What I want to know is what dufus decided to name an apartment building aimed at young people in Portland "Freedom Center 1".
I will say that while "Fosler Architecture" has a third-rate website, a pathetically lame logo, and the Overton could only be approved by the design commission if their drinks were spiked with lsd, the live/work project they are working on at Alberta and 13th-ish was looking pretty terrific last time I was up there.
Pearl apartments billed as affordable alternative
POSTED: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 04:09 PM PT
DJC (story here
Georgia Hussey at Design Within Reach in the Pearl District says that she would be interested in a development like Freedom Center 1 as long as it is designed well. Rent would be approximately $795 for a 300-square-foot studio. (Photo by Dan Carter/DJC)
For many young adults, leaving the nest means moving into dormitories. But a new development planned for the Pearl District will offer an alternative: small, simply-designed units for young workers and students looking for their own space in the former industrial district.
The question is whether fledgling Portlanders will flock to the Freedom Center 1 units that will average 300 square feet at approximately $795 per month.
For two women who work in the Pearl District - Kristin Collins, a Moule shopgirl, and Emma Wegener, a Caffe Umbria barista - the answer is ‘no way.’
“I think that’s insane,” Collins said. “I have a 550-square-foot condo that was just renovated in Northwest (Portland) that I pay $1,000 per month for. I like the idea of smaller spaces, but $800 for 300 square feet is too much.”
“The studio I have now in Southeast (Portland) is $700 for 475 square feet,” Wegener said. “(The new development) could be good for college kids, but people that work in this area are either kids or rich. It’s too small for someone with a career.”
The units are small out of necessity, according to architect Steve Fosler of Fosler Portland Architecture. To keep rents reasonable without using housing subsidies, Fosler and developer Mark Madden sought aggressive construction bids and worked to make the project as dense as possible, fitting 150 units onto the $14.5 million development’s half-block site.
“There’s economy in the size of the units and the building is designed simply,” Fosler said. “It’s four stories with standard framing. I tried to keep it cool, but with a simple box design.”
Fosler says units will vary in size, but at an average of 300 square feet with a small fridge, a cooktop, a sink, a shower and a bike rack. Madden says the units’ size will not be a drawback, but rather a draw.
“It’s a lifestyle to live in the Pearl,” Madden said. “It’s not about having 2,000 square feet. It’s having a place to cook, sleep and shower, and then be on the run.”
For former New Yorker Georgia Hussey, an employee at Design Within Reach in the Pearl District, 300 square feet doesn’t seem that bad. She currently lives with her partner in a condo near the Pearl.
“I’m into design so there’s a lot I would do with a small space like that,” Hussey said. “If I lived alone, I would consider living somewhere like Freedom Center, especially if it were well designed.”
Camille Mongeon, a barista at Caffe Umbria, agreed with Hussey that details will attract renters to a project like Freedom Center 1.With other low-income housing in the area such as The Sitka, which offers 348- to 488-square-foot studios for around $400 to $685 per month, Freedom Center will need something special to be able to compete. The Sitka leases its apartments based on income requirements, however, while Freedom Center 1 will be open to all renters.
“It depends on how nice they are,” Mongeon said. “If you have the view that some condos in the Pearl have, it would be worth the money.”
Besides young professionals, Madden also hopes to promote his project as a dormitory alternative for students attending the Art Institute of Portland, the Pacific Northwest College of Art or Portland State University. Pearl District Neighborhood Association board member Patricia Gardner says her group has been working for some time to make the area more demographically diverse.
“A dorm is typically 250 square feet, and you have to share it,” Gardner said. “But here you get it all to yourself. The rent seems a little high, but they will figure that out. If the units don’t rent, they will have to lower the rent.”
Students desire to have their own space, even if it’s small, according to Jason Clary, dean of student affairs at the Art Institute of Portland. Clary works to place incoming students into Art Institute affiliated housing at Goose Hollow Plaza, The Vue apartments, and The Arthur apartments. He said those fill up fast.
“We transformed an old hotel, The Arthur, into student housing because students were requesting more privacy,” Clary said.
But some people, like Art Institute of Portland student Michaela Cramer, may be hesitant to settle for a small space.
“I probably wouldn’t be interested,” Cramer said. “I pay $500 and have a roommate at my apartment now on Southwest Cain, and it’s 1,100 square feet. And I have a lot of stuff.”
Another student at the Art Institute of Portland, Becky Gilliam, said she would be interested in Freedom Center 1 because she doesn’t like her current digs at The Arthur, which she describes as ‘scary and expensive.’ Because her parents pay for her housing, she said the proximity of Freedom Center 1 to school would outweigh the cost. If she were footing the bill herself, however, the cost to live at Freedom Center 1 would be more of an issue, she said.
The project is awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Madden said he is financing the project with Section 221(d)(4) mortgage insurance and that approval by HUD is necessary before he moves forward with construction. If Freedom Center 1 is successful, he plans to create similar high-density projects near Portland State University, hospitals and schools around the city.
“Whether it’s us or another developer doing it, I think this product will be commonplace in the next five years,” Madden said.