison Steering Committee member. In addition, she participates in the ODOT Liaison Committee, is past chair and current participant of the ODOT Liaison Procurement Committee and DBE Subcommittee. Earlier this month, Tonya and other members of the ACEC Oregon Board of Directors met with Governor John Kitzhaber to discuss public investment in infrastructure, qualifications-based selection, and other key business issues affecting professional engineers.

Tonya is a Certified Federal Contracts Manager and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University. She is an active member of the National Contract Management Association and has been with Otak for over 18 years.

Congratulations, Tonya!

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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 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 23, 2014

A few Otak staff members had the opportunity to attend the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) annual conference in mid-May in downtown Portland, Oregon, at the Hilton. The conference theme was The Power of Connection: Mobility, Community, and Innovation. The sessions focused on the conference theme of transportation connections, building community, and innovative mobility options. We had the opportunity to hear a three-time Emmy award winner and journalist, Cokie Roberts, speak at a luncheon and general session. She was an articulate and eloquent presenter who is a pioneer in her field!

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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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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 26, 2014

Last week, Nico Vanderhorst, Otak's project manager, attended the dedication ceremony for the recently finished University of Washington Bothell Discovery Hall building. Governor Jay Inslee was also in attendance. As a subconsultant to THA Architecture, Otak provided civil engineering and planning services for this new $68 million, 75,000 square foot science and academic building.

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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 13, 2014

Otak joined the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit organization that helps connect local small businesses with a myriad of development opportunities, ranging from access to capital to networking events that help foster relationships with prime consultants. We are proud of our long teaming history with MWESB subconsultants, and we look forward to further developing our current relationships while exploring new mentorship opportunities.

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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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January 20, 2014

Otak’s East Lents Floodplain Restoration project won a 2014 ACEC Oregon Engineering Excellence Grand Award!

The ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards recognize engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of innovation, achievement, and value, and winners were announced last week at ACEC Oregon’s Engineering Excellence Awards Dinner. The Grand Award was given to six of the 20 submitted projects.

To learn more about the award-winning East Lents Floodplain Restoration, please click here.

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December 11, 2013

Last month, Otak Planner and Preservationist, Derek Chisholm, won two awards for recent preservation projects. Derek was responsible for assisting CID Bioscience with their rehabilitation of the 1935 American Legion Hall in Camas, Washington. He led the historic register nomination research, historic tax benefit applications, and grant writing. Six projects were honored at the 2013 Community Pride Design Awards ceremony in Vancouver, and The Hall was one of the six winners.

Additionally, last month the Clark County Historical Society awarded its 2013 Group Heritage Award to the Kiggins Theatre renovation team that included Derek. The award recognizes “a group that has made significant contributions to maintaining the history and/or historic character of our communities.” In his role as preservation planner, Derek worked on the National Register Nomination, taxes, and related design decisions. We congratulate Derek and the team!

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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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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 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 7, 2013

Don Hanson, Director of Planning, Architecture, and Design at Otak, has been elected onto the City of Portland's SE Quadrant Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Central City 2035 SE Quadrant Plan. According to the City of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the SE Quadrant Plan will "examine a range of land use, urban design, transportation, environmental and economic development issues, which will result in recommendations for policies to guide future public and private investment and development" in the study area.

The committee will include approximately 20 stakeholders representing various interests in the area. Don brings both technical expertise and unparalleled knowledge of the City of Portland. As a long-time resident, he has served on numerous committees for the City, including the Stakeholder Advisory Group for Vision 2000, the Development Review Advisory committee, the Citizen Advisory Committee Member reviewing the title 34 Land Development Ordinance, the Committee for Reviewing the Urban Renewal Districts Status, and the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission, of which he is a current member and past chair. Don is an ideal candidate for this position, and we are confident that he will prove as invaluable to this committee as he is to Otak.

