PORTLAND, Ore. -- Big changes are happening in an area of Portland that has, until now, just been for industrial use.
As the city grows, that type of land has become extremely valuable, and developers have jumped on it. It's in the Slabtown neighborhood of Northwest Portland, from 20th to 22nd avenues, and Overton to Thurman streets.
By the time the entire development is finished in 2018, Portland will have an entirely new neighborhood.
Developer and principal at Cairn Pacific LLC, Tom DiChiara stands in the LL Hawkins apartment building he finished last year.
"It's about 17 acres, one of the largest undeveloped parcels in Portland," he said.
With the beloved restaurant Besaw's relocated downstairs, New Seasons market in the back, it's just the first step of what's being called the Conway Master Plan.
The Conway trucking company transferred hands in 2015, and is downsizing, selling off parking lots and buildings it's owned for decades.
"We have to grow somewhere and under-utilized parking lots are an easy candidate, we're not displacing anything here," DiChiara said.
But don't worry, his construction excavation across the street from New Seasons will provide two levels of underground parking. Cairn Pacific renderings show what will soon rise above it: stores and restaurants on the bottom, apartments on top in three-, six- and 14-story buildings.
"The blocks today are super blocks, double blocks. So part of the plan is to break them up into normal, Portland-size blocks and dividing them with greenways so there's a series of pedestrian-only streets that will be built," said DiChiara.
Then comes his next project. Cairn Pacific is turning a former Conway office building, long empty and outdated, into what they've named the Leland James building, which will house much needed office space.
Guardian Real Estate Services has bought an old Conway truck repair building on Northwest 21st Avenue and plans to knock it down and build more mixed use space. The large block will share space with a new city park and public plaza. In all, the Conway Master Plan calls for 1,200 new apartments, 400,000 square feet for offices and 80,000 square feet of retail space.
It's proof that industrial land in the city's core is now too valuable to stay that way.
"It's expensive, and the development has marched north," DiChiara said. "The downtown post office is one of the other untapped sites now in the heart of the city and it was always kind of on the edge. The north end of the Pearl was the edge, but it's not really the edge anymore."
DiChiara says there's loose plans to eventually extend the Portland Streetcar line through this Conway area. He is trying to keep the Slabtown neighborhood moniker. There's a scultpure in front of the LL Hawkins building that represents the slabs of timber the sawmill would put out on the street over 100 years ago.