I’ve been working with a local East side firm, SUM Design Studio, for a week now.  I’m doing a practicum program with them, in which I work part time in their office under a specific focus in exchange for credit.  In this case, my focus is on the adaptive reuse of historic buildings – a theme which lends itself generously to SUM’s work, which is currently intently focused on the inner SE Division area, in conjunction with a Michael Tevis, owner of Intrinsic Properties, a development company.

Working with SUM, I get the benefit of being immersed in one of Portland’s coolest and most progressive hubs of entrepreneurship – the Ford Building.  A project Tevis did some years ago, the Ford project took a defunct industrial factory and subdivided it into the ultimate startup incubator – 80+ creative suites and startup offices in one awesome historic building – a hotbed of cross-pollination and the type of innovation that makes Portland amazing… I consider myself extremely lucky to walk into this building to work and be inspired by!

The current project is Jimmy’s Tire and Jimmy’s Annex – the names we given to a building across the street that used to serve the Ford Building as a tire shop and fueling station.  A rich collection of historic images of the building exists, which I got access to, and found extremely interesting and nostalgic: Image

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Check out the amazing old glass-tube pumps, and the street context in the background!  So cool to be able to see the rich history of this building that I have driven by for years, and never given much thought to.

Our redesign of the building will be a lively pedestrian oriented retail retrofit, in which all of the historic character of the building’s facade will be honored, but revitalized with new overhead doors and interior partitions for tenant spaces.  The building will literally open up onto Division, the way it once did when it was a hub of industrial activity.

Overall, the brief experience I have had with the practicum, working in the Ford Building, and getting my feet wet with the Jimmy’s project has given me a great deal of inspiration about what I see as a compelling typology – the spaces serving the type of micro commerce that has played a major role in lifting us out of our current economic slump…  My current studio project and upcoming thesis project will continue to explore this idea, and the following question:  “How do we need to rethink commerce and industry in a world of fragile and shifting environmental, social, and economic conditions?”