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11 Main: Micro-Industrial Renovation

Matt Brown, while working with Yale Design Studio ( in collaboration with interior designers Weedman Design Partnership ( and Architect of Record Potestio Studio (, all of Portland, Oregon, designed a renovation to a single-story warehouse in Portland's Central Eastside Industrial District. Originally built in the 1940s for a tractor sales and repair shop, the 10,000 sq ft building was stripped to the heavy timber superstructure before an interesting mix of small industrial tenant spaces (designed by Yale Design Studio and Potestio Studio) and one anchor tenant space (designed by Weedman Design Partnership) was inserted. A large communal space runs the length of the building, connecting the new public front door to the covered loading dock at the back. Activated by an intended future cafe tenant, the communal space was conceived by the team as an interior street, with frontages for five "micro-industrial" tenant spaces and the anchor tenant (which will be leasing about half of the 12,500 sq ft realized through the renovation).

The hypotheses underlying the design are these:

  1. that a pairing of a substantial, committed larger tenant with several smaller tenant spaces will facilitate incubation as the smaller spaces may be let by businesses that serve the larger tenant;

  2. that provision of a generous, flexible communal space shared by all tenants and available for use by the public will attract a creative, symbiotic mix of tenants and visitors.  

  3. that the project will yield a greater long run return with several smaller tenant spaces with higher rents than one large tenant.

Concept sketches in plan and axon of ideas generated by the team; illustrations by Matt Brown.

The micro-industrial tenant spaces range in size from 680-800 sq ft. Each features a double-height working area and a mezzanine level accessed via an open stair. Each is served by a dedicated cold water and drain line, electric "mini-split" HVAC system and a 50-amp electrical panel. All are located at the edges of the building for maximum daylight. The communal space is illuminated by an array of skylights.

A parking area and large covered loading dock at the north side of the 20,000 sq ft parcel provides light freight access for tenants. The dock can also be used for exterior dry storage or as an exterior communal area. 

The project was privately financed and developed as a joint venture by a medium-sized local developer and the anchor tenant. It will support market rate rents. Initially, these will be near the top of the local market on a per square foot basis, however, the total rent for each space allows small companies to get access to a prominent location in the District. The project is one of a growing number that are seeking to sub-divide large warehouses originally built for single industrial occupants to create opportunities for many smaller businesses to inhabit them. It represents an intensification of the number of businesses in the district, though the overall output may be falling as well established large industrial tenants slowly exit, making way for smaller start-ups and incubational operators. Many industrial operators owned their own buildings but are selling them to developers interested in establishing hives of "creative office" and light industrial tenants.

Floor Plan: The renovation provides fine micro-industrial tenant spaces arrayed along an "interior street"—a flexible communal service and gathering space at the heart of the scheme. The micro spaces are complemented by a larger anchor tenant. Weedman Design Partners, the anchor tenant’s interior designers, devised a highly open, active and volumetrically playful western edge to the “street”, clustering program-specific spaces in a carefully articulated, sculptural manner that establishes a variety of subspaces to encourage multiple utilitization possibilities and connectivity. Weedman Design Partners subsequently located their own offices inside the building and have continued to elaborate on the design through custom furniture and finishes and by designing and curating artistic installations. 

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