Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

The Vera

Attainable Beauty in Affordable Housing

Beautiful and affordable housing is so rare, yet so necessary. In Portland’s Riverplace district, the Vera proves that both are possible. Developed through a visionary collaboration and honoring the spirit of Vera Katz—Portland’s beloved former mayor and the first female Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives who fought for stronger communities through civic revitalization—the 13-story affordable apartment building weaves together onsite job training and education, contemporary unit designs, and some of Portland’s best waterfront views. Despite unprecedented pricing escalation in the local housing market, the Vera was developed on schedule with precise design details and team collaboration. A unique collaboration among BRIDGE Housing, Portland Housing Commission, Portland Housing Bureau, and Williams/Dame & Associates made the Vera feasible. An open, integrated relationship between Hoffman Construction and Ankrom Moisan’s teams made it real. Our vision, that dignified housing is a basic human right, makes it magic.

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Portland, Oregon
COMPLETED IN 2020
  • 203
  • 13 stories
  • 87637 sq. ft.
MARKET

Housing

DISCIPLINES

Architecture , Interiors

PROJECT TYPE

Affordable Housing

PROJECT CONTACT

Architecture: Jason Roberts

Interiors: Leah Wheary

housing@ankrommoisan.com


Architecture Story

Community Ties

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

We’re constantly thinking about designing for equal experience, no matter residents’ backgrounds. Attainable, supportive housing should be a joy to live in. With the Vera neighboring one of Portland’s most expensive market-rate buildings, and with 90 of its 203 affordable units reserved for households earning 0-30% of median family income, we based our design concept on the idea of weaving. In many cultures, weaving is a social activity: People working together to create something beautiful, with individual stories making up a community’s identity. Our design concept imagines these stories as interconnected threads, woven together to create a unifying character. As the most visible example, the Vera’s exterior panels are made of six types of intertwined metal—high-quality materials threaded with efficient materials—affordably creating a unified facade and beautifully expressing interconnection. We collaborated with Hoffman Construction to assemble these exterior wall panels off-site, improving safety and keeping the overall cost down. Not only is our design inspired by community gatherings, it fosters them. The exterior itself draws people in: Visitors approaching the Vera can see straight through the community room to the courtyard beyond. Exterior glass panes visually connect to the outside greenspace and walkways, beckoning and promoting transparency. To support residents with on-site services for job training and continuing education, the Vera’s ground floor houses Impact NW offices and offers a variety of programs designed to help people become, and stay, self-sufficient. The courtyard, community kitchen, and other amenity spaces help residents engage with each other. Amenities in many traditional affordable housing projects are often separated by function, but the Vera’s ground-floor amenities are interwoven—open, homey, and connected. Residents here interact by design. Structurally, we used post-tension concrete slabs as an efficient and cost-effective high-rise construction method. By leaving these slabs exposed in the lobbies and other community spaces, our contemporary aesthetic feels true, accessible, and sophisticated. Targeting LEED Gold for Home certification, efficient plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency irrigation systems, and drought-resistant landscaping lower the Vera’s overall water use, and daylighting, increased insulation, and other measures reduce its overall energy footprint. Home is a place both individual and collective, safe and inspiring, where the threads of people’s lives weave together. Each of the Vera’s design elements unify to express this idea beautifully.

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Interior Story

Weaving Wellbeing and Harmony

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

Architecture Photo of The Vera

Ⓒ Pete Eckert

The Vera, an elevated affordable housing community, is developed specifically for low-income residents. Supporting their wellbeing is at the heart of our cohesive design concept, meant to evoke harmony and cohesiveness within this affordable community. Knowing the challenges faced by people transitioning from houselessness, BRIDGE Housing asked us to design a calming and quiet space, embracing diversity of residents, for people of all ages, incomes, and levels of risk, within a safe and secure environment. Aligned with the architectural approach, weaving plays a central role in the interior design programming and on-site community resources available to uplift residents. Both reinforce the idea of people working together to create a tightly woven textile of diverse stories that thread together—where each life strengthens and supports the collective whole. The Vera’s programming champions low-income residents: Impact NW, a homelessness-prevention nonprofit, has offices on the ground floor and provides programs for job training and continuing education designed to help residents become and stay self-sufficient. We also designed a flexible space for educational workshops, community events, and everyday resident use. This approach interconnects private experiences in a public space, so everyone can have a supportive home. At ground level, the Vera’s open community space is inspired by natural materials and organic forms with a strong physical connection to the outside, which is unique among affordable housing projects. The soothing color palette throughout expresses warmth through natural wood tones, bright accents of magenta and tangerine, contrasting against exposed concrete and smokey blue hues. The welcoming design feature wall behind the front desk is made of custom wood slats mimicking the flowing movement of the nearby Willamette River and compliments the building’s Northwest nature-inspired artwork. A strong visual connection from the community kitchen and laundry areas to the outside greenspace, walkways, and playground promote transparency and openness, allowing parents to keep an eye on kids while taking care of everyday tasks. Inside each of the Vera’s 203 units, contemporary finishes rival those of its market-rate neighbors, with high ceilings, minimal soffits, and a palette of light, warm color tones complementing neutral wood. Floor-to-ceiling windows give dramatic views of the South Waterfront, the Willamette River, and the city – an uncommon feature in affordable housing design. The Vera was only possible with our dynamic, collaborative team’s dedication and passion for our shared vision: Beautiful and open affordable housing that inspires its residents, supports social bonds, and stands proudly with its market-rate neighbors.

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Housing

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