(Foxtail Bakeshop | Photo by Cascade Business News)
Historic Preservation Plays Part in Producing Bend’s New Hip Hub
The burgeoning Box Factory complex, with its eclectic mix of primarily locally-based businesses, is fast garnering a reputation as the new bustling hip hub in Bend, with three new tenants added to the mix, occupying a repurposed former cross-fit facility space, and more innovative users to follow.
Whether it be an early morning coffee from Foxtail Bakeshop, a modern juice at smoothie and bowl bar Fix & Repeat, or a late-night cocktail at one the other newest tenants, the River Pig Saloon — which has branched out from its original location in Portland’s Pearl District – there are a myriad of over 30 options attracting a following in the increasingly popular Mill Quarter area off Industrial Way sandwiched between the Old Mill District and downtown.
A growing influx of visitors to the vibrant mixed-use center reflecting the City’s increasing urbanization have found an open, pedestrian-friendly design promoting a community feel and features that encourage social gatherings, with large concrete sundecks providing open-air seating fronting Atlas Cider Company – now named Avid Cider due to a trademark dispute with a small East Coast brewery- the expanding Immersion Brewing and The Brown Owl pub and restaurant.
More recently, the property’s developers, Vancouver, WA-based Killian Pacific, undertook an initiative to create a pedestrian walkway complete with outdoor seating capacity as well as opening up storefront windows along frontage facing Arizona Avenue, with the new 30-foot-wide promenade heightening exposure and accessibility for a varied slate of tenants.
The move has helped shift Arizona’s previous perception as an arterial primarily just to get over to Highway 97 to more of a retail orientation accessing destinations such as Market of Choice and other emerging amenities in that area.
The Box Factory background in Bend is actually a story of struggle, near-demise and in the end, historic preservation. In the early 20th century, box factories were an important division of the logging industry. Rather than being wasted, scrap pieces of wood from the mills were typically repurposed for many new products including pencils, molding, and boxes.
The Brooks-Scanlon box factory in Bend on what is today Industrial Way produced wooden boxes for fruit, ammunition during WWI & II, milk, soap, cereal and other household goods. Old photographs taken inside the facility — a selection of which are featured in the remodeled building’s central connecting breezeway, courtesy of the Deschutes Historical Society — show towers of boxes and crates which once assembled were placed on cargo trains on tracks just behind the factory on Arizona Avenue.
But by 2013, after it was rebranded the Old Mill Marketplace and following years of challenges meeting compliance and safety standards, previous owners struggled to keep the 90,000 square-foot main building open and demolition seemed imminent.
Fortunately, in July of 2013, Killian Pacific, known as a leader of innovative and thoughtful project developments in the Pacific Northwest, stepped in to acquire the building and began taking steps toward a new vision for the property with the goal of restoring an architecture and history reflective of the heart of the Mill Quarter.
Central to the philosophy was the keeping alive of the historic charm and architectural features signature to early 20th century mill buildings. The original cupola, the focal point of the building for 100 years, has been meticulously maintained and continues to stand as the iconic mark of a mill building.
The color of the buildings on the property was also carefully chosen to closely match the other mill buildings in the quarter and all of the original woodwork, arches and columns have been preserved, while sandblasting has been employed to bring back the natural wood used in the original factory.
Bend-based Stemach Design + Architecture has led the design and building code compliance effort of the revitalization work for the property, including a full repair and upgrade of the existing fire sprinkler systems, seismic structural upgrades, and fire code compartmentalization, which enabled new uses to safely occupy the historic structure. General Contractor Kellcon, led by Rob Kelleher, which also has a base at the complex, rounds out the renovation team creatively repurposing spaces, while paying homage to property’s industrial roots.
Each space has been rebuilt to reflect Bend’s long heritage of logging and milling. Almost everything that could be salvaged from the original structure has been re-used in the interior re-design. Wood beams, old siding and concrete floors have been lovingly re-purposed to keep the history alive.
