In 1911 the White Pelican Hotel opened its doors on the corner of Esplanade and Main Streets in Klamath Falls. The Klamath News called it “the first building to herald the growth of Klamath Falls” and the “most famous hostelry of southern Oregon.” After just fifteen years the hotel burned to the ground. Days after the fire the owners stood before the “smouldering mass of twisted steel and blackened stone and brick” declaring they would rebuild. Nearly 100 years later, that’s finally going to happen.
We sat down with Chris Jones, Development Manager for Project^, the firm responsible for rebuilding. Project^ has a broad portfolio of projects that include institutional, retail, office, residential, and academic spaces. Their philosophy Is to maximize the environmental, social, and economic benefits inherent in meaningful places. Here’s what Chris had to say about their new project in downtown Klamath Falls.
Tell us about the vision for the development, which includes housing, a hotel and a rooftop restaurant?
The Balsiger site, formerly the site of the White Pelican Hotel, benefits from high visibility, great access and, due to its size, the ability to serve a mix of uses. The site lies at the convergence of the City’s Districts and within the City’s Central Business District. These intrinsic traits make the site the ideal location for a catalyst project intentionally designed to showcase Klamath’s attributes within a vibrant mixed-use development.
What is the scope of the project – how many apartments and commercial sites will there be?
The project will be built in phases and we are targeting a Summer of 2020 construction start date for the first phase.
What attracted you to Klamath Falls and why did you decide to develop the project^ here?
Partners from some of our previous projects introduced us to the Klamath Basin. They are passionate supportors of the region and it was easy to sell us on the natural beauty of the area.
You obviously see a lot of untapped potential in downtown Klamath Falls. What factors made you decide to develop here in Klamath?
Klamath has a wealth of resources, but has largely been passed by during this economic cycle. Vacancy rates for residential and commercial space are low, but there are very few new projects in the works. Our goal is for the project to serve as a catalyist and show that new, well-designed, place-based projects can be successful in Klamath Falls. Hopefully our project will break the stagnation of building in downtown, where there has been no new
residential construction in 40 + years.
Klamath Falls has a rich history, which includes the site of your development.The Evening Herald newspaper called the White Pelican Hotel “the most pretentious enterprise in this part of the country and one of the finest hostelries on the Pacific coast. At its christening a special train ran from Portland for the benefit of 100 guests.” And at one time the entire Bohemian club of San Francisco vacationed there. In its day, the White Pelican Hotel was Klamath’s “center of entertainment.” How you do you think about the history of a location as you develop new properties?
When we first started researching the site, I was amazed at the historical significance of it. The original White Pelican hotel was handsome and we hope to recapture some of that in our new design. Something else that is not lost on us is how the hotel served as a gathering point for community members and visitors alike. The current design focuses on the corner of Main and Esplanade as that centralized gathering place and will draw people down Main to
the ground floor retail and pedestrian breezeways.
The new White Pelican Hotel will stand on the same site as the original White Pelican, built in the early 1900s, but it’s a totally 21 st century concept. Explain the business model for the new White Pelican Hotel. What is the building aesthetic? What was the inspiration?
The buildings are contemporary masonry designs which utilize pedestrian-oriented proportions and facade articulation that compliment the existing historic masonry buildings of the Klamath Falls downtown core. Timeless and rich iron-spot brick, and an immersive site and landscape design are inspired by the ecology and unique hydro-geology of the Klamath. Basin.
Can you give us a few examples of your past projects and how they were received by the community you are in?
We recently completed the Nature Conservancy’s new Oregon headquarters in Portland and the project has received numerous awards for its sustainability and design. The foundation of the partnership with project^ is a deep and shared belief that Oregon’s natural environment is a treasured asset. The project complements the re-use of TNC’s previous 1970’s office building with the addition of a new convening pavilion for collaboration with partner
environmental organizations. Advanced solar and storm water management systems, a landscape featuring Oregon’s indigenous plants, innovative use of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), as well as building materials from TNC’s project sites are conspicuous signals that this is a values-driven project. The Conservation Center promises to connect people with nature in the heart of the city and be a vessel for environmentalism.
What is the reason for the ^ caret in your firm’s name ( Project^) ? Tell us how what this symbolizes.
Progress. Innovation. We are a values-driven real estate developer that values design, environmentalism, stewardship, and placemaking that yields meaningful places for people to thrive.
What are next steps in your process. How long will it take?
Demolition and salvage of the existing building is currently under way. While we were unable to reuse the existing building in it’s current form, we are excited to use the wood salvaged from the building in the new construction; potentially as flooring, accent walls, or site amenities. The concrete from the existing building’s walls will be ground down on site and reused as fill material. We plan to continue working through design and programming
options this Spring with the intent of starting 14 months of construction this summer.
Klamath has suffered from a housing shortage for a number of years.
Tell me about the new units that will be featured at the White Pelican?
The project will offer high-quality for rent units for those who desire a pedestrian-friendly location. The current design has two floors of apartments located over ground floor retail, which will make for a dynamic living situation.
When do you anticipate the spaces will be available?
Fall of 2021.
You’re a Road cyclist. People staying at the White Pelican Property will be within minutes of world class cycling trails. Which is your favorite around here?
Can I say all of the local trails?! The Klamath Trail Alliance has done a phenominal job building and providing trail access. The North Ridge Trail at Spence Mountain has been my go to favorite as of late.
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