adaptive reuse

An unappreciated mid-century spot in Milwaukie

Downtown Milwaukie is experiencing major changes to its downtown core. From the south Downtown area (there’s an actual crane up in Milwaukie) with two huge mixed-use projects up within a couple of years, to a new library, to more mixed-use dotted along McLoughlin, downtown will look different in 2-3 years. It hasn’t seen this much growth and construction probably since after WW2.

That said, Milwaukie has an impressive stock of mid-century ranch homes sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods that have remained unscathed in their original condition.

Many commercial mid-century buildings also dot the landscape from super-mod churches to office buildings to bowling alleys.

One mid-century building still standing is the (now former) Milwaukie Cleaners building. Almost invisible, since it sits on a desolate part of Main street (most people usually drive by it to hop on 99) it was built in 1959 and designed by Joseph H. Rudd & Associates, a Portland architecture firm. The streamlined design and folded plate roof were commonly found on dry cleaners of the time. The space is a bit striking and unusual, most notably that roof.

According to Leesa Gratreak, MS, Architectural Historian, at HDR, Joseph H. Rudd & Associates was started by Joseph H. Rudd in 1950 after completing his degree in architecture at the University of Oregon. Rudd, originally born in Idaho in 1922, was active in local philanthropy and housing boards in Portland, as well as an active member of the city planning committee in Vancouver, Wash. Rudd continued to design with the firm until his retirement in 1990 and he passed away in 2003.

Examples of additional work include Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant in Portland; quarters for the Sisters of St. Dominic on the Marycrest High School campus in Portland; a U.S. National Bank Building on Division Street in Portland; as well as numerous residential buildings throughout the Portland metro area.

“The building is an excellent example of mid-century plate glass design and exhibits a folded plate roof and decorative concrete block patterning,” says Gratreak. “The roof is considered a common feature associated with dry cleaners as it allowed a wide overhang for items to be safely transferred into the vehicle.”

Once Milwaukie Cleaners closed shop, the future of the building remained unknown. Just recently, tell-tale signs of a new business showed up—brown paper on the windows—with word on the street that new tenants will be involved in the budding CBD industry.

Want to see downtown Milwaukie’s building history up close? Gratreak will be leading a tour of downtown Milwaukie this Saturday. Go here to sign up.

An 1800s church, beer, and building a community

It started with breakfast in Turner, Oregon.

Chad Casady recalls having breakfast with his wife, Melissa, and neighbors, throwing ideas back and forth, and the abandoned church around the corner came up in conversation. One of the ideas: turn the church into a taphouse.

 After the paint job.  Source.

After the paint job. Source.

So, after breakfast that day, the Casadys and neighbors walked over to the church and found the front door wide opened. “We helped ourselves, took a tour of the place, and it was a disaster,” says Casady. “The inside was not well kept, the whole thing needed to be gutted, the foundation looked pretty bad. Posts and beams were rotten. It looked like it needed some TLC.”

Built in 1891, the 127-year-old church, near Salem, was obviously neglected and that’s when most people would’ve walked away. In fact, it’s seen numerous tenants during the previous decades, with the last tenant living in the basement.

 Deconstruction on interior.  Source.

Deconstruction on interior. Source.

Casady, though, started the reconstruction process. At the beginning of 2015, he started research on the building, then researched construction costs associated with renovating it. He brought in an inspector, a foundation expert to take a look at the foundation and structure, and then a general contractor to map out what it was going to take. Then it was off to the City of Turner.

 Pre-paint job.  Source.

Pre-paint job. Source.

The City was exceptionally helpful, says Casady, but a maybe bit cynical at first.  “When I came in, the city administrator said, “You know how many people have come in, just like you with some grand dream for this building?’ and I said, ‘I'm not in the business of dreaming, I'm business execution here, so if you want to help out, I'm interested in figuring out what it takes to get from step A to step B,’” says Casady.

From there, he continues to work with the city and county numerous times before putting in an offer. And then, even more research.

Demographics, speaking with local business owners about the market, the future of the city, and where they think the city is going. In fact, Turner is starting to see some changes, like a new community-based café that’s been successful. “It’s proving that the community is ready for something cooler than a mill,” says Casady.

So, how does someone like Casady, who has a background in tech (he’s VP of IT at Performance Health Technology in Salem) and no construction experience retrofit a hundred-plus-year-old building?

“I really didn't understand how a lot of the systems worked, you know as far as like putting contracts together, getting approvals and stuff. I've never done a construction project. I was involved in building my own house, but not like this,” he says.

The key to success he believes is having a strong partner (Casady credits his wife Melissa as his true partner), hiring the right contractor, and if you can swing it, someone you know and trust. An old acquaintance, Ryan Records, of Records Construction has been his partner throughout the retrofit, as well as a team of solid subs to help guide the project.

 More deconstruction.  Source.

More deconstruction. Source.

The end game, of course, is to have a community gathering place, serve some local beers (they’re installing a 32-tap system with local beers from Salem including Gilgamesh, Salem Ale Works, Vagabond, and Santiam) as well as other Oregon and west coast beers.

But it’s also a bit more. Casady wanted a taproom, called Angel's Share Barrel House (“Angel’s share” is the portion of alcohol that’s lost to evaporation with aged spirits—”if you want tasty booze, you’ve got to pay the Angels their share,” Casady says), and a place to hang out, but also help build a stronger community. With his own money funding the retrofit he believes the taproom will be more than a beer place.

“To bring something back that has been sitting there for decades, and people have just complained about this building and no one was doing anything about it. This is such an important piece of history for the community and we need to do something with it,” he adds.