Episode Seven: The Fair-Haired Dumbbell (an interview with Kevin Cavenaugh)


fair-haired dumbbell
A night-time rendering of the Fair-Haired Dumbbell. Photo: Guerrilla Development

I first learned about developer Kevin Cavenaugh’s work years ago when I was managing editor of a building trade magazine that focused on development, building techniques, and exciting topics like cemeticious siding and decking materials. (Kidding aside, I loved every minute of it.)

His Box + One project was – at the time – revolutionary here in Portland. With its garage door windows and boxy exteriors– now commonplace – and small footprint of space, the project helped elevate an entire neighborhood. Other projects soon followed, some smaller, some larger all under his company name, Guerrilla Development.

Since I’m keenly interested in small-scale, incremental projects that change neighborhoods for the better, whether that’s restoring an existing building – something Kevin says should be and could be done on any building, I was wrong in thinking that he intentionally built smaller projects. He talks about why he builds small – and not huge projects.

The Zippper on Burnside
On the site of a former car lot, The Zipper has four micro-restaurants, a punk rock nail salon, coffee shop and full bar. Photo: Guerrilla Development

We also speak at length about his Fair-Haired Dumbbell –a somewhat controversial project in Portland. If you’re listening hop onto builtblocks.com so you can see what we’re talking about. The building is not only striking in its looks, it was also crowd-funded.

The interview also takes a turn and explores how a developer in Portland can create cool projects, make a profit and be altruistic about the whole thing – and that’s not the usual developer line.

Here are some links related to the show:

  • The New York Times’ piece on the Fair-Haired Dumbbell.
  • Portland Monthly looks at Kevin’s other projects (as well as his own home).
  • The DJC dropped its paywall so we can all read about the new mixed-income multifamily project dubbed the Atomic Orchard Experiment. (Alternative title: You don’t have to be a money-grabbing dick to be a developer.)



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