The Electric Blocks Commercial Builds: Shaping Portland’s Central Eastside into a Sustainable Hub!

Portland’s Central Eastside is making moves! For years, Portland has been on the quest towards carbon neutrality, yet commercial buildings are still the main sourceof carbon pollution in the city. Killian Pacific is spearheading the movement by redesigning and reinventing Portland’s Central Eastside. Once home to the majority of Portland’s factories, the quadrant’s lifeblood is now drawn from tech companies and creative-driven businesses. Killian Pacific has developed a cluster of innovative buildings known as the Electric Blocks, designed to be spacious and “imaginative”, adapting to the changing city!

The five innovative buildings include the Highwire, Nova, Skylight, Groundwire, and Volta (still in planning). The Electric Blocks are described as “flexible workspaces”, designed to inspire and uplift employees, not stifle them. In design theory, this means constructing high ceilings, placing stimulating artwork, and oversized windows. Office space is available to lease for any Portland business or individual on the Electric Blocks website!

Buildings of the Electric Blocks

  1. Highwire — Constructed with a renewable timber frame, it is the largest building in the region built with mass timber, ensuring it stands strong for generations. Mass timber is the process of molding small pieces of soft wood together in layers, crosswise, to form an incredibly sturdy “plywood” material. These buildings can retain structural integrity for hours in intense fires, perform better in earthquakes than concrete and steel, allow buildings to be constructed faster, cut production emissions… AND are visually stunning. 

Highwire is rated “platinum” on the LEED rating system — the highest rating for energy efficiency and use of renewable resources. Joe Thurston (local Portland artist) and Hacker Architects collaborated to meld local art throughout the building’s design. Every floor features outdoor terraces and 13-foot ceilings to create an open environment — no cubicles in this office building!

2. Nova — The Nova building is housed in the former Taylor Electric warehouse, destroyed in a 2006 fire. During the time the building’s remains sat vacant, the standing walls became a destination for street artists to showcase their work. Nova reflects the original building’s history with a graffiti-clad rear external wall—reminiscent of the former building’s art encased remains. The design commemorates the artists who built this neighborhood and honor our city’s history while continuing to push towards an innovative future.
For a while, Nova was the tallest mass timber building in the area… until word spread of the material’s sustainability and fire resistance! Now, we’re seeing the material used in a ton of newer, ever taller, builds. 

3. Skylight — Built on the notion that everyone should feel safe, comfortable, and included, Skylight has exclusively all-gender restrooms, private showers with towel service, and a hyper efficient HVAC system. The building gets its name from the rooftop common space and hundreds of blown glass sculptures, adorning the building’s interior. 

4. Groundwire — Electric Block’s most sustainable and energy-efficient building is also one of the city’s oldest! Originally built in 1911, the railroad freight depot was constructed of concrete — the renovated building used 95% of the original materials, repurposed to Platinum LEED certification, and uses 55% less energy than traditional commercial buildings. This building beautifully reflects Portland’s industrial history and its adaptive, creative future!

5. Volta — Coming soon! The build is being reconstructed from the 1940 electrical warehouse. Although the original exposed beam ceilings remain, the entire building will be redesigned to LEED Gold certification and Net-Zero efficiency.   Killian Pacific says Volta will be “reimagined as a light-filled haven of inspiration and possibility”. As amazing as the four standing Electric Blocks buildings are… I expect that Killian Pacific will have plenty in store for us with Volta. 

Dive into the details at the Electric Blocks website! We’re chatting over on my Instagram about whether Electric Blocks is the model for the new Portland norm — Join us there! I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Affordable housing for all! Catholic Charities and Related Northwest have made a collaborative effort to bring a multifamily construction project, Cathedral Village Apartments, to fruition. This will ultimately offer more than 100 affordable new apartments to families, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and those at risk of homelessness in St. Johns. With recent approval and funding support from The Portland City Council, construction has already begun and we should see completion in 2022.

All future residents of Cathedral Village will have accessibility to nearby local amenities and natural greenspaces. Units that are designated as Permanent Supportive Housing will provide chronically homeless families with access to whole-person healthcare as well as a range of onsite social services.

In summary, here’s what we can expect from the Cathedral Village Affordable Housing project:

-Safe, secure, and affordable housing. (More than 100+ apartments will be offered to those with low-income and experiencing homelessness.)
-Sense of community. (Social events, resources, and public spaces to encourage the uplifting of those in need.)
-Access to health care. (Whole-person physical, mental, and social well-being services.)
-On-site resident support services. (Housing stability, financial resources, after-school youth programs, and more will be offered.)
-Convenient urban location. (Local shops, libraries, and green spaces all around.)

Read more about Cathedral Village here and learn more about ways you can get involved to support this project here.

Adidas Campus Renovation Has Not Halted

Photo sourced from LEVER Architecture

Photo sourced from LEVER Architecture

Three years ago, Adidas HQ announced its’ intention to expand its North Portland campus by 2020. If you’ve driven by in the last few months, you’ve surely seen the visible changes that have already taken place along N. Greeley Ave. Adidas plans to more than double its current size three new structures. These three additional structures will total to 425,000 square feet to create more space for its 1,700 employees that were formerly squeezed into 365,000 square feet of space.

Photo sourced from LEVER Architecture

Following a national design competition, Adidas selected local firms LEVER ArchitectureStudio O+A, and GGN to design the expansion. The enhancements to Adidas’ Portland campus, including the new arrival sequence and two signature buildings, will be LEED Gold certified. The winning design positions the two signature buildings around a new central sports plaza, creating a cohesive campus landscape. It will also include the construction of a cycle track on N. Greeley. The improvements focus on strengthening connectivity internally between the existing buildings and altering the connections to the adjoining residential neighborhood. LEVER architecture says, “The project is inspired by the dynamism of small stadium environments where spectators and players engage in an active dialogue. The architecture of the two buildings connects creative work, community, and sport. Construction is expected to cost roughly $1.26 million.

Adidas is one of the hottest brands in athletic footwear and apparel. The expansion plan has considerably grown more ambitious as the brand’s market momentum has continued. In October 2017, the brand’s North America President Mark King said that the company would add an additional 200,000 square feet of space. Five months later, the company decided to more than double that. King also said that the new space would allow Adidas to increase the size of its local workforce from 1,700 to 2,800. This means more employment opportunities for job seekers.

While the COVID pandemic struck in the midst of construction, Adidas hasn’t made any mention that their plans have changed. Things have been quieter around the campus lately, but construction can still be seen off the main street on the new signature buildings.

Not everyone is thrilled about this impending major campus expansion. A number of Adidas’ closest neighbors are upset by these building plans. Locals complain that Adidas is imposing on the neighborhood and feel excluded from the planning process. However, Adidas reports that they are doing its best to work with neighbors and many residents have said they are positive about this expansion. The head of the neighborhood association, Chris Trejbal even said, “…they’re building a lot more parking, which is great. There will be two years of construction that will be loud and annoying and painful, but afterward, hopefully, things will be smoother in the neighborhood.” (Portland Business Journal)