“The City of Roses is growing into a city of tall timber towers. With the completion of Carbon 12—an 85-foot tall, eight-story, timber-framed residential project in North Portland—and the news that the world’s tallest mass timber skyscraper at 300 feet may be built adjacent to North Park Blocks, Portland is outgrowing its “Stumptown” nickname.

Amidst what is shaping up to be a friendly competition in the world’s design community to erect the tallest timber tower (there are currently more than 21 tall wood buildings planned or underway around the world), Portland’s latest project, dubbed The Spar, is backed in part by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and will top out at 48 stories, with 8,000 square feet of mixed-use office space per floor. The engineered wood product primarily used for the project will be cross-laminated timber (CLT), which consists of three, five, or seven layers of dimension lumber oriented at right angles to one another and then glued to form robust structural panels.

Ben Kaiser, founder and principal of Kaiser Group + Path Architecture says “as a city building, it would be fantastic if we could house organizations committed to sustainability, such as the Forest Service, USDA, or the City of Portland Sustainability Center.”

Still in the conceptual design phase, The Spar design tops out at 48 stories | Image courtesy Kaiser Group + Path Architecture

Ben Kaiser, founder and principal of Kaiser Group + Path Architecture says “as a city building, it would be fantastic if we could house organizations committed to sustainability, such as the Forest Service, USDA, or the City of Portland Sustainability Center.”

Concept rendering contemplates a cluster of additional mid-rise timber buildings adjacent to The Spar | Image courtesy Kaiser Group + Path Architecture

Still in the design phase, the concept drawing envisions a tall, slender tower of three distinct volumes, along with rooftop greenery, rising high above its urban park setting. Located in a once neglected part of the city, in recent years the North Park Blocks have experienced an urban rejuvenation, with condominiums and creative commercial buildings replacing vacant or underutilized buildings. If accommodating public agencies, The Spar would establish a strong civic anchor to Portland’s downtown, and secure the city’s foothold in timber building innovation.

Earlier this year, USDA Forest Service announced the award of nearly $8 million to expand and accelerate wood products and wood energy markets, which included $250,000 to Kaiser Group + PATH to continue feasibility research on The Spar project.

In addition to staying ahead of the curve, Kaiser sees a primary thrust of the project being the sustainability and environmental benefits it represents, and the efficient use of timber resources.