Only a year ago, the idea of Beam Construction winning the $250 million contract to develop the Burnside Bridgehead was as likely as the Red Sox winning the World Series. They were the dark horse, trailing behind the city's darling developers, Gerding/Edlen, and the slick company of Opus Northwest. At best, Beam was almost an afterthought.

But last Wednesday, after months of public input cheering on Beam, the underdogs became top dog: PDC’s Evaluation Committee revealed their recommendation that Beam receive the contract to develop Burnside Bridgehead. With restaurants, quirky boutiques and studio lofts, the project will rejuvenate five city blocks adjacent to the eastern edge of the Burnside Bridge. There are still bureaucratic hoops to jump through before Beam reaches the finish line. The Evaluation Committee’s recommendation now moves to the directors of PDC, who will announce their final decision on April 27.

What had started as a quiet PDC project grew quickly into a maelstrom of public input after the three developers vying for the project released their plans late last year. Two of the three proposed plopping a Home Depot or Lowe's on the site. Beam was the only one who sought to lock out chain stores and focus on locally owned businesses--not to mention its plans for ecoroofs, artist incubators, and food courts hosted by local chefs. From the get-go, Beam also made certain to incorporate the nearby skatepark into their plans.

In releasing the preliminary agreement to award Beam with the development, PDC did express a few reservations. Although Beam did earn PDC's top ranking for "design" as well as the three other categories in which the developers were considered, they finished last in terms of "developer's capacity," which looked at the developers' ability to raise funds and fill the buildings with tenants.

Certainly, Burnside Bridgehead will be a step up for Brad Malsin, the director for Beam, who made his mark with the EastBank Commerce Center. Before that project--which houses popular restaurant Clark Lewis--Malsin had been a somewhat unassuming commercial developer and landlord. The Burnside project not only raises Malsin's status, but gives a new direction to PDC, who seems to have been swayed by public input and the notion of locally owned, non-chain stores.