Did you catch Friday’s premiere of “Portlandia,” the new sketch comedy series on IFC that gently lampoons the bike-riding, fair trade coffee-guzzling, backyard-gardening, Mother Jones-reading, self-righteously eco-idealistic denizens of Portland, Ore.?
I watched the first full episode online (along with several assorted clips including the “Dream of the '90s is Alive in Portland” music video) and as a native of the Pacific Northwest who came of age in the decade that Portland is still apparently stuck in, it really hit home.
The stars of "Portlandia" — longtime "Saturday Night Live" player Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, guitarist from the much beloved, currently defunct PNW indie rock band, Sleater-Kinney — are both fantastic. And although the show is regionally specific (I’m instantly reminded of "Almost Live!," a sketch comedy program from the '80s and '90s that Brownstein, a Seattle native, probably watched growing up), the show isn’t entirely one big inside joke that only Portlanders will understand. I suspect that residents of several cities across the country like Austin, Brooklyn, Madison, San Francisco, the other Portland, and, of course, Seattle, will get a kick out of "Portlandia."
After watching the first episode of "Portlandia," I was left wondering is there was place in the real Portland that the show’s characters would want to live. Is there a residential development in Portland that puts the low-impact lifestyle needs — things like close proximity to public transportation, a community garden, and on-site bike repair — of the heavily tattooed, meat-eschewing urban greenie front and center?
Well, maybe. Spotted over at Inhabitat is Cyan/PDX, a LEED Gold residential development in Portland’s University District that masterfully crams 354 somewhat small (most are under 550 square-feet) apartment units into 380,000 square-feet of total space. Although Inhabitat claims that Cyan/PDX is new, I believe that the THA Architecture Inc. and GBD Architects-designed building has been open for business for a couple of years now.
Green is unabashedly used as a marketing gimmick by the developers of Cyan/PDX and for the most part, the eco-claims are legit. In addition to Cyan/PDX’s 13,000 square-foot private garden, convenient “leave your car in the garage” location, and amenities for bike-riding residents, the 16-story building itself is designed to have minimal environmental impact. Cyan/PDX was built with largely regionally sourced materials, boasts an extensive storm water recycling system, and is powered completely by renewable energy sources.
The units themselves — described on the Cyan/PDX blog as “well-designed urban apartments with small carbon footprints for real people — feature energy-efficient appliances, water-conserving fixtures, and nontoxic paints and finishes. Cyan/PDX also encourages local eating through a neighborhood food cart discount program. Plus, they’ll give you $20 in tokens and a reusable bag to use at the nearby Portland Farmers Market. Do you (gasp) need to drive a car? No sweat, there are a couple of Zipcars for resident use parked in the basement.
Along with sustainability, the folks at Cyan/PDX are also pushing affordability, although I’m not quite seeing it. Rentals at Cyan/PDX aren’t egregiously expensive but with one-bedroom units costing almost as much as $2,000/month and studio lofts going for $995 to $1,775/month, living there ain’t cheap. Here in Brooklyn, you can get even more space for those kind of prices and still be close to public transportation and all sorts of amenities.
For more info and to see what elevated eco-living looks like in Portland, head on over to the Cyan/PDX homepage. I'm not entirely sure if the over-the-top Portland caricatures portrayed in "Portlandia" would be drawn to an eco-lux development like Cyan/PDX (it's certainly not very "90s," and I don't think sleeping in until 11 and working part-time at a coffee shop fits into the Cyan/PDx "lifestyle" ) but I think real Portlanders who don't mind compact spaces, high-ish prices, and a great location would feel right at home. Now all Cyan/PDX needs is a tattoo parlor and a feminist bookstore on the ground floor.