Lab Holding moves to front-runner spot for Centennial Mills project
A Portland Development Commission committee has recommended that the Costa Mesa, Calif., firm move ahead with its plans for the project
Daily Journal of Commerce
POSTED: 06:00 AM PDT Thursday, March 13, 2008
BY TYLER GRAF
The long proposal process for the Centennial Mills development has finally borne fruit, as the Portland Development Commission announced Tuesday that Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Lab Holding was recommended by a PDC committee to move forward on the waterfront project.
At the PDC’s next board meeting on March 26, PDC Executive Director Bruce Warner will present his and his committee’s recommendation to the commissioners. They will act on the recommendation by either accepting it, determining it’s not acceptable or asking for additional information.
“It’s important to point out that this is not a done deal,” said Shawn Uhlman, public affairs manager for the PDC.
But the consensus, from both the community and the committee charged with making a development-team recommendation, is that Lab Holding had the most feasible and streamlined development concept, and that it met or exceeded all of the site criteria outlined by PDC.
All three vying development teams, including Seattle-based Nitze Stagen and Baltimore-based Codish Group, were notified on Monday of the committee’s recommendation.
Lab Holding has developed projects primarily in California, working on retail centers like the eponymous The Lab in Orange County, built in 1993. But some city residents who’ve seen the firm’s proposal for the Centennial Mills site think Lab Holding understands the Portland way of doing projects.
“Lab Holding’s proposal is a very smooth, community-centered (design),” Uhlman said, adding that community feedback indicated that it was the clear favorite.
Pearl District resident Ben Andrews agrees, saying the Pearl District Neighborhood Association threw its full support behind Lab Holding’s proposal.
“Portland needs something different,” Andrews said, “and the Pearl District is one of the most unique places in Oregon, and this proposal suits it well.”
Shaheen Sadeghi, CEO of Lab Holding, said his company’s intention was to create a development that would put the proper pieces together to grow the waterfront organically in the future.
The vision is also directed toward the past. Sadeghi said his firm’s goal is to preserve as much of the original 108-year-old site as possible and to salvage for adaptive re-use what cannot be preserved. That poses problems, however, as the site’s historic building, an old flour mill, needs to undergo further seismic tests.
But neither the development team nor the PDC believe site conditions will significantly change the layout of the development, which rests on four distinct areas.
The Orchard portion of the site will act as the main pedestrian entryway into the development, moving past storefronts and down a promenade, ending at the Willamette River. The development team plans to include outdoor fireplaces and fountains, in addition to seating for café patrons.
The Water Theater area will center around an amphitheater built into the riverbank and is intended to be the place for community events and concerts. Another feature – the glass-roofed, open-air Rainwater Pavilion – would act as ad hoc performance space during Portland’s long rainy season.
The People’s Market, the third section, would be located under a green canopy of vegetation and would feature local food vendors and craftspeople. The development team plans to open up a large portion of the wharf to create a public meeting space.
The fourth area, The Farm, would highlight Oregon’s agricultural history, and Lab Holding intends this site to exhibit local crops. It would be both educational and functional, the development team says, with the surrounding restaurants and vendors able to harvest their own herbs or produce.
“When we start peeling the (development) onion, I think we’re going to end up finding more things to do, and we may have to make modifications,” Sadeghi said. “When you’re dealing with these older buildings, you don’t always know what’s inside.”