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The Carson

Portland, Oregon

From asphalt surface parking lot to a vibrant pedestrian community, the transformation of the Conway freight company parking lot into The Carson is a remarkable story of urban rejuvenation.

As the architect of the original Conway freight company headquarters buildings in the 1980’s, our design team had an opportunity to first create a master plan to facilitate a 17 acre reconstruction of the area into the City’s most intensely developed urban neighborhood – a place of diverse housing, employment opportunities, destination retail, and a thriving pedestrian community. Then shape and model that framework into a flourishing place to live, work and play at the Carson.

DESIGN DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Mixed-use development that includes employment, housing, retail, open space and community spaces.
  • Embraces sustainable planning, design and construction activities into all facets of the development.
  • Supports multi-modal transportation system that accommodates auto, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit.
  • Enhances the livability of the Conway Master plan area.
  • Creates memorable places and spaces that provide a distinct character for public/community activity.
  • Fostered partnerships with the neighborhood, government, institutions and community groups to achieve common development objectives.

The 14-story Carson building provides homes for 224 apartment dwellers positioned over vibrant ground floor retail and amenity spaces, which activate the surrounding streets and pedestrian environments. Distinct retail spaces are articulated utilizing a variety of storefront types of natural wood, painted wood, and aluminum, along with metal canopies and fabric awnings to break down the street façade. Each retail space is designed to have its own personality and identity to create a rich urban streetscape and successful retail environment. 

The Carson building is comprised of a series of stacked building masses: one story at the main building entry, a three story block at the SE corner, an eight story “leg” with a glass penthouse at the north side, and a 14-story “leg” with a glass penthouse along the eastern side of the block. This stair-stepped massing breaks down the scale of the building addressing the neighboring context, as well as pedestrian environment. In an area characterized by dense quarter- and half-block buildings that are interwoven with open spaces, pocket parks, single-family houses, and small parking areas, this patchwork approach ties right into the incredibly diverse and green urban environment that supports an actively varied community.

The design team utilized the various rooftop levels to “walk” the green space up the building, providing open/outdoor spaces for pedestrians and building occupants alike. Together with the adjacent co-developed block, The Carson provides generous public open space (37% of the overall site area) to create a distinctive pedestrian friendly identity for the neighborhood – including a 60-foot-wide pedestrian accessway and 50-foot-deep building forecourt.

Tucked in and hidden from view, a continuous underground parking structure flows beneath The Carson and the adjacent block to the South to provide parking for approximately 600 cars and 400+ bikes. The Carson and its rich, green pedestrian-focused surroundings have helped create one of Portland’s most sought after neighborhoods in the newly rejuvenated community now called “Slabtown.”

© GBD Architects Incorporated 1120 NW Couch St., Suite 300 Portland, OR 97209 Tel. (503) 224-9656 gbd@gbdarchitects.com

©GBD Architects Incorporated

  • 1120 NW Couch St., Suite 300 Portland, OR 97209
  • (503) 224-9656 gbd@gbdarchitects.com