Johnson Street Townhomes

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In this project, a new townhouse development is built in a historic warehouse quarter located near downtown Portland, Oregon.  These townhouses were designed to complement the scale and texture of the neighborhood’s industrial character, and provide a strong street-level presence creating a sense of community and safety.

Location: Portland, Oregon, United States. Historic Warehouse District

The Johnson Street Townhomes project is located in the Pearl District, a historic warehouse quarter located near downtown Portland, Oregon. These townhouses were designed to complement the scale and texture of the neighborhood’s broad-shouldered, industrial character, and offer an alternative to the area’s single story flats. A strong street-level presence marks this development, creating a sense of community as well as a sense of safety in a previously low-density area.

“This is a refreshing example of handsome, well-detailed modernist architecture in a New Urbanist project. The Townhomes project is ingenious in the way it achieves high densities without loss of open space, provided in the form of courtyards,” comments juror Robert Campbell.

The project’s design connects the building to the historic origins of the neighborhood. Flat roofed brick structures with bold expanses of metal windows and steel outside decking are a reminder of the stalwart industrial heritage of the site. The exterior masonry blends with the existing warehouse buildings while the building’s geometry references the warehouse aesthetic of the area. The scale and design of the townhouses also disguise the density of 26 units to the acre.

The expansive windows of the townhouses illuminate the public realm, and provide a shared sense of security and comfort to the community. The residences are raised slightly from the street, so as not to intrude on the passersby, and to provide a sense of privacy and refuge for the people within. The street level presence contributes to an interactive pedestrian experience, linking the townhouses to the nearby galleries, shops and restaurants. A small foreground garden offers a calming, green welcome; and courtyard stoops and decks line the streetscape to act as porches bridging the gap between the public and private realms.

A unique aspect of the Townhomes is its ability to provide an attached two-car garage, yet also provide ample light to the interior of the units. This is achieved by a large, highly private, outdoor courtyard area that also serve as a well of light for the homes. Alley-accessed garages to the rear of the project accommodate automobiles; glass garage windows provide a friendlier ground level experience. The second bedroom is located over the garage, and a roof deck is situated atop the second bedroom. These inhabitable adjacent spaces help soften the alley to feel more like a lane, and reinforce a sense of security with enhanced resident presence.

Developments like the Johnson Street Townhomes exemplify the important effort to reclaim a largely abandoned urban industrial landscape with a mixed income and mixed culture community. The project proves that high-end residential infill can work to enliven urban core communities with beautifully designed homes and workplaces. Growth in the Pearl District has recycled existing infrastructure and relieved some of the demand on the environmentally sensitive fringes of the Portland metropolitan area while providing a fulfilling community experience. Residents can walk safely and enjoyably to work, restaurants, entertainment, parks and friends’ residences or take advantage of Portland’s sophisticated transit systems (which includes free bikes and light rail) to other Portland districts and beyond.

Transect Zone(s): T5 center, T6 core.
Status: <Unknown>
Project or Plan's Scale: Street
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Project team designers: Mithun Architects + Designers + Planners
Project team developers: Hoyt Street Properties

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