Micro-piles driven. Concrete shear walls erected. Stucco and decorative exterior moldings repaired and repainted. Unit interiors refinished and upgraded with new flooring, paint and energy-efficient appliances. As REACH Community Development’s $7 million renovation and seismic upgrade of the Bronaugh Apartments in downtown Portland rumbled toward a scheduled May completion, HDC Senior Project Manager Lara Spangler and Walsh Construction Superintendent Andy Morris led HDC staff on a tour of the work in progress.
Located on the SW 14th Avenue block at Morrison Street, the Bronaugh is a 1905 structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of 11 rent-subsidized housing projects targeted, in 2008, by the Portland Housing Bureau as being at risk of conversion to market-rate housing. It became the last of the 11 to be preserved, when, in 2013, REACH assembled financing and purchased the historic property from its private owner. Since then, HDC has been working with REACH, Walsh Construction and Carleton Hart Architecture to plan and manage a renovation that will extend the building’s life and greatly improve resident safety and comfort.
The Bronaugh is actually three apartment buildings, which were later tied together, leaving an open courtyard in the center. Facing the courtyard are 50 Section 8–subsidized studio and one-bedroom apartments that provide affordable homes to very-low-income elderly and disabled residents. To keep those residents safe, the Bronaugh needed a seismic upgrade. That was a big and complex job, which involved driving 89 micro-piles (six-inch-diameter steel tubes) as far as 50 feet into the earth, dodging plumbing pipes to the extent possible, and connecting them to new concrete shear walls. In addition, using a system devised by engineering consultant KPFF, metal pins were driven through the building’s several wythes (layers) of masonry; the pins will hold the masonry in place in an earthquake, without marring the Bronaugh’s historic exterior.
But that wasn’t the only piece of the Bronaugh renovation that required a puzzle master’s touch. Each of the 50 apartment units had different floor plans, and each required different solutions for finish details, including wedging in high-efficiency water heaters that needed substantial clearance. Finally, with the help of historic preservation consultant Jessica Engeman (Venerable Properties) and historic architect Paul Falsetto, the Bronaugh team carefully restored the building’s historic details. Exterior bricks were cleaned, replacement bricks and mortar meticulously color-matched to the originals, window trim repainted and medallion work at the cornice hand painted.
Less than a month from now, this century-old structure will be ready to serve residents for another half-century or more.