By Elon Glucklich
MAY 29, 2016
Architects Greg Brokaw and John Rowell and business owner Kaz Oveissi are close to breaking ground on a significant new building in downtown Eugene.
But this isn’t the controversial on-hold proposal to build an apartment and retail building on Broadway Plaza, the city-owned public space known better as Kesey Square.
Rather, the group applied for a permit this month to build a four-story office building, dubbed “33 East Broadway,” on a parking lot just one-eighth of an acre in size, next to the One East Broadway building Rowell Brokaw Architects owns and works out of.
The tiny parking lot backs onto the Park Blocks.
The building figures to be a major infill project for downtown Eugene, rising 60 feet, Brokaw said. The One East Broadway building, directly across from Kesey Square, is just 35 feet tall.
The new building would be nearly as tall as the Wells Fargo bank building, 33 East Broadway’s neighbor to the east.
The partners have been working on the plan for many months.
Construction could start in six to eight weeks, he said, putting the roughly $4 million building on track to open in mid-2017.
“We’re definitely on target for this summer,” Brokaw said. “We’re wrapping up our financing. That seems to be going well,” he said, adding the group is finalizing the list of partners and investors in the project.
Rowell Brokaw will move its business from One East Broadway to 33 East Broadway when construction is complete. Oveissi is expected to move his carpet business into the building as well, Brokaw said.
Two local businesses Brokaw declined to name — one a technology firm and the other a “service” company — also have signed on as part owners and tenants in the building, which Brokaw said should be at least 80 percent occupied when it opens.
“We really see this as a building of owner-occupiers,” Brokaw said. “It reduces risk as a development, because we get our owner investments and tenants in one fell swoop. It puts us all on the same page, instead of some people being tenants and others owners.”
The building’s exterior will be made of traditional metal and cement. But the group plans to build the floors with cross-laminated timber beams, a growing trend in construction. The beams are made from layers of wood glued together, similar to traditional laminated beams but larger and stronger.
It’s the same material Springfield officials hope to use for a proposed city-owned parking garage in the Glenwood area.
“We’ll be the first (cross-laminated timber) building, I believe, in Eugene-Springfield,” Brokaw said.
The group filed preliminary planning documents with the city in October detailing the plan. Before that, Rowell, Brokaw and Oveissi considered a six-story building on the lot, with 29 apartment units in addition to the office space. But they couldn’t round up money for the project and scaled it back to four stories with no housing, Brokaw said.
The trio has envisioned a building on the lot since they bought it and the One East Broadway building in 2004.
The recession stalled the plan, but the group started seeing momentum swing in its favor a few years ago, as growing tech firms such as IDX, Palo Alto Software, Concentric Sky and Lunar Logic set up downtown.
“When you see the movement in the technology industry down there, I can easily see where we’re going to see a need for more office space downtown,” Brokaw said. “Some new technology companies have been moving into town. They see there’s real livability here. People can afford to buy houses. There’s been a lot of interest.”