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At Central Eastside Lofts, bicycle parking and amenities “fill a need”

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The Central Eastside Lofts have raised
the bar for bike-owning tenants.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Continuing our investigation into bike parking and the bike-centric amenities offered by Portland developers, I paid a visit to the Central Eastside Lofts last week. The 70-unit building is situated on the corner of NE 6th and Couch, just a few blocks from the Burnside Bridge and downtown Portland. It features ground-floor retail and has parking for 78 bicycles and 22 cars (12 on a surface parking lot and 10 garages).

I met up with the developer of the building, Brad Fowler of Fowler Andrews LLC. Brad and his partner owned the old residential building on this corner and opened the new Eastside Lofts in its place back in October. He said the impetus to provide high quality bike facilities in their new building didn’t come simply from wanting to be bike-friendly or to follow a Portland trend, it was a pragmatic decision.

Central Eastside Lofts at NE 6th and Couch.

“In the old building,” Brad shared, “my partner and I would see people storing bikes everywhere. In the hallway, in their units… there was a clear need for a better solution. We don’t view the bike room as a simple ‘amenity’ to attract tenants. Our bike room is a direct result of seeing how many bikes the residents of the prior building had and realizing that having a place to store and work on bikes would be something that residents would need.”

As Brad led me into the bike room, I was immediately impressed. The large room is highly visible, and that’s by design said Brad. They used storefront glass for the bike room all along the lobby entrance, “to add prominence and visibility.” The room is also adjacent to the property manager’s office, and staffers have a window that looks directly into it. The room is secured via key fob access and security cameras. There are two entries, either through the main lobby or via the back parking lot (both are monitored by cameras).

The racks themselves were bought from Dero and there are multiple options for storing bikes. Brad says he sent Dero a drawing of the bike room and worked with them on layout options. One option provided space for 90 bikes, but Brad opted for the 78 bike layout because he wanted more flexibility in the space. The options include: a two-level rack that you roll your bike onto; racks with hooks on the wall you lift your front wheel onto; and there are several standard staple racks on the ground. Brad said he knows many people have large bikes these days so he wanted to give them an easy option.

In addition to places to store your bike, the bike room also boasts a well-equipped bike stand with tools and a pump, gear lockers, and something I’ve never seen or heard of before; a bike wash station!

The bike wash station is essentially a big shower. There’s a hose with a spray nozzle, a big drain, and a hook to place your bike on while it gets washed. Brad said it gets used quite a bit. Why a bike wash? I asked: “We just knew we needed one. If you have an apartment, where can you do it? I do it in my driveway.”

For those tenants who don’t feel comfortable putting their bikes in the shared bike room, 45 of the 70 units have a specially designed place to hang your bike. It’s a simple front wheel hook on a wall with concrete board (for durability). It’s a small touch, but it shows the level of thought Brad and his partner went to to make owning a bicycle (or two) as easy as possible.

Bike hanging area is available in 45 of the 70 units.

Another perk for bike owners at this building is a bike shop set to open soon in one of the retail spaces along NE 6th. Brad says Europa Velo (owned by Demetri Macrigeanis, former owner of Veloce Bicycles on Hawthorne) will open up a small retail shop and bike fit studio in March. The shop will host “Open Studio” events in the bike room where Demetri will offer free tips and clinics on bike repair, safety, and other services for building tenants.

While Brad and his partners have done their part to encourage bicycling for Central Eastside Lofts tenants, he feels the City of Portland could do more. From the rooftop deck of the building, Brad expressed disappointment in the lack of good bike access in the $17.8 million Burnside/Couch Couplet project that was completed back in 2010. “Why is there no bike lane on Couch?” he wondered. “There’s nothing from 12th, the bike lane only starts at 6th.”

As for the new streetcar line on NE Grand (which can be seen behind Brad in the photo above), that’s another massive project where Portland had a golden opportunity to include excellent bike access, yet failed to do so. Now, with developments like this springing up all over the eastside, we’re starting to see the consequence of that lack of bike access. Brad said he’s curious what type of ridership the streetcar will get, but given how bike-centric his building is, I’m sure he would have lobbied for bike access on MLK and Grand if he could have. Speaking with Brad about these issues made me realize that perhaps developers like him will soon become a politically powerful voice for better bike access. For now though, he’s doing his part by offering respectful and thoughtful bike parking and amenities for his tenants.

(Note: Central Eastside Lofts have paid for advertising on BikePortland; but that has no influence on the content of this article.)