Interstate 5 stretches across the 180-degree views from Milano's floor-to-ceiling windows.
One block south, the largest convention facility in the Pacific Northwest. A block to the north, a 30-acre sports and entertainment district.
Tucked in between on the corner of Northeast Multnomah Street and First Avenue in the Lloyd District, the diminutive six-story Milano apartments, the latest project of Metro's Transit-oriented Development program and the first designed to appeal to the urban cyclist.
On Jan. 16, the lobby of the 60-unit development of studio and one-bedroom apartments filled with city and regional officials, project developers and architects, bicycle commuters, urban planning students, apartment shoppers and the curious for the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.
Metro's TOD program uses limited amounts of public funding to attract private investment to develop mixed-use, higher density housing and retail projects near transit.
"The TOD program's investment of $300,000 leveraged $13.1 million in private investment," said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette after snipping the ceremonial red ribbon. "Milano fills a need for work force housing for young professionals close to jobs."
Milano is a small cube with a big façade says project designer Scott Waggoner.
Small form in a land of giants
Tapping into the Lloyd District's vibrant bike culture with an apartment development that supports a low-car lifestyle brings an element of livability to an area known for its convention-size crowds and traffic.
With a section of elevated Interstate 5 spanning most of the 180-degree views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the iconic Steel Bridge framed as a focal point, Milano's contemporary clean-lined form could easily evaporate into the urban edginess of the district.
"[Milano] sits in the land of giants," said project architect Murray Jenkins of Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, referring to the nearby Oregon Convention Center and Rose Quarter.
The developers' approach, to go bold in both design and bike-centric theme.
"We're still learning what it is to do an infill project related to transit," said developer Phil Morford of Civitas. "This has been an exciting project for us."
Along with business partner Konstantin Klebleev, they went for a contemporary European design inspired by the building's namesakes – Milano, Italy, the Milano commuter bicycle, and the deep red exterior accents reminiscent of both the trim color on the bike and the Portland Trail Blazers' team colors that predominate on game nights at the Rose Garden next door.
"It's about how to have a presence," said Scott Waggoner, project designer with Ankrom Moisan. "Milano is a small cube with a big façade that has to hold its own among the city's largest civic structures."
Bikes 91, cars 12
Morford and Klebleev went bold on the layout as well, orienting it to the bike owner by using over half of the ground floor square footage for a secure, no-cost bike storage with 91 spaces for bikes plus a maintenance area with work bench, air compressor and bike wash.
There are 12 parking spots reserved for cars, available for a monthly fee.
"People and businesses seek smaller spaces ... to reduce rents in the less-than-robust economy." Urban Land Institute, Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013
As a transit-oriented development, Milano offers full access to the region within a one-block walk. Located near the Rose Quarter MAX station, frequent bus service and Eastside Portland Streetcar, residents are a transit ride from Portland's shopping, art and culture, classes at Portland State University and Portland Community College, and major employment areas. The Portland International Airport is a 30-minute ride on the MAX light rail.
As a bike-oriented development, Milano sits at the hub of Portland's network of bike paths with access starting steps from the front door on Northeast Multnomah Street, recently transformed with expanded bike lanes physically separated from car traffic. The Eastbank Esplanade multi-use path is minutes away.
Trading extra space for access
The target market for the Milano is young professionals, interested more in access than space, a trend noted in the Urban Land Institute's, Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013: "Gen-Y career builders forsake suburban lifestyles and willingly move into 'shoebox'-sized city apartments; nearby public amenities like retail districts and parks can make up for the lack of personal space."
"The promise of what lies ahead is exciting as the retail builds up along [Martin Luther King Boulevard]," said bike rider Norm Yonemura, touring Milano at the grand opening in full biking gear. "You'll have more options for where to take guests."