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8-15-01, The Oregonian

AN OLD JEWEL SHINES AS LOFTS IN THE PEARL

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by David Austin

Developer Robert Ball's latest project converts a 1910 building, once a warehouse, into condos

It's rare that developer Robert Ball sees an old building that he doesn't like.

The 35-year-old Northwest Portlander wears many hats, but he's most comfortable when he gets to come up with ways to refurbish a historic building.

"I just love the older buildings," he said. "When you get inside something that's run down, you have to look for the little jewels: the molding, the lighting, the windows.

"Bringing them back is something really special, and when people get inside them, it's like stepping back in time."

Ball owns two historic apartment buildings, a condominium building in Northwest Portland and a number of others in the metro area. But his latest project, the Marshall-Wells Lofts, is easily his largest and most expensive endeavor.

The building sits on Northwest 14th Avenue between Lovejoy and Kearney streets. Built in 1910, it was a warehouse for the Marshall-Wells Hardware Co.

With a $34 million budget, Ball is renovating the building and turning it into 164 residential loft condominiums. The target date for opening is August 2002 with units ranging from 633 square feet to more than 2,800 square feet.

The prices for the lofts will start at roughly $139,000 and go up to $800,000, Ball said. About 193 off-street covered parking spaces will be available to owners.

The building, which is on the National Register for Historic Places, will keep its signature water tower on top. But Ball's plans call for some unique twists.

A 4,500-square-foot atrium will be cut into the center of the building from the third floor to the roof. At the center of the atrium will be a water fountain, made out of the building's old package chute.

The chute, made of galvanized steel, stands 17 feet tall. It will catch the water from the fountain and return it to a pond below.

Next: A bit more affordable