Victoria Frey, fourth from left, executive director of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, speaks during a project meeting at the group's future West End headquarters. (Photo by Sam Tenney/DJC)
A small, local nonprofit is seeking to gain visibility by moving into Portland’s up-and-coming West End, and four of the region’s leading general contracting companies are casting aside old rivalries to help out.
The 419 Building on Southwest 10th Avenue is known for its checkerboard facade, but it has sat vacant for more than 10 years. Now, owner Richard Singer is rehabilitating the building, and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art is planning to move its offices into the third-floor space next month.
But for PICA to take on the massive tenant improvement project, it needed to take advantage of the connections it has made in the construction industry since it was founded in 1995. In an unprecedented partnership, Howard S. Wright, Walsh Construction, Andersen Construction and Lease Crutcher Lewis all are donating labor and materials as they work together to transform the 5,900-square-foot interior space.
“It’s a unique collaboration – usually we’re competitors working for the same projects and the same types of clients,” said Bill Bezio, project manager for Howard S. Wright. “But it’s been very friendly and amicable. We’re looking out for each other’s interests and for PICA’s interests.”
Singer is planning to rehab the iconic facade and install storefront-style windows on the ground floor. But the empty building had no basic infrastructure when crews began to work on the third floor.
“We thought we’d get started on construction six weeks sooner, but there were a lot of infrastructure problems when we got in there,” said Victoria Frey, executive director of PICA.
The group initially wanted to move into the building by the end of 2011, but the move-in date was pushed to March because of delays related to gas lines, phone service and permitting issues.
The design, created by Eric Philps of SERA Architects, calls for an open, flexible layout that will accommodate offices for 10 staff members as well as a variety of artistic uses and small public events.
A third-floor space in the 419 Building is being renovated by multiple contractors for the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. (Photo by Sam Tenney/DJC)
“Every designer in town has looked at that building and tried to figure out how to take advantage of what it has to offer,” said Philps, who is also vice-chairman of PICA’s board of trustees. “It’s exciting to see that space become something positive in the neighborhood.”
PICA signed a three-year lease with a three-year extension option at fixed terms that are significantly below market rates, according to Frey. The group had kept its offices in Wieden + Kennedy’s headquarters for nearly a decade, but it’s seeking to expand its presence and visibility by becoming the 419 Building’s anchor tenant.
The nonprofit also hopes to build out the 4,000-square-foot roof-top patio in time to host summer events, but plans and funding for that effort are still uncertain.
“We’re used to going into raw warehouse spaces where we have to repair the roof just to be in it,” Frey said. “That’s how we got a history of this type of ‘barn raising’ activity, and how we developed relationships with people in the construction industry.”
Frey cited an example from a few years ago, when PICA solicited Andersen Construction to build a black, octagonal structure for an event at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
“They all seem to enjoy the chance to work on creative projects,” she said. “Usually we’ll go to one (of the general contractors) and ask them to help us build walls in a warehouse in the southeast or something, but they’ve never all come together in this scope. It required all of them working together.”
The four companies divvied up the major tasks in the new space, and each brought on subcontractors to aid in the effort. Howard S. Wright, for instance, was tasked with the electrical work; the firm coordinated with five subcontractors that contributed time and materials to build out the raw space.
“It’s an interesting project situation from our perspective,” said Hal Pietrobono, senior project manager for Electrical Construction Co., which has four offices in Oregon as well as one in Seattle and one in Billings, Mont. “It was very well-coordinated with the various electrical subs – we were able to get in and get what we committed to do in a timely manner.”
E C Co. has collaborated with Howard S. Wright on several prior pro bono projects for nonprofits, and this time the company contributed approximately $12,000 of time and materials, according to Pietrobono.
Walsh Construction acted as the general contractor for coordinating and scheduling purposes. The company also procured glass, secured contractors to take care of HVAC work and provided in-house carpentry. Lease Crutcher Lewis took care of plumbing and fixtures, and Andersen coordinated framing.
To complete the work, each general contractor brought on a team of subcontractors; they included Solus Lighting, PAE Consulting Engineers, American Heating, Cherry City Electric, Cochran Telecommunications, Dynalectric, Culver Glass, Harlen’s Drywall and KPFF Consulting Engineers.
All told, the unlikely coalition has donated more than $200,000 in time and labor to the renovation, according to PICA.