Apple Proposes Spectacular Store For Portland

February 28, 2012

Apple’s architects have completed the designs for a spectacular store in downtown Portland (Ore.) and have submitted plans to the city showing a block-long glass storefront with three entrances, set behind a public plaza with stone steps. It would be the chain’s widest store, and in fact the longest dimension of any Apple store. The unique store design would advance Apple’s presence in the city, but more significantly would push Apple’s architectural portfolio into new creative territory. If the store design, demolition and construction are approved for Yamhill Street between 4th and 5th Avenues at Pioneer Place shopping center, it would replace the existing Apple store now hidden away in the basement of the same building as the proposed store. Apple’s architects submitted a formal Design Advice Request on February 17th outlining its proposal, and the city has just invited public comments on the project. In 2005 Apple proposed a street-level store on Portland’s 23rd Avenue, but city officials criticized the design and the company eventually dropped the plans. The region has two other stores beyond Pioneer Place, in the far suburbs south of downtown Portland. The closest store is 11 miles away in the city of Tigard. Update: In March 2012 the city’s Design Commission met to consider Apple’s proposed design, and then in July 2012 approved the project.

Pioneer Place occupies several city blocks in the central downtown district. Some of the buildings are linked by pedestrian bridges at the second floor level.  Rumors of a street-level store at the shopping center surfaced a year ago, but located it inside the former Saks Fifth Avenue store that occupied 60,000 square-feet in a two-level building along Yamhill Street.

Apple proposes to demolish that two-level building and construct a single-level retail store and plaza. Neither the project application or the architectural drawings mention “Apple” or show the iconic Apple logo. Likewise, the Notice of a Public Meeting issued by the city’s Design Commission does not mention Apple. However, one key phrase on the architectural drawings confirms the connection: “bead blasted, matte finish stainless steel panels,” a material and finish used by Apple for the last 10 years on its stores.

According to the Design Advice Request submitted by two architects from Apple’s architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the Apple store would have a 165-foot storefront, a 17½-foot tall interior and over 9,000 square-feet of public space. A notation on one drawing indicates the “gross square footage” of the entire project is 23,532, and the plaza totals 4,283 square-feet.

Currently, the widest storefront is George Street (Sydney) at 120 feet. This proposed store would be 45 feet wider than that. The elevation drawing shows that the storefront is composed of 22 glass panels, each 17½ feet tall and 7½ feet wide. [The Amsterdam (Netherlands) store later opened with an upper level that is 155 feet deep, the longest known dimension in any Apple store.]

The project application mentions a 27’-6” tall stone wall adjacent to the existing building tower, and it would sit above and behind the Apple store. Some of the design elements resemble a store reportedly proposed for a plaza in Aix en Provence (France). In that case the width of the store is about 40 feet, with a flat, overhanging glass roof. However, the Portland store roof would consist of a central membrane material, with downward facing metal edges.

A 10-foot space in front of the store is designated as a public plaza. The drawings show how Yamhill Street slopes slightly downward from right-to-left when looking at the future Apple storefront. Consequently, the steps up from the sidewalk to the plaza are tiered—no steps at the right, and four steps on the left (see drawing below).

It’s not clear from the general drawings where the back-of-house area would be located. However, the drawings show stairways that could lead to a below-grade or basement back-of-house area.

The existing pedestrian bridge that now connects the Pioneer Place building on the south side of Yamhill Street with the building to the north would be removed under Apple’s plans.

The city’s Design Commission will consider the store proposal at its March 17th afternoon meeting. The project must then be evaluated and approved by various other city agencies before the Design Commission casts a final vote. If the project were approved within the next three months, the store would probably open during the first half of 2013.

Visit a gallery of photos of the store location and surroundings before construction began.

Download (pdf) the formal city notice of the Design Commission hearing, which includes the project description and drawings, and the ground-floor plan of Pioneer Place that shows the vacant space where Apple has proposed to locate.

The overall view shows the proposed Apple store site, spanning an entire block (left-to-right), with a 10-foot deep plaza in front. Click on the image for a larger view.

An elevation view of the storefront, which is 165 feet wide with 22 panels of glass. The plaza steps are visible in front. Click on the image for a larger view.

This Google Maps satellite view shows the area (yellow) being proposed for a new Apple store.

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