Nurturing Growth in Lents Town Center

by Garrett Martin

On Sunday October 23rd of last year, we joined Bremik Construction and the Portland Development Commission to strike golden shovels into the ground and begin construction on the 9101 SE Foster project, a mixed-use multi-family building in the heart of Lents Town Center.

When complete, our building will accommodate 64 apartments on 3 floors, over a podium of storefront commercial spaces.  Funded by the Portland Housing Bureau and developed by the Portland Development Commission (PDC), the studio, 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units will be priced in a 60/40 ratio of market-rate and 60% median-income ‘affordable’ rents. This is the first new construction project actually developed, owned, and managed by PDC. As such, it stems from a unique development pro-forma which places the needs of the community on equal par with more conventional real estate investment priorities. The first of five such buildings to rise on formerly derelict and underserved sites in a once vibrant historic downtown, the 9101 building aims to be both a vanguard and a symbol for a new type of long-awaited, neighborhood-tailored development in Portland.

With construction booming and housing costs skyrocketing in Portland, most dense multi-family developments are greeted with suspicion by surrounding communities. But things are different in Lents Town Center. While traditionally desirable neighborhoods are pushing back against a wholesale ‘boutique-ification’ of their existing urban character and housing stock, Lents contends with empty lots, vacant storefronts, and a lost vibrancy in its once bustling commercial core. Like many ‘outer ring’ suburbs, this formerly autonomous town once enjoyed its own independent identity, founded amid farmland but ultimately subsumed by 20th-century auto-sprawl. With Portland’s ascendancy as a dense and livable urban sanctuary, Lents and its neighboring districts found themselves on the outside looking in, missing out on much of the civic and social amenities afforded to the sexier, more affluent and close-in areas of the central city.

Down but not out, Lents residents kept up continuous pressure at City Hall, pushing for the establishment of the Lents Urban Renewal District in 1998. Eighteen years and tens of millions of public investment dollars later, the tide finally appears to have turned. With a recovering economy and soaring central city development costs, the neighborhood has at last proven to be fertile ground for the investment needed to spark meaningful progress. Yet the neighborhood will not see itself gentrified into placelessness. With the help of PDC as major land owner, the uniquely scrappy ‘Lents Grown’ spirit was carefully baked into development guidelines aimed to germinate local business in a renewed Town Center while providing much needed housing for a priced-out middle class. A key component of this plan was to mix new locally owned commercial spaces with truly sustainable affordable housing—not just for the poor, but also for stable working-class mid-wage earners who comprise the backbone of Lents’ multicultural identity. The goal was not for gentrification from above, but rather for renaissance from within. With the help of public incentives and investments, the development community is now responding.

 

Sense of Place

As a catalyst for this awakening, Hacker’s 9101 Building seeks a key role in linking Lents Town Center’s proud past to an optimistic future. With ‘Lents Grown’ baked into the DNA of the design, every aspect of the building has been tailored to enhance the existing strengths and local character of the neighborhood. The overall silhouette of the building is designed to reinforce Lents’ character of small-town urbanism where modest homes and gardens surround a welcoming, walkable town center. Its exterior materials pose a modern interpretation of the area’s agrarian roots, matching deeply textured wood cladding with structurally-glazed aluminum storefronts, to strike a balance between machine-refined and handmade rustic.

The building is sited to leverage its close proximity to a rare variety of transportation options found in the area. Car parking is not forgotten but bicycle parking is to be celebrated, on display alongside the shopfronts  of 92nd Avenue. Along the sidewalks of SE 92nd and Foster, the building aims to restore the commercial streetscape of the Town Center by wrapping two major streets in pedestrian-friendly storefronts. The busy angular slice of Foster Road is woven into the building’s shape with apartment balconies and a public courtyard acting as buffers from the clamor of the street. A tree-lined and generously planted courtyard extends the storefront along Foster Road deep into the lot to add sorely needed public gathering space at the street level. The apartments are designed to maximize access to daylight and fresh air for residents within a variety of sizes and bedroom counts, including a number of 3-bedroom units tailored to families currently underserved by the housing market. With a mandate for LEED Gold rating, the 9101 Building will also enhance the health of its residents and the region for generations to come.