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November 4, 2013

In late October, Otak’s Tom Litster attended the Rail~Volution conference in Seattle, Washington. This annual conference attracts a diverse group of people interested in the development of high-capacity transit systems (light rail, commuter rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit), access to those systems, and the social and economic impacts on the communities served. The region was well-represented in attendance by elected officials, public agency staff, and consultants.

Major themes included transit’s impact on economic development, bringing investment to urban communities, and achieving social and economic equity within station areas. These themes represent a growing national consensus around the measures of success for 21st century transit-oriented development. Along those lines, participation by non-profits on session panels was notable. Their mission is to ensure affordable opportunities for housing and small-scale businesses in developing station areas. There were also a few sessions addressing challenges of the “first mile, last mile” for transit riders. This shows that transit agencies are thinking about customers beyond the actual stop amenities, understanding that the walk and the bike ride are also part of the transit trip. Bike share programs received considerable attention, along with travel demand management and parking strategies.

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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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September 10, 2013

Kurt Creager, Otak’s Director of Housing & Urban Development, has been invited to join the Istanbul Technical University’s Housing Research and Education Center (ITU HREC) Advisory Board by ITU HREC Director Dr. Meltem Baslo. Mr. Creager has a prior relationship with Dr. Yurdanur Dulgeroglu, Professor of Design at ITU and has collaborated as a peer reviewer on her housing policy and practice research. ITU is considered the world’s third oldest university dedicated to engineering, and it is one of the most prominent universities in Turkey.

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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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August 2, 2013

When Chairman Kim established Otak’s strategic partner HanmiGlobal (HG), one of his founding principles was to design and manage HG as an employee-oriented company. As a result, HG has been recognized as a “Great Workplace” by the Korean Great Workplace (GWP) program for eight consecutive years. This year’s score of HG employee satisfaction was 85-87 points out of 100. Chairman Kim attributes this GWP success to HG’s commitment to its staff and employee’s exercising a high level of corporate social responsibility. Highlights of HG’s corporate social responsibilities include:
• All HG employees donate 1% of their salary to charity and participate in a monthly social contribution activity. Many employees participate with their families.
• Chairman Kim established the “warm companion” program to aid the under privileged in April 2010. All employees donate to the program, and Chairman Kim personally donated $900,000.
• HG funds a scholarship program to help pay for the education of employees’ children from kindergarten to college.

Chairman Kim believes that HG’s commitment to corporate responsibility helps employees bond, work together, and have fun together while making HG a better company.

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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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July 15, 2013

Congressman Earl Blumenauer recently toured Otak’s new Portland office and met with R. Nicholas Loope, FAIA, Otak’s President and CEO. He then met with a group of Otak staff for a brownbag lunch and town hall-style meeting where he discussed the priorities for essential infrastructure, transit, energy efficiency, clean water, and sustainable economic growth. We appreciate Congressman Blumenauer taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us, and we applaud his tireless advocacy for livable communities. He is always welcome back at Otak!

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July 9, 2013

Portland’s Mayor, Charlie Hales, was pleased to host the 50th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) Conference in Portland, Oregon, from June 23-27, 2013. Mayor Hales has been a Board Member of IMCL since before his election, and he was joined by mayors of several other cities, urban thought leaders, and experts from Australia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America. The conference explored the theme of “Reshaping Suburbia into Healthy Communities.”

Kurt Creager, Otak’s Director of Housing and Community Development, teamed with Paul Peninger, Principal at Bay Area Urban Economics, to deliver a juried paper at the conference entitled “Creating and Sustaining Inclusive and Equitable Communities in the Western USA.” Their thesis demonstrated that: “If financing techniques are linked to planning and development methods as communities are retrofitted with high capacity transit, then it is possible to create and sustain equity for low and moderate income families and individuals.”

The IMCL Conferences are a joint effort of the IMCL Council (USA), University of Notre Dame School of Architecture (USA), Venice University Department of Urban Planning (Italy), German Institute for Urbanism (Germany), Associazione Culturale Polis (Italy), Urban Initiatives (USA), Urban Alternatives (USA), and the University of Ulm Medical School (Germany).

