Portland’s Hollywood district is home to a new mixed-use project, The Beverly Condominiums, at NE 44th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard.
Slated for LEED Silver certification, the five-story building was developed by Gerding Edlen Development, now the largest sustainable building developer in the United States. This, along with another recently completed Gerding Edlen mixed-use project, The 20 on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, represents the developer moving to Portland’s east side. In the past, Gerding principally made its name with larger west side projects such as the Brewery Blocks in the Pearl District as well as Atwater Place, The John Ross, The Meriwether and (more recently) The Ardea in South Waterfront.
Named after a former famous resident of the Hollywood district—children’s author Beverly Cleary—The Beverly was designed by GBD Architects, Gerding’s most frequent architectural collaborator. If you put together all five Brewery Blocks, The Casey, The Gerding Theater, the OHSU Center for Health and Healing and now The Beverly, The 20 and The Ardea, that’s an incredible number of major projects between this developer and architect in the last decade-plus, all of them fairly large in scale. (And that doesn’t include the work Gerding and GBD have done together in other cities like Los Angeles and Bellevue.) I can’t think of another developer-architect partnership in this city in the current era that has been more impactful.
The brick and wood-clad Beverly is anchored by a Whole Foods Market and Chase Bank on the first floor, with two floors of parking above. The top two floors are devoted to 53 condominiums (all one or two bedrooms), which enjoy views of Mount Hood to the east and downtown Portland looking west.
The residential units share a handsome rooftop interior courtyard that feels quite different (more intimate) compared to the massiveness of the overall building. It’s a series of small forms stacked on top of the big, broad base and middle of the structure.
Inside the condos, living areas feature hardwood floors in natural red or saddle oak and wool carpet. Kitchens are built with maple or ash cabinetry with stainless steel hardware.
For optimal indoor air quality The Beverly was built with materials emitting low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or formaldehydes. The building team, led by general contractor R&H Construction, also recycled all construction waste. And The Beverly provides 100 percent storm water filtration.
When I first heard about this project, I was disheartened because constructing The Beverly meant the mid-century modern bank on this site, an elegant glass and concrete structure, had to be torn down. At the same time, there is reason to cheer this new building because of the density it adds to the Hollywood district given its relatively close-in location and its proximity to a MAX stop. The Beverly is part of Gerding Edlen's broader focus on what's commonly referred to in sustainability talk as "20-minute living," or the notion that most of the things we need (jobs, shops, services) can be found within a twenty-minute walk.
Viewing the block-sized building from Sandy Boulevard, I enjoyed the façade’s interplay of textures, particularly the natural wood cladding of the upper portions and how it contrasts with the brick below.
Standing on the street outside the building can look monolithic and imposing, particularly towards the back. However, because of the triangular building footprint created by Sandy Boulevard, The Beverly is at its most slender and visually appealing at the point from which it will most people will see it. What’s more, it is very difficult to make a parking garage look humane and vibrant. They’re a necessary aesthetic evil of having automobiles.
Naturally, were the parking garage underground and The Beverly instead a three story building with Whole Foods and Chase on the ground floor and the condos directly above, it could have made for a more attractive piece of architecture and a more pleasant experience for the casual passer by. The subterranean parking would also have added significant costs to the project, and the land cost east of the river must not have allowed it in the building’s budget. As a result, the residential units on top of the garage feel less connected to the street and the neighborhood. That makes the building feel less attractive ultimately than comparable projects like Museum Place downtown, which GBD also designed, or the Brewery Blocks that Gerding Edlen and GBD previously collaborated on (one of which has another Whole Foods).
To be honest, I'm not sure exactly how to judge a project like The Beverly. It earns very positive marks by a number of measuring sticks, from its sustainability to the attractiveness of its materials to the way it contributes to Hollywood’s future as a higher-density, transit oriented neighborhood. But it’s a bulky building with a parking garage enlarging what would otherwise have been a more intimately scaled mixed use building. And yet I'm also not sure if it's fair to critique a building's design based in part on what might have been in terms of program (with underground parking). In that way, perhaps this project is a reminder of both the opportunities and challenges, economically and in terms of design, along Portland’s continued path towards higher density.