As reported by the Portland Business Journal's Erik Siemers, wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems announced today that the company will lease the circa-1927 Meier & Frank Delivery Depot warehouse at 14th and Everett in the Pearl District and renovate it into a 172,000-square-foot headquarters.
Portland developer Gerding Edlen had bought the warehouse in October 2007 for $15 million and planned to start renovating the building in May 2008 with GBD Architects responsible for a LEED-rated design. But plans were scaled back when the economy crashed.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. That means the renovation's design will have to adhere to regulations regarding the maintenance of its historic character. But that's something Gerding Edlen already has experience with: the Portland Armory was renovated by the company with the help of GBD Architects into the nation's first National Register-listed, LEED Platinum-rated green building.
The $66 million project is expected to generate about 600 construction jobs.
Vestas received both state and city incentives, including $1.25 million in state tax credits and another $1 million from the state’s strategic investment fund. The city will give the company a 15-year, interest-free loan for $8.105 million. The company is expected to repay the loan within five years. As part of the agreement, the company, which employs 400 locally, must add at least 100 jobs within the next five years. Once built out, the building will have room to house 600 workers.
Construction will begin in October. Vestas plans to move to the building in early 2012.
Two years ago, the Danish company announced it would build a $250 million, 600,000-square-foot new North American headquarters in the South Waterfront. That building, which was to have been designed by Portland firm Ankrom Moisan, could have eventually housed 850 employees. But Vestas mothballed the plan in April 2009 when the economy collapsed.
Since then, there were rumors that the company might relocate its North American headquarters to Denver, where it has its manufacturing operations and is planning a research and development. The company told the Business Journal it also looked at sites in Texas and around the Portland area before deciding on the Meier & Frank warehouse.
According to Gerding Edlen's announcement about the Vestas project, the building renovation team includes GBD Architects (as lead architect and architect of record), the firm Gerding planned for the 2008 renovation, but will also include Ankrom Moisan Architects and Peter Meijer Architect as well as engineering firms Glumac and KPFF and builder Skanska.
Speaking briefly today with Gerding Edlen president Mark Edlen, I was told that the design will include a large central atrium that will fill the old warehouse with natural light - something that preliminary indications seem to show will be approved by those in charge of maintaining the integrity of historic landmarks protection.
The local economy, especially the building industry, is still floundering. But Vestas staying in Portland is a big financial boon, as well as a chance for the Pearl District's biggest remaining empty, unrenovated warehouse to be given new life.
What's more, the renovated M&F warehouse will give Portland's greenest developer and at least of its major green architecture firms an opportunity to demonstrate how the most sustainable way to build is to renovate an existing building.