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Daily Journal of Commerce, August 2001


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By Gretchen Fehrenbacher

Weathered beams and timber flooring will be plain to all who view the Marshall-Wells Lofts when the time comes to sell condominiums in the converted Pearl District warehouse.

That’s the heritage real estate investor and historic preservationist Robert Ball counts on marketing to buyers in his $33 million conversion project at 1420 N.W. Lovejoy St. Not so obvious will be today’s technology in the sheer walls, built to brace the building in earthquakes. Stretching from the base of the building to the top, they serve as an unsung monument to the wizardry that makes it possible to bring old buildings into a new era.

For Ball who witnessed the process, “the interrelationship between the new structure and old structure is fascinating,” he said, noting the complex computer modeling that was done by KPFF Consulting Engineers.

“What you are actually doing is building a new structure so it becomes part of the old structure,” he said.

Ball noted that KPFF was involved in converting the Wieden & Kennedy building at 224 N.W. 13th Ave., considered a showcase project. Ball said the process involved assessing the existing structure’s mass, weight, materials and the construction methods to develop calculations of how and where the sheer walls and other structural supports need to be placed to meet seismic requirements. The sheer walls are a combination of concrete and steel.

“I remember when I was making a decision, one of the architectural firms I was considering never had done a project of this depth before,” Ball said.

The sheer walls will connect with the four corners of a 70-square-foot hole being cut out of the center of the nine-story building (one of which is a mezzanine level). The hole — finished off with walls — will allow for an atrium, providing needed light and air in the center of the building.

Adapting the building for condominiums involves some other basics, as well — new plumbing, new electrical and fire sprinkler systems, new stairwells and new elevator shafts. In addition, new concrete floors will be poured to absorb sound between levels, and to link with the sheer walls as part of the seismic strengthening.

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