Over the past several years I've had the chance to meet and write about a variety of Portland developers working in places like the Pearl District, downtown, and South Waterfront. But for quite awhile I've wanted to learn more about some of the developers working in other parts of the city on smaller-scale commercial, residential and mixed-use projects.
That was my motivation for having coffee this morning with Randy Rapaport, developer of the Belmont Street Lofts on Southeast Belmont Street. Designed by Holst Architecture, who are in my opinion easily one of the most talented firms in town, The Belmont Lofts are a beautiful work of architecture. If only the average new building in the Pearl District were even half as nice!
But beyond his efforts developing the Belmont Lofts, Randy Rapaport is a developer to watch. More than any other developer I've met in this city so far, Randy has a genuine passion for architecture. He wants to do great work. Sure, he has only one ground-up building to show for himself so far, but I came away exceptionally impressed with this guy. At a recent PNCA event, Brad Cloepfil called Randy "...the most progressive developer in Portland. He takes risks." And I wouldn't argue.
Randy has a very eclectic background. Originally from Maine, he spent ten years as an investment advisor before going to grad school and becoming a school psychologist. He also is a fervent arts supporter. For those of you who know the superb indie rock band The Flaming Lips, Randy was actually onstage at the band's New Year's Eve show last year at Madison Square Garden, dressed up in an animal costume. Randy is also the sponsor of a terrific retrospective of Robert Frank's films beginning next week at Cinema Project. He even has volunteered his development services pro bono to PNCA to build an Allied Works-designed tower for student housing. "I'm so passionate about what I'm doing," Randy told me. "I want to express myself at the highest level no matter what I'm doing."
Randy Rapaport's next building, still in the works, is a multifamily housing project on Southeast Division near Clinton, called "The Clinton" but actually named for Clintons Bill and George as much as the adjacent street. Designed again by Holst, the rendering I saw was very impressive, featuring multicolored translucent glass panels amidst a sculpted concrete form not unlike Stuart Emmons' proposal for Fire Station #1.
As Southeast, Northeast and other parts of Portland become more feasible for mixed-use projects, developers like Randy will increasingly come to rival bigger developers in terms of relevance and project scope. And if projects like the Belmont Lofts are any indication, there could be a much brighter future architecturally for Portland if people like Randy have their way.