Portland condominium tower project earns national bragging rights
Gerding Edlen’s Pearl District project, The Casey, claims spot as first LEED platinum condo tower in the country
Daily Journal of Commerce
POSTED: 06:00 AM PDT Friday, May 2, 2008
BY TYLER GRAF
There are dozens of platinum-certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings in the United States. But only one of those buildings is a condominium tower, and it’s located in Portland.
Gerding Edlen Development is banking on the newly awarded LEED platinum rating for The Casey, at Northwest 12th Avenue and Everett Street, as a sustainable status symbol that will help sell condominiums in a cooling market.
“At the end of the day you have to be able to sell these units,” Kelly Saito, Gerding Edlen’s principal of development for The Casey, said. “You’re bound by some economic equation.”
While it’s easier to achieve LEED platinum status with an institutional building such as a hospital or university, Saito said about 75 percent of the Casey’s units have already sold.
Gerding Edlen expects leasing activity to continue at a rapid pace throughout the year.
With 61 units, the building achieved 55 LEED credits, three more than needed for platinum status. Sustainable features include energy recovery ventilators, low-VOC material and reduced fossil fuel consumption that reduces the building’s environmental impact.
The Casey is expected to achieve a 52 percent energy savings over code-compliant buildings, according to Gerding Edlen. And as energy prices increase, Saito believes the market for energy-saving condominiums will become more pronounced.
“The general (condo) market clearly desires buildings that are green,” Saito said. “But what is the market willing to pay? That’s the question.”
He says LEED platinum certification increases construction and planning costs by a few percentage points, which are passed on to the consumers. The total cost of the 16-story building was $58 million.
Units in The Casey hit the upper strata of condo pricing. A 2,241-square-foot unit is selling for more than $1 million; a 3,668-square-foot unit is selling for more than $3 million, which includes two parking spaces.
Kathy MacNaughton, a condominium broker for Realty Trust Group, says there is a small-but-dedicated segment of buyers who approach brokers and will settle for nothing less than the “greenest” unit possible, regardless of other factors.
Most of those buyers, she said are under the age of 50 and are less likely to be swayed by the energy efficiency or increased resale value of a green residence. Instead, they’re interested in buying sustainable because it’s the environmentally right thing to do.
Mark Edlen, principal of Gerding Edlen, disagrees with MacNaughton’s assessment that sustainability trumps location or other variables. He says sustainable features are only one factor in attracting residents to a condominium tower.
And Saito says that terms like “eco” and “green” have essentially become meaningless for condominiums, except for marketing purposes.
However, as more residential buildings seek LEED platinum certification – including Mississippi Lofts, which has leased about 50 percent of its units and is aiming for platinum status when it finishes construction – the more sophisticated condo buyer will understand the sorts of energy savings attained by sustainable buildings, Saito says.