Low-car, upscale: New buildings dare to expand the Pearl

Steven Van Zile and Jennifer Porter of Guardian Real Estate Services show off the common room in the company’s new 132-unit Linden Apartments at Southeast 12th and Burnside.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Two big new apartment buildings that opened for rental this month are aiming to kill the notion that well-to-do Portlanders — except for the ones in the Pearl, anyway — will always own cars.

With rents around $2 to $2.50 per square foot, two on-site event coordinators, generous community spaces, an exercise room, a huge dog-friendly rooftop garden and $700 soundproof windows that overlook some of the most impressive views in town, the 132-unit Linden in the Buckman neighborhood is seeing if Portland’s east bank is ready for upscale low-car housing.

“We wanted that quality like you see in the Pearl,” Linden business manager Jennifer Porter said last week. “We are moving people from the Pearl to this scene.”

Outside Linden at Southeast 12th and Burnside.

Porter’s boss, portfolio manager Steven Van Zile, said he realized, soon after moving from Los Angeles to start managing rental properties in Portland, how important bike users would be to his work here.

“I will never forget standing on Ankeny waiting for my appointment, and all of a sudden it’s just bike after bike — is there a derby going on?” Van Zile said. “There are 18,000 bike commuters into the city every day,” he went on, dropping his jaw for emphasis. “I just want 132 of them to live at Linden.”

So far, so good; of the 35 or so tenants who’ve signed up in the first month, Van Zile said 90 percent have showed up with bikes.

One-bedrooms start at $1,265 a month for 576 square feet; the biggest two-bedroom is $2,085 for 922 square feet. The two-level garage downstairs has 110 auto parking spaces, each of which rents separately from the units for $110 to $139.

Linden’s rooftop garden has views of both Mount Hood and downtown.

Van Zile said he’d been surprised by how many of the tenants are new to town.

“We’ve got people who work at OHSU, we’ve got retired, we’ve got families,” Porter said. “It’s a nice mix.”

Inside a Linden unit overlooking Portland’s central east side.

Oregon Health and Science University workers are a market of opportunity for Linden. For The Emery, they’re a necessity. Sitting at the foot of the Aerial Tram in the north edge of the South Waterfront, the V-shaped 118-unit apartment building is aimed squarely at students, young residents and instructors for the teaching hospital that is also the city’s largest employer.

The second-floor public deck at The Emery overlooks the Willamette River, Zidell shipyards and Moody Avenue.

The Emery’s studios start at $1,005 for 455 square feet. Most of the building is one-bedrooms in the $1,200 to $2,000 range, the biggest at 764 square feet, with a handful of two-bedrooms topping at $2,425 for 907 square feet.

Inside a demo unit at The Emery.

The Emery doesn’t offer any on-site auto parking spots, though residents can opt into a surface parking lot about one block away for $125 a month. There are, however, dozens of bike hooks on the walls of two large rooms on the first floor. (Linden places its bike parking on the walls of its garage, plus a freestanding repair stand — seemingly the latest must-have for bike-friendly developments in town.)

Upmarket rents for upmarket housing quality is a formula that’s new to many Portland neighborhoods. It’s one enforced, in part, by an arcane state property tax system that falls disproportionately on newer developments. But the developers of these buildings also made a conscious choice to put the city’s growing prosperity, airtight vacancy rates and the growing popularity of low-car life to the test — something Van Zile isn’t afraid to admit carries a dash of uncertainty.

“There hasn’t been anything built in a long, long time,” he said. “With that pressure comes going into waters that haven’t been swam in for a few years.”

— The Real Estate Beat is a weekly column. Read more here.

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