For more information, contact Kurt Creager at

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June 5, 2013

Over the last few months, Otakians in Lake Oswego have been organizing, packing, and purging unneeded items in preparation for our move to Portland. We are happy to report that our hard work has resulted in a beautiful, centrally located corporate office in downtown Portland! Our first day in the new office was May 28, and our IT team deserves special mention for working around-the-clock on Memorial Day weekend to ensure our office was ready for our arrival.

We have been in our office for about a week, and according to an internal survey, 80 percent of our Portland staff used alternate modes of transportation to commute to and from our new office. This number is up from around 15 percent at Lake Oswego! In addition to becoming more sustainable, relocating downtown allows us to establish new relationships and reconnect with our valued Portland-based clients and colleagues. Come visit us at:

808 SW Third Ave., Suite 300
Portland OR, 97204

Our new phone number is: (503) 287-OTAK (6825)

Our new fax number is: (503) 415-2304

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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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April 30, 2013

Don Hanson, PLA, Director of Planning, Architecture and Design at Otak, welcomed a visiting delegation from the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to Portland, Oregon. The event was arranged by First Stop Portland, a Portland State University program that organizes study tours for visiting delegations that are interested in learning about Portland’s internationally recognized sustainability policies and best practices. The UPC delegation, which included HH Sheikh Thehab Al Nahyan, learned about how planning can encourage cities and citizens to make more ecological decisions and to understand the interaction between the public and private sectors working together towards beneficial solutions. First Stop Portland invited Don to share his expertise along with several other prominent public- and private-sector leaders in Portland, including Mayor Charlie Hales.

Don has been an active shaper of Portland planning for decades, having worked on countless projects in the city and serving on numerous committees. He served as Chairman of the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission, which sets development and land use policies in Portland, and he is currently a member of the Commission. Otak has worked with UPC on many successful projects in the UAE, and the event highlighted the intersection of Otak’s local expertise and global reach.

To learn more about the event, please click here.

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March 19, 2013

Kurt Creager, Otak’s Housing & Community Development Director, was recently invited to participate in a City of Vancouver, Washington, First Tuesday Presentation. The event, organized by the Vancouver Planning Commission, was an informational gathering to discuss “Housing for Changing Times.”

Kurt served on a panel of experts and spoke about the importance of investing in urban infrastructure such as high-capacity transit and public schools. He warned that without proper investment in these vitally important areas, “investors, homeowners, and developers will lack confidence to help build the community and create jobs.” Kurt spoke about his work at Otak with communities in Arizona, Colorado and Oregon that have invested in light rail train stations and high-capacity transit, and concluded that Vancouver must address the issue of investment certainty or “fall behind in terms of regional competitive advantage.”

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February 14, 2013

 The Oregon Youth Soccer Association Named Victor Prudhomme Volunteer of the Year

Congratulations Victor!

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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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December 14, 2012

Last night Kurt Creager, Otak’s Director of Housing & Community Development, was inducted as a member of Lambda Alpha International: The Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics at their annual meeting in Paradise Valley, Arizona. The event was held at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountan, a four-diamond luxury resort. Lambda Alpha International was founded in 1930 to help foster the study of land economics, and Kurt was nominated by Jim Adams, Director of Real Estate with the Arizona State Land Department. Congratulations Kurt!

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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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July 16, 2012

On June 27th, Otak joined officials from the Snohomish School District and the City of Snohomish in celebrating the groundbreaking of the new Snohomish Aquatic Center. The new 53,000 SF Aquatic Center will be built at the District’s Maple Avenue Campus.

The Aquatic Center will include a ten-lane competition pool along with a separate recreational pool that features a lazy river, slides, spa facilities, and a flow rider. The project also will provide extensive site improvements that include new plaza space, 200 parking stalls, an integrated rain garden, and new infrastructure. When complete, the Aquatic Center will be one of the premier aquatic facilities in the Puget Sound.

