In my somewhat long hiatus from blogging (I even took two weeks off from FDL…), I have been anything but idle. Three weeks ago yesterday, I set upon this condo, ripping out the shag carpets, knocking out the wall and closet between the kitchen and living room, getting rid of the dozen-odd louvered doors, removing the foil and grasscloth wallpaper, taking the smoked mirrors off the walls, painting the walls and ceilings (after the historic 15% asbestos popcorn ceilings were removed…), and installing bamboo floors with a cork underlayment.
Although paint is still thin here and there, and new doors are still a distant aspiration, the place is livable enough that I thought I’d share some photos. The building lies at what might delicately be called the ass end of Lawrence Halprin’s famed pedestrian malls, where the magnificent and popular fountains peter out into a bland courtyard with a somewhat half-hearted piece of 1970′s sculpture looking like an afterthought.
The tallest and central tower of three, Grant Tower sits atop a gigantic, four floor underground parking garage that connects all three buildings and their common recreation center; there are two gyms, an indoor and outdoor pool and uniquely in all of downtown, ample free guest parking, even on weekdays. The hallways aren’t really hallways, but outdoor balconies, which looks a little strange and forbidding from the outside, as you can see, but are quite pleasant when waiting for the elevator or opening the front door to the fresh air and natural light. The architecture, like most of the 60-block urban renewal district it inhabits, is of the doctrinaire International Style so popular during that era, but it is mercifully understated and finely detailed in this case, so it has aged better stylistically than some of its more garish neighbors, like the infamous cheese grater, below. The sort of boring, quasi-suburban buildings at the extreme south end of the redevelopment are now gradually being redeveloped themselves, as Portland State University has acquired large tracts and the new MAX light rail runs right by. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think that a decade from now, this complex will be the last oasis of le Corbusier’s “towers in a park”concept, since current zoning code requires ground floor retail, built to the sidewalk.
I must admit that being just a half dozen blocks further south has forced changes in all my habits; although transit access is only a bit less convenient and the downtown core is about the same distance, I’ve had to find different urban services or forgo them. Home-brewed coffee and a home-delivered paper are now necessities, and there’s no convenient place to get breakfast, so I have to make it myself, but on the bright side, there’s one of the more gigantic food cart pods for which Portland is so famous, right around the corner, for lunch and dinner.
Although the unit faces west, my view is to the south, with Marquam Hill, the aerial tram, and the bubble-hobbled South Waterfront development; even empty buildings are pretty at night… And although my view was better at the old place, what with Mt. Hood and the skyline, my desk didn’t face it and I only had sun in the mornings. Though nearly as small, the bedroom is a thousand times better than my old one, and will make a wonderful World Headquarters. Although most people familiar with this complex think that the noise from the nearby I-405 is obnoxious, I’ve found it to be the opposite, particularly at night. There was virtually no vehicular traffic near my old building, which made everything from garbage trucks and drunken college kids right below, or train whistles miles distant, a jarring disturbance. Now I barely hear fire trucks, and certainly am never awakened by them.
One of the nicest things about the place is the deck; at 7′ deep by 14′ wide, cantilevered into space nine floors up, it is the largest non-penthouse outside space available in downtown, and one of the things that attracted me to this complex; even the smallest and cheapest units all have it, and it’s priceless. After a container upgrade or two and some trimming of our farming ambitions from earlier years, Annice and I really didn’t sacrifice any of the garden we started for her much larger space, although humans now have to squeeze a bit closer together to enjoy it.