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Cook Street Apartments: Designed for the cycling centric

Cook St (4)

Originally published by the Business Tribune; written by Jules Rogers

In Portland’s Eliot neighborhood, a cycling-centric apartment building is wrapping up construction along Northeast Cook Street.

The mixed-use, 206-unit Cook Street Apartments is the largest complex in the North Williams Corridor and borders North Williams Avenue, a bike route that connects commuters over the Broadway Bridge directly into the City Center, about two miles away.

“The ongoing redevelopment of this area is starting to move toward mixed-use facilities, that’s kind of the trend in this zone right now,” said Aaron Rieck, the onsite project manager with Sierra Construction. “Also, it’s very cycling-centric — that’s part of the difference in the coding, they don’t require parking at all — it’s designed for cycling-centric commuting into town.”

Cook Street Apartments was developed by Lake Union Partners, designed by LRS Architects and built by Sierra Construction. Its neighborhood is one area that has become more economically valuable than in the past due to its proximity to downtown.

Even though the site is on a bike route directly into downtown Portland, and zoning doesn’t require developers to build parking lots, Cook Street Apartments has parking for 146 cars and 252 bikes.

“In the grand scheme of things, everyone’s going to ride a bike,” Rieck said. “But there are still people who own cars and you end up in a condition where the overflow is moving into the neighborhood, taking up everyone’s spare spots.”

As for other amenities, the residents’ rooftop patio on the sixth floor has indoor-outdoor fireplaces, BBQs, huge sliding doors that connect a community kitchen to the outdoors and a restroom. Two plazas on the southern corners of the lot add landscaped greenery and artwork in the shape of a prominent sculpted orb made from bicycle gears.

“Those two corner plazas are trying to back the building off the sidewalks to try to make it a little more inviting,” Rieck said. “If we built it straight up to the corner, we’d be up to a corner that goes 65 feet up in the air instead of a nice green plaza with nice finished on it — it’s a good front door.”

The total project cost $30 million, including a little grant money from the Energy Trust of Oregon to add efficient lighting and low-flow water fixtures. At the peak of construction more than 140 workers were onsite, according to Rieck.

The U-shaped building cradles an above-ground parking lot roofed by metal racks that will soon be covered in growing vines. Handpainted murals of historical architecture in the neighborhood adorn the enclosed street-level parking lot.

The sculpted orb, made from bicycle gears, represents the cycle-centric buildings amenities and location.

Bordering the property on the south is the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and two food joints called The People’s Pig and Pizza A Go-Go, which both use fresh produce from an adjoining garden.

Cook St. Apartments backs up to a New Seasons, which also owns the commercial leases in the ground floor of the apartment building. Those leases haven’t been locked in yet, and are still available to retailers.

Before the Cook Street Apartments development, the lot was mostly parking with a small bakery functioning as an outlet bread store. The bakery shut down before the New Seasons was built and once abandoned, became a transient hangout.

Cook Street Apartments “is kind of bringing more people to the neighborhood — a different kind of people,” Rieck said.

The market-rate units range from $1,270 for a small studio to $2,575 for a spacious two-bedroom. Thirteen of the units are already leased.

“It’s kind of progressing the long-term goal of the area they set up when they rezoned the area in the late ‘90s,” Rieck said. “It joins in with that very cycling-centric idea: you have the roads and infrastructure to support it, but you have to have the houses for people to live.”

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