The project team includes DOWA (prime architect), Otak (civil and landscape), Interface (mechanical and electrical), Water Technology Inc. (pool designer), and KPFF (structural). The groundbreaking was attended by Otak’s Nico Vanderhorst (project manager) and Kevin Kraxberger (project engineer). Lead Otak landscape architect, Mark Shelby, was on vacation at the time riding a flow rider somewhere on the east coast.




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July 16, 2012

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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 20, 2012


On June 7, 2012, Otak’s urban designers, Ben Bortolazzo and Martin Glastra van Loon, were invited to participate in an intensive day-long workshop focused on Portland’s developing Central City 2035 plan (CC2035). The purpose of the workshop, organized by the Portland chapters of the AIA, ASLA and APA, was to assist the City of Portland as it moves forward with its CC2035 planning process. CC2035 is an update to the 1988 Central City Plan, which is the existing plan and policy for the downtown and central areas of Portland. In coordination with the Portland Plan, CC2035 will address challenges and opportunities in the Central City to ensure that this unique economic, transportation, cultural and educational hub will continue to be a vibrant resource over the next 25 years. Throughout the workshop, Ben and Martin explored issues, developed concepts and tested ideas with city leadership, staff and fellow professionals. Results of the successful workshop were displayed to the public as part of Portland’s monthly “First Thursday” art gallery visitation event.

Submitted by Martin Glastra Van Loon


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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 18, 2012

Otak recently had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Kosovo as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program. The visitors from Kosovo met with key Otak staff and discussed a wide variety of issues related to planning, development, and maintenance of public infrastructure. Few members of the delegation had visited the United States before, and the visitors remarked that they found the exchange “very useful and appropriate to their program objectives and individual questions.” The feeling was mutual at Otak as our participants benefited greatly from the lively discussion with our visitors.

We would like to thank the World Affairs Council of Oregon for this wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas with visitors from around the world! To find out more about the International Visitor Leadership Program, please click here.

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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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February 9, 2012

December 29th was the day we all dreaded—the day WSDOT would start charging us each $7 per day to drive to work across the SR 520 Bridge. Eight Otak Seattleites: Jeremy Andrews, Jessica Christofferson, Keith Bates, Kevin O’Brien, Mark Shelby, Ryan Hawkins, Tom Early, and Tyler Christofferson, decided to band together to beat the SR 520 toll by forming a carpool group. In the month of January alone this group saved approximately $400 in tolls and another $200 in gasoline. However, the real accomplishment of this group is we managed to keep 1, 120 lbs of carbon dioxide out of the earth’s atmosphere, practicing Otak’s mission of sustainability! If we keep this up all year, we will save approximately $7,200 and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 13,440 lbs.

By Jessica Christofferson and Ryan Hawkins

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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 13, 2012

Otak attended the 2012 ACEC Awards for Engineering Excellence event on January 11, 2012 at Portland’s Multnomah Athletic Club. The event highlighted over 30 award applicants for projects completed between 2010 and 2011. Otak submitted an entry for the SW Burnham Street | Green Street located in downtown Tigard, Oregon. The project received an honor award, highlighting the street’s unique stormwater planters, LED lighting, and challenging utility relocation environment. Otak’s Amanda Owings and SW Burnham Street project manager Darrin Stairs accepted the award alongside City of Tigard project manager, Kim McMillan.

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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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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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August 18, 2011

Last month incoming 9th graders visited Otak’s Lake Oswego office to learn more about the architecture and engineering industry. The kids were part of the Summer Youth Connect program, a four-year series of interventions for targeted high school students supported by Mayor Sam Adams. The “Ninth Grade Counts” program “connects students with the academic support and life experiences to start high school on the right track.” At Otak, students were given brief presentations by surveyors, architects, planners, landscape architects and engineers and then students were given the opportunity to ask questions. Later in the morning, Otak professionals led small groups through the design process to design their dream school. “The kids were given constraints, not unlike those in real world situations,” said Ron Dean, Otak architect. “They had to consider context, natural obstacles, codes, programs and economics.


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