Why a Portland manufacturer is paying more to be in the Central Eastside

"Jason Bolt moved his replacement sunglasses lens company, Revant, from Eugene to Portland in 2013, placing the office portion of the business in the Ford Building of the Central Eastside Industrial District and its manufacturing operations in a space a few blocks away. 

Over the past two years, though, he's been looking for space big enough to consolidate both elements of his business under one roof.

Revant's search took Bolt into outer Southeast, Northwest and even out by the airport, in part because rents in some of those areas are a little more approachable. In the end, however, they found what they were looking for not far from the Ford Building in the Central Eastside.

Its new space — which the company will begin occupying later this month — is a 15,000-square-foot building at Southeast Second Avenue and Southeast Ash Street. Staying in the Central Eastside is going to cost Revant a little more than some other locales might have, but Bolt said it's worth it. 

"After discussing it internally with the team and our board, we prioritized the most important things in moving, and at the very top was the culture and energy that comes from being in Portland and specifically on the eastside," he said. "There's a shared energy around creation and collaboration here and we wanted to be a part of that. But we are paying for it." 

The new-to-Revant building is an 80-year-old warehouse most recently used by Shleifer Furniture. When Beam Development and Urban Development + Partners teamed up to acquire the Shleifer Furniture showroom building just up the road at 505 S.E. Grand Ave., the deal also included the 15,000-square-foot warehouse building. 

Revant, which worked with Eric Turner and Annalore Rodman of JLL on the deal, leased the entire building for five years and has an option to buy it after the second year, which Bolt said he plans to do. Revant will initially use the first floor for a product showroom, customer service and most of the manufacturing. The third floor will be used for creative office space, break rooms, a kitchen, light fabrication and R&D. Revant plans to sublease the second floor. 

The bigger space will come as a relief to Revant, which is now up to 34 employees and heading toward 48 by the end of this year. 

"We are like sardines in the current space," Bolt said. 

The company originally outsourced its manufacturing to overseas partners, but last year it began shifting some of that work to Portland. About 35 percent of its revenue comes from lenses edged in Portland, and Bolt hopes to continue increasing that percentage. The company uses three computer-controlled cutting routers to cut close to 30,000 lenses each month, but that could be scaled up to more than 160,000 per month. The extra space will help alleviate some of the capacity constraints that Revant had been running into with its current spaces.

In addition to the manufacturing operations, Bolt said having a dedicated showroom for customers is a big bonus with the new building. Revant customers from around the country have been known to drop in to see where their lenses were made and who was making them. 

"It became very apparent that it was important for them to not only meet the team but also to test out the product, test different tints and to talk about their eyewear," Bolt said. "It was kind of unintentional, but it became a very valuable part of the customer experience. And having that kind of space in the new building, there's also a lot of marketing value there." 

Revant, which is working with Siteworks and Works Progress Architecture on completely revamping the new space, plans to begin production out of it by the end of March. Everyone else should be moved in by May. 

"It's been an exciting experience to design this in a way that really brings Revant to life," Bolt said."

Jon Bell, Portland Business Journal

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