CBTWO Architects

CBTWO Architects

Salem, OR


The Court Yard

Situated across Front Street from Salem’s Riverfront Park, The Court Yard replaces a small former vacant building and surface parking lot.  When a longtime tenant ended their lease, the local property owner pursued the goal of attracting a new tenant for the purpose of revitalizing an underutilized portion of downtown; they approached the architect to develop concepts for potentially repurposing the existing building.  Following the analysis of several layouts and pro forma reviews, the design team proposed converting the surface parking lot into an inspired five-story mixed-use development that introduced much needed housing into the urban core.  Two years later, the development consists of retail space, 40 apartments with secured parking, and a central courtyard for residents.

The Court Yard is organized around a simple concept.  The units on the west side of the project face the Willamette River and Riverfront Park; the units on the east side face the city skyline and the Cascade Mountains.  The two sides of the building are represented with different colors and they each utilize a contemporary metal cladding that shimmers over the course of the day.  The lightness of the unique textured metal panel system is juxtaposed with traditional brick cladding at the street level retail space which provides grounding and contextual ties to the adjacent historic downtown structures.  The smaller, separate retail building, is also visually broken into two parts.  One oriented orthogonally to the city grid, and the second shifted to respond to the angle of the nearby Willamette River.  This second angled “box” is the only footprint in downtown Salem that is not orthogonal to the street grid, adding to its expression as an energetic social space.  By being offset to both the street and from the apartment building, the angle creates a small protected courtyard for building occupants. The courtyard is flanked by an extensive bioswale which naturally filters rainwater before leaving the site.  The bioswale also provides space for native plants and vegetation, providing an oasis within the urban context.

The Court Yard addresses walkability and the human scale with ample storefront at the primary building facades, where people frequently traverse on their way to Riverfront Park.  The plentiful use of glazing and brick, and the generous canopy continues the historic downtown feel.  The rotated retail building creates interesting spaces between, allowing people to engage the site through discovery and wandering. 

From the outset, the design team positioned the retail building to attract a local restaurant.  With ample outdoor seating and garage-style roll- up doors opening to the outside, together with the location along a primary path to Riverfront Park, the space was quickly claimed.  Local businesses, Azul’s Tacos and La Familia Cider teamed-up to occupy the space.  This successful partnership brings a colorful, high-energy eating and drinking establishment to downtown Salem.  The relatively small size of the space and its flexibility helped accommodate the local establishments.

The building is equipped with high-efficiency water fixtures throughout.  All stormwater is treated and filtered on-site.  The small surface parking area incorporates pervious asphalt paving, and a bio-swale naturally filters water before it is discharged into the storm system. 

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Status: Built
Location: Salem, OR, US
Firm Role: Architect