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Daily Journal of Commerce, November 2000


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By Gretchen Fehrenbacher

Investor/preservationist says Northwest Portland warehouse has makings of a "jewel"

Inside the old Marshall Wells Hardware Co. at Northwest 14th and Lovejoy streets in Portland is the makings of what Robert D. Ball considers a "jewel."

To nearly anyone else, it would be only the emptiness of deep warehouse space, devoid of any light.

But for Ball, a real estate investor and historic preservationist, therein lay the promise for a courtyard that would make it possible to transform the building, most recently, Layton's Bits & Pieces Outlet, into condominiums.

"I looked in there and said, "Why couldn't I cut a hole through the middle, and I thought how beautiful it would be," recounts Ball, a real estate investor and historic preservationist.

He bought the building for $5 million.

Today, his vision for a 165-loft condominium development is on the way to becoming reality. But rather than a courtyard aligning with the four corners of the 97-foot high rise, the courtyard will be turned at a 45-degree angle, shaped like a diamond. Thus, the jewel metaphor has a poetic twist.

Because the wooden floor beams run diagonally to the walls of the building, the 70-foot-square opening will be cut to parallel those lines.

Dave Heater, guiding the project for Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, said he's never seen beams running that way and doesn't know why it was done. But tilting the courtyard that way will have stunning results, he and Ball agree. Planned are interior trees and landscaping, a water feature possibly using an old conveyor chute from the building, and most of all, the open sky. People with condominiums in the center of the building will be able to look out to a place of solitude, open to the sun, the rain and even the wind.

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