It might be located in The Edge, but Recreation Equipment Inc.’s new flagship store is in the center of the Pearl District’s action.
Seattle-based outdoor outfitter REI will open Feb. 22 in The Edge lofts, an 11-story residential and retail development.
REI is the building’s anchor tenant, taking 40,000 square feet on the ground floor and second level. The store features a two-story pinnacle for rock climbers. Soaring ceilings and walls of windows are a dramatic departure from the design of most REI stores, most of which are enclosed in former warehouses. REI’s store design also represents a change in the retail paradigm, because conventional wisdom prefers to have products displayed on every wall, wasting no space on windows.
REI’s presence in The Edge is expected to spur more development around the building, which still is home to dilapidated office buildings and warehouses. Approximately 350,000 people per year are expected to visit the store, propelling it from the western periphery of the Pearl to center stage. The Edge’s loft sales staff also hopes it will boost sales.
REI will close its Jantzen Beach store Feb. 21 and open its flagship store in The Edge the next day. Some of REI’s 70 workers will be up all night moving product from the old store to the new one, store officials said. REI has two other Oregon stores, in Tualatin and Eugene.
The first truckload of products was shipped in Feb. 3. The best things about the new store? According to one employee who was assembling new products on the display walls this week, “all the display pegs match, the bathrooms are clean, and there’s so much light in here.”
Light and clean lines are distinguishing features of The Edge condominium tower on floors five through 11. Wrapped in glass from floor to ceiling, The Edge is a developer John Carroll’s latest Pearl District building — distinct in design and personality from his other projects, which include The Gregory, Chown Pella Lofts, Mckenzie Lofts and The Elizabeth, which is currently under construction.
The Edge is located between Northwest 14th and 15th avenues, between Kearney and Johnson streets, next door to the Marshall-Wells Lofts, which opened in October 2002. Two blocks away, The Avenue Lofts is also under construction, but the competition has done little to dampen sales — 100 of The Edge’s 123 lofts are sold, and the sales team expects to have no more than a handful remaining by summer.
Carroll’s $36 million project is a hybrid of condominium construction, which divides rooms with full walls, and loft living, which relies on screens, closets and partial walls to divide spaces. As a newly built project, The Edge stands out from the three lofts surrounding it, which are all warehouse conversions.
Debbie Thomas of Debbie Thomas Real Estate, who markets all of Carroll’s projects, said residents of the lower floors will be able to move in the third week of March, and by July all six residential floors will be ready for occupancy. At the current rate of sales, Thomas said it’s likely there will be just a few units available when the building is completed. She expects the building will be 100 percent occupied by the end of the year.
“We have the luxury of playing with different styles of architecture — this is fun for us,” said Carroll, standing on a wood floor that joined the floor-to-ceiling window. “I think buyers here are more receptive to more modernist architecture.”
“They embrace it,” Thomas added. “A sheer wall [window] wrap hasn’t been done in this neighborhood before, and it reflects all the other old buildings around it.”
From a penthouse, The Edge looks down on virtually every other building in the Pearl District, with the Oregon Convention Center’s twin spires and two mountains in view on the east side, and a view of the West Hills and Northwest Portland to the west.
Thomas has been promoting The Edge in part for its value — while the steel and concrete construction and high-quality finishes are similar to the $46.5 million Elizabeth, the price point is on average 10 percent lower, because of its location and target market. For residents who choose a loft on the less-favored freeway side of the building, the price differential is even greater, as much as 20 percent less expensive than a condominium with similar quality. On average, the condominiums are sold for $255 per square foot.
A look at The Edge’s floor plans — stamped with bright red “sold” letters in the majority of units — reveals an interesting quirk of real estate sales. Condominium buyers typically favor southeastern corner units above any other location in the building, because of the morning light and the exposure to winter sunlight.
After the much-sought-out southeast corner, Thomas said northeast and southwest corners are about equal in terms of customers’ preferences. The northwest corner of the building is the hardest to sell, and the floor plans for both The Edge and The Elizabeth tell the same story: More units in these corners are still for sale than in all of the other corners combined.
Making things a bit more difficult for the sales team is that the northwest corner units are bigger than units on other corners, Thomas added, pushing the price higher.
Carroll and his investment group, Carroll Aspen LLC, made a bold decision to build two condominium projects simultaneously, The Edge and The Elizabeth, which is located on the northwest corner of Northwest Ninth Avenue and Everett Street. Although the latter isn’t expected to open until April 2005, sales were strong right out of the gate, with more than 70 reservations, and already more than 100 of the 181 units are sold. That puts sales about 20 percent ahead of projections in The Elizabeth, and Thomas said The Edge’s sales are likewise ahead of projections.
Thomas expects The Elizabeth could possibly sell out seven or eight months before its opening date, a success that could surpass that of Gerding/Edlen Development Co., which sold out The Henry luxury condominiums in the Brewery Blocks seven months before construction was complete.
“I think The Henry caught the market at a time when the Pearl District was evolving — it was no longer just pioneering, single young artists,” Thomas said. “Now that the neighborhood is known, people are more comfortable with coming here, and they want a more traditional feeling than that wide-open loft.”
Condominium developers throughout the district report an escalation in a condo’s average price and a buyer’s average age. The Edge buyer is typically about 10 years younger than buyers at The Gregory or The Elizabeth.