Lloyd District: Ecotopia

With a new lush public plaza and major face-lift for the aging mall, Portland’s first “ecodistrict” will be a lean, green, sustainable machine.

By Randy Gragg April 2, 2014 Published in the April 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Hassalo on Eighth
Developer: American | Assets: Trust | Architect: GBD & Place | Live: 657 apartments | Shop: 58,000 square feet | Parking: 1,200 cars/1,157 bikes | Probability: Under construction | Architecture: Here, the landscape will be the thing.

Long lauded by friends for her excellent tamales, Paula Asuncion opened Mixteca, a food stand at the Lloyd Farmers Market, last summer. Nearby office-tower workers soon dubbed Mixteca’s weekly appearance “Tamale Tuesdays,” and Asuncion found herself shredding meat and pounding masa three days in advance to meet the demand. 

Next year, Tamale Tuesdays will happen next to a new building called Hassalo on Eighth—657 apartments and 58,000 square feet of retail surrounding a new public plaza, developed by the San Diego real estate investment firm American Assets Trust and designed by Portland’s GBD Architects. And they’re just getting started: AAT owns 14 more blocks in the neighborhood, some already being readied for development. Meanwhile, the recent Dallas-based buyer of Lloyd Center, Cypress Equities, unveiled a major face-lift for the ungracefully aging mall in January.

Envisioned by Ralph Lloyd in the 1920s as Portland’s new city center, the Lloyd District has long been more defined by its 70 acres of parking lots than by its towers. City plans in 1988 and 2001 to add housing largely remained just that—plans. In 2009, with funding from the state, a committee of political heavy hitters proclaimed the entire 368-acre area, stretching from the Lloyd Center Mall to the Rose Quarter, Portland’s first “ecodistrict,” with plans for district-wide systems that would create energy and manage wastewater. 

AAT—a real estate investment trust so wealthy its CEO recently boasted that no loans were needed to build the first phase’s 1 million square feet—is bringing those aspirations to life, in a neighborhood with rents up to 25 percent lower than those in the Pearl District. Rooftop solar systems will heat all of the water for the project’s apartments. Instead of paying the city to expand main sewer lines to the development, AAT is effectively going off-grid, creating the nation’s largest “living machine” to treat all of the building’s waste, recycling the resulting “gray water” to flush toilets and water plants in the 13,000-square-foot public plaza and green street that the new buildings will surround. “We had an opportunity to do a demonstration project at a neighborhood scale,” says GBD’s Kyle Andersen.

Lloyd Farmers Market manager Alicia McAvay says she doesn’t know whether the market will move to the new plaza or how she might change its hours to accommodate the influx of new neighbors. Asuncion’s daughter, Ale Felipe, says Tamale Tuesdays will look a little blue—as in the blue-corn tamales they hope to add to their expanded menu.

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