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Featured Customer: Leslie Cliffe of Bora Architects

Bora Architects has been one of UrbanForm's longest tenured customers, so we're always happy to check back in, celebrate their work, and better understand how UrbanForm is helping them achieve their goals.


Previously, we heard from Bora Principal Brian Squillace.


Today we're hearing from Associate Principal Leslie Cliffe, an architect with over 20 years of experience, and through whom much of the initial project planning and due diligence work of Bora flows.


You don't spend 20+ years working in a city without becoming an absolute pillar of the community, so we're extremely pleased to be able to count Leslie as an advocate for UrbanForm.


Courtesy Leslie Cliffe / Bora Architects


Quang

Tell us about yourself and your background. How did you come to Bora?


Leslie

I just celebrated my 20th year at Bora! I came to Bora after working at several other firms including TVA Architects and PKA Architects here in Portland.


Quang

What do you think distinguishes Bora as a firm?


Leslie

Bora has three main pillars that guide our work: Carbon, Health, and Equity. These goals reflect our desire to create thoughtful and well-crafted designs while understanding the lasting impact buildings have on the environment. We understand the choices we make affect the health of those that occupy our buildings. And we acknowledge we cannot create equitable designs without having an equitable process that brings in the voices of those that have historically been marginalized in our community.


Quang

What is the project you're most proud of so far? And tell us why.


Leslie

I was involved in all four of the high-rise condo and apartment buildings that surround Fields Park here in Portland. I was also involved in the master planning of this north portion of the Pearl District. It is a rare honor to be involved in creating a neighborhood and contributing to the skyline of Portland.


Quang

How would you like to see Portland develop as a city, and what is your dream project within Portland?


You can’t walk the streets of Portland without realizing the extreme need our community has for affordable housing.


Courtesy Leslie Cliffe / Bora Architects


Leslie

You can’t walk the streets of Portland without realizing the extreme need our community has for affordable housing. Bora has most recently pivoted to affordable housing and are currently working on three new buildings for three separate developers. We are also involved in development planning at the district scale in both Portland and Clackamas. Being involved in working to solve the housing crisis is the most rewarding work I’m currently involved in.


Quang

Can you describe how UrbanForm helps Bora better achieve its firm-wide goals?


Leslie

Bora is often asked by developers to evaluate various sites around the city and assess their development potential. These studies have not only involved housing but also office and cultural projects. UrbanForm makes it easier for a variety of staff members to pull together these quick assessments. These developer relationships are greatly valued and often result in ongoing partnerships on a variety of projects.


Quang

Can you tell us about a specific project or situation where the information provided by UrbanForm made a difference?


Leslie

As someone who has done extensive code research, what I find most helpful is the flagging of zoning code sections I should consider in my site analysis. In a recent project this helped flag that a site had not only a 10’ min setback but also a 10’ max setback. Quite a definitive parameter!


Quang

How much time do you typically spend looking at the zoning code for a project? How much does UrbanForm cut that down?


. . . what UrbanForm really helps with is the confidence that those hours have identified all the eccentricities that a site has.


Courtesy Leslie Cliffe / Bora Architects


Leslie

Typical code research may only take a few hours, but what UrbanForm really helps with is the confidence that those hours have identified all the eccentricities that a site has. This is particularly valuable when I have a staff member who is less experienced with the zoning code assemble the review.


Quang

What is really special or valuable about UrbanForm?


Leslie

I really see UrbanForm as a quick head start in researching Portland zoning.


Quang

Is there anything you would like to see UrbanForm provide in the future?


Leslie

I know UrbanForm is already working toward reports that include multiple properties. This happens repeatedly and it would be helpful to have aggregate FAR and height parameters. Another item would be a simple site diagram indicating the zoning parameters like setbacks and stepdown heights.


Quang

Tell us what the future holds in store for you?


Leslie

I’ve been fortunate to contribute the urban fabric of Portland in my time at Bora. I’m hoping to see a few more downtown projects in the future.

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