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Design firms tries something new in Milwaukie's old downtown

Daily Journal of Commerce

August 15th 2005

Contractors will break ground today on an approximately $10 million "urban village" that its designers say will reshape downtown Milwaukie.

The 120,000-square-foot project will bring 97 apartment, townhouse and condominium units to the city as well as retail space on the site of a former Safeway store along Milwaukie's Main Street.

The project is also bordered by Harrison Street and a new 21st Street extension and shares space with Milwaukie Masonic Lodge No. 109, whose stucco exterior will stand in contrast to the modernistic, glassy project when it's completed late next year.

"It's certainly a pioneering project, there's no question about that," said Jeff Myhre, a principal with the project's design firm, Portland's Myhre Group Architects. "Milwaukie has a lot more historic character than other places do."

The project when completed will feature six buildings either two or four stories in height constructed of traditional wood framing, light-gauge steel framing and post-tensioned concrete slab.

Architecturally, the finished buildings will have more in common with recent Myhre Portland designs the Mosaic and Lovejoy Station than they will with surrounding buildings in Milwaukie, Myhre said.

To ensure the project's appeal to city residents, Myhre said, his design firm had to be careful to "create a variety of styles of architecture that made it look like it was built over a series of years ... rather than all in 2005."

"The people of Milwaukie want to be in Milwaukie," Myhre said. "They don't want to be in Portland."

The project will include surface and structured parking and a central green space and will harvest stormwater, Myhre said.

It's a more modest project and was approached differently, Myhre said, than another recent Myhre design, a recently announced $100 million, six-tower condominium development that will be built adjacent to Nike's World Campus in Beaverton.

"We're doing the largest mixed-use development in Beaverton that's ever been done," Myhre said. "Frankly, the process in the city of Milwaukie has been one of the most pleasurable processes to work through. The city wants to see it happen, so they've really worked with us and tried to be flexible and make the budget and the design work for everyone."

Tom Kemper's KemperCo LLC is developing the project in two phases, the first of which will be constructed by R&H Construction Inc. LMC Inc. will construct the second phase, which consists of market-rate town houses.