Portland is undergoing another building boom.
That may come as a surprise since we're in the middle of a pandemic. But in every corner of the city right now, foundations are being laid and frames are going up.
To be sure, this trend looks nothing like the proliferation of high-rise hotels that sprouted in the heart of downtown two years ago. These structures are much humbler, simpler and scaled down.
Yet they're probably the most essential projects Portland has seen in recent years if our bars and restaurants are going to ride out the winter amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of those patios you savored all summer long following the stifling lockdown are now getting walls and roofs in preparation for cooler temperatures and wetter weather.
"We knew that things probably wouldn't change with the number of infections [decreasing], and we will not get out of Phase 1 for a very long time," says Threshold Brewing & Blending founder and brewer Jarek Szymanski. "We started thinking about some type of covered outdoor seating because we're such a small operation."
Preparation to enclose the Montavilla neighborhood brewery's pop-up street seating began about a month ago. Earlier in the year, once Multnomah County food and drink establishments were allowed to reopen, Szymanski hauled four picnic tables from the 750-square-foot taproom—cozy by normal standards but tiny during a pandemic—and placed them in some parking spaces along Southeast 79th Avenue.
"Fortunately for us, we're on a side street," Szymanski says, "and traffic is very low."
Threshold's location has the added benefit of facing east, which kept drinkers shaded when the 4 pm sun was beating down. But come winter, that also means the space is battered by the strong east wind funneling out of the Gorge.
Szymanski knew shielding customers would be crucial if he intended to keep hosting them outside into 2021. To fortify his expanded taphouse, he enlisted the assistance of his wife and Threshold co-owner Sara's cousin, who runs locally based Adaptive Construction & Design and "has a sixth sense for aesthetics."
First, they built a raised deck after discovering the street wasn't completely level.
Then the bones for three walls went up, which will be wrapped with transparent vinyl once rain is more consistent.
The frame was topped with a silver corrugated roof, now adorned with dangling LED string lights. And if you look closely, you can spot engraved blocks of wood bearing the brewery's "T" logo on the structure.
The shelter is still a work in progress. Last week, Szymanski scoured the city for reclaimed wood that would match the taproom's rustic design in order to finish the walls. After coming up empty-handed at each stop, he figured he'd bring the inside out by using cedar planks instead and eventually install heaters.
"We're going to continue to brainstorm how we can make it look more attractive," Szymanski says. "You know, maybe we'll stencil it. Maybe we'll paint it different colors so that it stands out."
Number of tables: 7
Space between tables: 6-plus feet
Additional safety measures: Tables and benches are sanitized between each use; cans on the tables display a thumbs up or down to indicate where it's safe to sit; hand-sanitizer stations; separate entrance and exit routes with floor markings.
Peak hours: 5-7 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 1-3 pm Sunday.
DRINK: Threshold Brewing & Blending, 403 SE 79th Ave., 503-477-8789, threshold.beer. 4-7 pm Tuesday-Saturday, noon-3 pm Sunday.