As construction progresses, we will continue to enjoy this opportunity to nurture the development of a building that represents so much more than itself. And in October we will all get to see what a ‘Lents Grown’ building really looks like.

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Hackers = Makers

by Scott Barton-Smith

If you’ve been to Hacker’s office in the past year and a half, you probably noticed art on the walls of our building’s vestibule and reception area. This rotating Makers exhibit showcases the off-hours work of our multi-talented team. By day we are architects, interior designers, and talented support personnel; by night we are artists. What began as a desire to exhibit some of our creative endeavors outside of work has turned into an amazing get-to-know-you. Every couple of months, a new batch of artistic expression graces our walls and gives us insight into our colleagues’ broad talents, inspiration, and personalities. Twelve Hackers have already displayed their art since October 2015 and there is no sign of it stopping! Scroll through for a sampling…

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Hacker Builds!

by Garrett Martin

Our website typically shows you beautiful photos of our completed projects, or equally beautiful renderings of our projects “on the boards.” Have you ever wondered what happens in-between, or when those renderings will finally take actual form? Despite how it may appear sometimes, it all doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye or under cover of darkness.

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What Pro Bono Work Has Taught Us

by Audrey Alverson

Pro bono architecture: Why do we do it?

Hacker has long been a signatory of the 1+ Program, which challenges designers to dedicate 1% or more of their time to pro bono service – but through trial and error over the years, we often found it challenging to bring this work to fruition. After a few fits and starts, and some mostly small-scale projects and studies, last year we decided to put some teeth to our commitment to pro bono service. Through this process, we’ve learned that the problem was never a lack of desire or good intentions, but more so a lack of planning.

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Nurturing Growth in Lents Town Center

by Garrett Martin

On Sunday October 23rd of last year, we joined Bremik Construction and the Portland Development Commission to strike golden shovels into the ground and begin construction on the 9101 SE Foster project, a mixed-use multi-family building in the heart of Lents Town Center.

Read more

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Why Hacker Started Paying for Parental Leave

by Sarah Bell

This year, Hacker implemented a new paid parental leave policy, covering six weeks at full salary for birth mothers and about four and ½ weeks full salary for a spouse of the parent who gives birth (adoptive parents get the same). This is in addition to the flexible paid time off granted to every Hacker employee.

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A Saturday with Lou

by Scott Barton-Smith

Nearly half of the Hacker team caravanned north to attend the final day of the Bellevue Arts Museum’s retrospective Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture on April 30th. Although the exhibit includes video interviews of notable architects enthusing Kahn’s work, we had a more interactive guide. Our firm founder Thom Hacker gave us a personalized tour of the exhibit, which includes several projects on which Thom collaborated with his mentor “Lou.” The exhibit features many models and drawings prepared by Kahn’s office spanning projects from the Esherick House to more well know works like The Salk Institute, The Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. The exhibit even includes a full scale reproduction of the famous window seat designed for the Fisher house. Much of this material has not seen the light of day since Kahn’s death and it is remarkable that the large yet delicate cardboard, clay, and wood models survived.

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University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility Wins COTE Award

by Nic Smith

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From the Vaults: High Desert Museum

by Sarah Bell

When the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon’s New Home had its dedication last year, I drove to Bend for the day with my two youngest boys, who were both under 5 years old. I arrived several hours before the dedication with both boys needing to expend energy built up over the 3-hour car ride. Not having planned on it, I took them to the High Desert Museum – not because I wanted to show them a Hacker building, but because I knew it would wear them out.

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Designing for Design Schools: What type of collaboration space works?

by Becca Cavell

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Denny Hall Finally Gets Its Due

by Stephanie Shradar

At the University of Washington, Denny Hall has been awaiting revitalization for nearly a decade. During that time, Hacker has been working on and off again to get UW the final product. The project has gone through funding stalls and starts; the design firm has gone through two name changes; and the building has patiently awaited its new core.

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