January 12, 2023 (PORTLAND, OR) – Saltwood, a new, two-building, 354-unit, mixed-use project with 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space, moves Northwest Portland’s up-and-coming Slabtown neighborhood one step closer to completion. With the Saltwood project, SERA Architects has now contributed seven full city blocks of new architecture in the Slabtown master-plan area in an ongoing collaboration with the development team.
Designed by SERA Architects in partnership with Cairn Pacific LLC and Prometheus Real Estate Group, the two, six-story buildings complete the NW 21st Avenue retail streetscape in the heart of the Slabtown District. In keeping with the vision of Portland’s Slabtown Master Plan, Saltwood provides 354 new, high-density apartments located above ground-floor retail spaces featuring bars and eateries with outdoor seating. The project also features ground-level courtyards, and pedestrian pathways that will connect to the future Slabtown Park.
The Con-way master plan, approved in 2012, envisioned a 24/7 highly walkable, mixed-use community featuring housing, office space, open space, and ground level retail. The 20-acre site was formerly home to Con-way, Inc. (acquired in 2015 by XPO Logistics), a regional trucking company founded in 1929 by Leland James. Today, the district blends seamlessly with Portland’s Northwest neighborhood, which has long been a desired destination for housing, office, retail, and restaurant use.
“It’s truly incredible how Slabtown has evolved from an ocean of asphalt to one of the city’s most active neighborhoods in just ten years,” said Kurt Schultz, Principal, SERA Architects. “When all is said and done, SERA will have contributed seven full city blocks of new architecture in the Con-way area. Usually, you’re excited to do one building in a neighborhood, but to do so many and create a neighborhood is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Saltwood’s large windows and varied massing emulate the proportions of the historic brick warehouses that once dominated the area. Light-filled , energy efficient, LEED Gold apartments feature brick facades, wood and metal accents, and biophilic details support the health and wellness of residents and users. The project’s amenities include rooftop community rooms, garden areas, a potting shed residents can use to grow their own vegetables; an extensive spa; a covered patio with a fire pit and chaise lounge seating; a 24/7 fitness center; and a landscape design that recently won an award from the Oregon Society of Landscape Architects.
“With the completion of Saltwood North and Saltwood South, you can see the vision of Slabtown coming together, and the NW 21st Avenue streetscape really taking shape,” said Tom DiChiara, Principal, Cairn Pacific LLC. “For ten years, we’ve been building out the Master Plan area, and now this new neighborhood is nearly complete. The residential units and retail spaces have leased-up really well, and the neighborhood is thriving.”
Cairn Pacific has partnered with Prometheus on six multifamily, mixed-use projects within and bordering the Master Plan district, including the Freewell project, currently under construction. SERA Architects has designed three of these multi-family projects within the master plan district (Saltwood, Saltwood North, and Freewell) and two projects—Raleigh Slabtown and Slabtown Flats—just outside the district. Blocks 261 and 262 in the master plan district are currently in design by SERA for Greystar Development.
“The Saltwood project completes the street enclosure along NW 21st, which was always intended to be the primary retail core in the district. The adjacent Freewell project—now under construction—will help to frame the new city park envisioned in the master plan, creating another public urban space for the neighborhood,” said DiChiara.
Because the Saltwood buildings sit on two of Portland’s superblocks, the Con-way master plan required pedestrian pathways to divide the superblocks into four smaller blocks. The paseos and ample open spaces make way for a lush landscape design that uses wood, weathered steel, and plantings that harken back to Slabtown’s origins.
“Our focus has been on preserving the true history of Slabtown and creating a narrative by designing a landscape that has layers to it,” said Kurt Lango, Owner, Lango Hansen Landscape Architects. “The design is cohesive, but within it there is a lot of variety with fountains, a water table, and a 20-foot tall, weathered steel cone sliced down the center to reveal a fern garden—something you would encounter when you’re walking on trails in the West Hills that are visible from the project.”
About SERA: SERA Architects is a 100% employee-owned architecture, interior, and urban design firm specializing in sustainable placemaking at all scales. Founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1968, SERA has held a key role in the development of the city, now recognized nationally for its livability. Today, the firm builds on its early experience of adaptive re-use and historic renovations with design and planning for hospitality, workplace, mixed-use housing, and public sector projects. The firm’s second office is in Oakland, CA, where clients welcome SERA’s expertise in designing supportive, resilient built environments and sustainable communities.
Working with visionary clients throughout the West Coast and beyond, SERA has created projects that are often recognized for excellence in sustainable design and placemaking. Transformative projects include the LinkedIn Middlefield Campus, the Edith Green–Wendell Wyatt Federal Building modernization, The Collaborative Life Sciences Building & Skourtes Tower, the Pearl District Residence Inn, and Modera Pearl apartments.
About Cairn Pacific LLC:
Cairn Pacific is a full-service development company with experience ranging from neighborhood infill projects to large downtown high-rises with a special focus on multi-family, mixed-use projects. Founded by veteran Portland developers Tom DiChiara and Rob Hinnen, Cairn Pacific has over 40 years of combined experience, and understanding of local markets and neighborhoods, and a passion for creating enduring designs and noteworthy places.