Easy Being Green
A downtown condo building invites neighbors to walk in the park.
MORE THAN 100 high-rise office buildings cluster in the heart of the city’s financial district, a dense steel and concrete forest mitigated by less than an acre of park space. Thanks to the newly completed 5th and Madison residential tower, there’s now an additional half-acre of green. The development is the first among downtown’s recent residential projects to include garden space open to the public.
Ev Ruffcorn, the principal design architect for the project, says, “There was an enthusiasm right from the beginning to make a highly landscaped and designed area that would serve residents and workers and invite people off the sidewalk.” The park sits between the remodeled former Union Bank of California skyscraper and the condo tower, which holds 126 residences (95 of which are sold) starting at $450,000 and going up to $2.65 million for a penthouse unit. The ground-level plaza includes a 1,700-square-foot lawn, Mexican feather grass, Japanese maples, Swedish poplars, a 325-gallon-per-minute waterfall, and nine benches and low concrete and stone walls to provide ample seating for area office workers and passersby. As part of the efforts to have the building Gold-level LEED certified (the tower’s application is pending final approval), designers also included a 27,000-gallon cistern to capture rainwater and recirculate it to the park’s plants and grass.
The emphasis on green design and a built-in park appealed to Jeff and Joanne Ort. The empty nesters were looking to relocate from the Eastside, where Jeff works as a software engineer for Microsoft. The couple purchased their unit the first day they visited the property. “We loved everything about it—the location, the green aspects,” Jeff says. “I think downtown needs more green space,” Joanne says, “and I don’t mind sharing.”