Angela Allen

The Fractal Factor, 937 Condominiums

Two years after a groundbreaking in the Pearl District’s epicenter, the 937 Condominiums building is raising the visual bar for stylish green urban living.

Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects—designer of Pearl high-rises including The Elizabeth, The Gregory and The Pinnacle—collaborated with Holst Architecture to create a building between on Northwest Glisan Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues that is to Portland what the Olympics’ Bird’s Nest is to Beijing.

Based on fractals, or “bio-mimicry,” the 16-floor tower’s brick and glass exterior imitates the orderly irregularity of nature expressed in flowers, rocks, leaves, cracked mud or beehives. Carrying out the nature theme, the pale exterior brick provides a web for windows from 2 to 12 feet wide, randomly placed, so that “every home is different,” said 937 developer Patrick Kessi, W&K Development.
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The windows’ scattered design breaks up the blocky, monolithic character of the massive building, but the striking merlot-colored balconies—placed in a carefully skewed manner on 75 percent of the condos—give life to the tower’s mass. The balconies supply an artistic element “that animates the building and gives it spirit,” said John Holmes of Holst Architecture.

Holmes’ inspiration grew out of the Pearl’s past, when it was home to artists who lived and worked in converted warehouses. He wanted to honor those bohemian roots in a playful way. “The balconies are definitely a non-linear element,” he said.

Developer Kessi, an Oregon native, calls the balconies a Portland signature, conjuring up the City of Roses and the region’s renowned pinot noir. “We wanted a color splash,” said Kessi, who previously developed the Thurman Street Lofts with partner Geoff Wenker. “They make the tower look like a delicate boutique building.”

The slender nature of the building (it’s just 65 feet deep compared to the 126-foot-deep The Gregory) adds another striking visual element. “You couldn’t find a handful of condos around the world that have those thin proportions for such a large building,” said Ankrom Moisan architect Mack Selberg, who fine-tuned the 937 design.

The building includes two upper floors of penthouses, a ground floor reserved for retail and two levels of underground parking with 135 spaces.

As sleek inside as out, the 937 Condominiums offers a range of units. On the low end, a 950-square-foot one-bedroom is priced at $346,950 compared with a high-end 2,500-square-foot $2.3 million penthouse. The average condo has 1,250 square feet, with a $700,000 price tag.

Move-ins are scheduled to begin this month, but only 20 percent of the 114 condominiums have sold.

Aside from the 937’s exterior slimness—the building resembles more a sliver, blade or wedge than a rectangular block when viewed from Northwest Glisan Street—the condos were designed eight per floor instead of the usual 16 to 20.

The commonplace Pearl condo shotgun shape was reconfigured into a rectangular design so that more of each unit is exposed to light, designers said. Redesigning the shotgun condo was a goal of the architects.
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“We couldn’t wait to get an opportunity to do that,” Selberg said. “We designed the interiors as calm, daylight-filled Zen-like spaces that do not impose their will on the occupant. It is the owner that controls the interiors visually.”

Keeping with clean, minimalist design, condos feature rift-cut white oak floors and quartz kitchen counters in white, gray or black. The kitchen and bathrooms are accessorized with high-end appliances sheathed in oak.

“They didn’t scrimp on the kitchen and bathrooms and stop at the living room, like so many of the buildings do,” said Dr. Loran Yehudai, a cardiologist moving into a one-bedroom unit after being impressed by the building’s natural light, design and quality.

Units are wired for surround sound, while windows are wired for motorized shades and come with screens.

Environmentally-friendly elements, such as dual flush toilets and built-in recycling areas, are key to each unit. A green roof, or eco-garden, that covers the ground floor’s roof creates “a park you can look at,” Kessi said, and also helps maximize water conservation and limit storm-water runoff.

The 937’s slim shape also contributes to energy management, partially due to its north-south orientation.

“While most of the Pearl’s rectangular buildings have their short sides facing north-south, 937 has the proportions of a good book with the covers (wide side) facing north-south,” Selberg said.

The lobby reiterates the building’s design elements and materials with a wine-colored wall, oak elevators and floors, and a sleek quartz desk where a full-time concierge will provide such services as calling cabs, receiving packages and making dinner reservations for residents.

Ryan Finley, owner of Surveymonkey.com in Portland, will move into his 15th-floor penthouse this month. The building’s artfulness charmed him.
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“The design was unlike anything else in Portland,” Finley said. “They are trying to make a design statement, not just a profit. The interior spaces and finishes are luxurious, but with a clean aesthetic that will allow me to express my own tastes.”

Monthly homeowners association fees at 937 Condominiums are 42 cents per square foot, which calculates as $525 monthly for an 1,250-square-foot condo. The fee includes water, sewer, data, insurance, concierge services and maintenance.

Though the ground-floor commercial spaces have yet to be filled, developers hope to lure retailers with an artistic bent. One corner, however, is designed for a high-end restaurant if one should surface.

“We want the building to be one. We want to be part of the design community,” Kessi said.

Angela Allen, a Portland-based freelance writer, can be reached at angela.allen@comcast.net

RESOURCES:

937 Condominiums, www.937condominiums.com

Chris Caffee, principal broker, City Living LLC; 503-248-9371; chris@937condominiums.com

Patrick Kessi, W&K Development, 503-577-0955; pkessi@937condominiums.com

John Holmes, Holst Architecture, 503-233-9856; www.holstarc.com

Mack Selberg, Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, www.amaa.com; 503-245-7100; macks@amaa.com