“Once we began looking into the history of this building, we knew we wanted to bring back the Box Factory. We knew we wanted to protect the story that this building tells through its most historic features,” said Killian Pacific Vice President of Development Jeremy McPherson who oversees the project locally.
“The building, its name and the businesses that reside here, they all respectfully reflect the historic charm and the home grown, boot-strapping work ethic that really defines Bend’s Mill Quarter.
“Our tenants have really embraced the vision here, and we are also vested in their success. It is really a two-way street of learning and knowledge and we are fortunate to be able to deliver relatively favorable rates and turn away national prospects and focus on a full complement of local entrepreneurial businesses while staying competitive.
“Buildings like this, we lose them every day. We lose them because saving them is costly and difficult. It’s easier to knock them down and build something new. We’re thrilled to be able to say that we saved Bend’s last box factory and it’s standing here, restored, at over 100 years old.”
The Box Factory and its vintage industrial character now houses a forward-thinking collection of locally owned businesses; from beer, cider and varied eating options, to photography, art and architecture to yoga and innovative athletic performance and training, with amenities like Bend Whitewater Park, the Pavilion, or Les Schwab Amphitheater, all also within easy walking distance.
McPherson revealed upcoming new tenants will include Riff cold brewed coffee, a Bledsoe Family Wines wine bar, a deli, a ramen restaurant and a pole fitness concept, as well as an expanded Modern Boardshop suite, which will bring the center to 100 per cent occupancy with some 34 tenants.
Project Architect Stacey Stemach said: “Working on the Box Factory project has been an enjoyable and challenging opportunity. Our design work has ranged from clean sheet designs for restaurants and brewery to designing creative solutions for unexpected existing conditions.
“The building code compliance has also been a creative challenge and through this effort we have built an excellent relationship of trust with the City of Bend. We give a lot of credit to the City staff for working with us through the complex building code requirements thatthe renovation of such a large, historic structure entails.
“Working on the Box Factory with Killian Pacific, as well as with all the tenants in designing their spaces, we’ve had a fantastic opportunity to practice a wide range of design and work with a great group of people.”
Bend Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore added: “There is definitely community interest in seeing such buildings preserved and repurposed in Bend. So, it’s exciting to see the market interest that played a part in the restoring and reusing the Box Factory.
“Jeremy’s team and the members of the City’s Community Development Department had to get creative to find solutions to very complex problems. Killian Pacific’s team should be commended for their efforts.
“Retrofitting a 100-year-old building is no small or inexpensive feat. It’s great to know this building not only serves as a reminder of Bend’s past but will be used long into the future as well.”
A large swath of the area surrounding the Box Factory is transitioning to a new “Mixed-Use Urban Zone” (MU) which the City of Bend’s website describes as being “intended to provide opportunities for vibrant mixed-use centers and districts in areas with high-quality connectivity to and within the area”, and to “allow for a denser level of development of a variety of commercial and residential uses than in surrounding areas with an emphasis on retail and entertainment uses at the street level.”
The MU zone is additionally intended to provide for development that is supportive of transit by encouraging a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Killian Pacific owns five acres to the east of the Box factory and are in the exploratory phase of a mixed-use concept there which will feature flexible ground floor space that could accommodate non-residential uses such as retail/service amenities, office showroom and light manufacturing, with apartments above. The City has provisionally approved a new Urban Renewal District to help catalyze creative development in the area, particularly in terms of producing more housing options and walkability in the area.
“We see that section of Bend as an important part of town spanning the confluence of Hwy. 97 and the Arizona east-west couplet and Bend/Wall couplets leading to downtown, providing a key interface with a lot of people circulating,” added McPherson.
“Newer developments have included the Base Camp condominiums, Springhill Suites hotel and tech-friendly office building Crane Shed Commons as well as nearby parks and recreation amenities like the Whitewater Park and Pavilion.
“It is something of a gateway between downtown and the Old Mill District with its own evolving flavor and we have a good opportunity to continue to build out in a in style that fits, and we do not deviate from the philosophy of doing things right.”