Amid the bustle of traffic, transit and construction at the east end of the Burnside Bridge, the black-and-white boxes of Slate offer a disarmingly peaceful counterpoint.
The building, featuring a rarely-seen mix of ground-floor retail, creative office space and 75 apartment units in 10 stories, opened its doors last month. But it celebrated its arrival in the fast-changing district with a grand opening reception Thursday.
The Portland Development Commission had sought to redevelop the site since purchasing it 2005, with a big box retail store once considered a likely future.
Instead, Slate brings more homes and jobs to a neighborhood seeing rapid growth of new housing and offices alongside the Portland Streetcar and several bus lines that connect directly downtown across the Burnside Bridge.
"What do you get here?" Metro Councilor Bob Stacey said at Thursday's opening. "You get it all."
Slate became what it is thanks to a public-private partnership. Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program, which provides grants to developers to help more people live and work near transit, contributed $500,000 to the $35 million project, helping add four more floors.
Beam Development co-developed Slate with Urban Development Partners. Beam principal Brad Malsin said the building would serve as a "nexus" for activity in the neighborhood.
"This is a forward look at what this district can look like," Malsin said.
The combination of three kinds of uses is one thing that's unique about Slate. So is the design, by Works Progress Architecture. Every floor is bathed in light, from the mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom market-rate apartments on the top six floors, to the two and a half floors of creative office space below.
Architects sought to avoid the standard "shotgun" style apartment common in many new buildings. Each apartment welcomes light throughout living spaces, with the building's rectangular tube design allowing bigger windows in more rooms. Featuring a variety of energy- and water-saving features, the apartments have helped the building obtain LEED for Homes Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Twenty percent of the apartment units are leased.
Local coworking firm CENTRL Office occupies two of the floors of creative office space, already a hive of activity overlooking nearby construction and a stream of buses, bikes, streetcars and cars going by.
On the ground floor, a combination coffee shop/bar/surfing supply store called Cosube holds the corner of Northeast Couch Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
The views from Slate are bound to change quickly. Within a few blocks are several active and anticipated construction sites for new apartments and office space, while the 22-story Yard and the renovated Eastside Exchange – another Beam Development project – are neighbors almost within arm's reach.
Zach Kemp, a leasing agent and also a resident of the building, said it was exciting to live in a district undergoing such extensive transformation.
"It's cool to be on the forefront of an area that is going to explode over the next few years," Kemp said.