When Portland Monthly reported on the barge-building Zidell family's ambitious plans for 33 barren acres in South Watefront a year ago, the prospective neighborhood existed only as a marketing pitch and a master plan. Branded as Zidell Yards (and backed by an evocative identity campaign by Jelly Helm), one of the city's largest development opportunities now begins populating. The Emery, an 118-unit, all-rental project most visually notable for an intriguing bend in its shape and one muscular corner that evokes a ship's bow, hosts a grand opening tonight.

The building, designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca and built by developer Tom Cody's firm Project, could be seen as the latest installment in Portland's romance with small spaces. Many units clock in at under 500 square feet—and the building's smaller studios appear to be filling up quickly. The project supplements those petite floorplans with roomy communal spaces, including a lounge and an outdoor living room.

Along with efficiency and high design, the Emery is selling location: instant access to the streetcar and the river, proximity to the new Milwaukie-bound MAX line, the Ross Island Bridge, and mega-employer OHSU. For awhile, residents may have to find community within the building—the rest of the Zidell parcel has yet to sprout civilization. But with Lovejoy Bakers spearheading the ground-floor retail program and massive bike-parking facilities, a building named for the scion of a family that made its first mark on Oregon's business scene in during World War I seems to have all the requisite ingredients for 21st century Portland.

 Photographs by Shawn Records, courtesy The Emery.