By Midge Pierce

 

Opinions about Division St. are as widespread as the head-spinning transformation of the corridor. To determine what is and isn’t working, The Division Design Committee Initiative (DDC) has collected comment cards from old and new residents as well as visitors along the street. Comments range from optimism about the new vitality, to lamentations about the loss of old Division St.

As part of the assessment, the group is tapping the research of a class of Portland State University architecture students.

Under the tutelage of Chris Flint Chatto, a principal at ZGF Architects, the class is spending a semester studying mixed use, multifamily buildings.

The DDC plans to draw upon the students’ case studies for inclusion in a community design toolkit it is developing to encourage dynamic growth that integrates well with an existing neighborhood.

With this scrutiny of the streetscape comes the realization that Portland may be missing a key objective: affordable housing.

Observers say the recent requirement to provide at least some parking in new developments has pushed rents up significantly. Rates along Division can run $1800-2000 for 400 to 600 square feet.

The high rents coupled with boutiques and nationally- recognized restaurants largely Opinions about Division St. are as widespread as the head-spinning transformation of the corridor. To determine what is and isn’t working, The Division Design Committee Initiative (DDC) has collected comment cards from old and new residents as well as visitors along the street. Comments range from optimism about the new vitality, to lamentations about the loss of old Division St.

As part of the assessment, the group is tapping the research of a class of Portland State University architecture students.

Under the tutelage of Chris Flint Chatto, a principal at ZGF Architects, the class is spending a semester studying mixed use, multifamily buildings.

The DDC plans to draw upon the students’ case studies for inclusion in a community design toolkit it is developing to encourage dynamic growth that integrates well with an existing neighborhood.

With this scrutiny of the streetscape comes the realization that Portland may be missing a key objective: affordable housing.

Observers say the recent requirement to provide at least some parking in new developments has pushed rents up significantly. Rates along Division can run $1800-2000 for 400 to 600 square feet.

The high rents coupled with boutiques and nationally- recognized restaurants largely attract young professionals, many from California or Seattle where costs are even higher.

The phenomena is changing the demographics as well as the density of Division. A focus of DDC’s January meeting was the interface between old and new Division, its people, buildings and a hoped for future of a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard and bikeway with heavy traffic migrating over to the Powell transportation corridor.

Comments about too much boxy, monolithic construction were balanced against praise for public areas, balconies and brightly-colored buildings rising against Portland’s ashen skies.

The many benefits of open spaces in establishing a vibrant community was reflected in the PSU study.

Student Blake Thomas, assigned to the D Street Village complex, said the best buildings have shared public areas plus architectural depth that adds visual interest and avoids flat-faced facades.

He decried a development that butts up to the front porch of a neighbor. “Being sensitive to surrounding buildings is a key consideration.”

The inviting café feel of the 3339 building housing Salt & Straw drew the most support from  the group, but a neighbor said the constant activity and crowds that overtake sidewalks were overwhelming.

How pocket spaces work needs careful thought, according to Linda Nettekoven. “There need to be spaces where it’s ok to congregate without causing problems for neighbors.”

Growing pains are inevitable. As the economics and demographics of the reinvented Division  emerge, so has speculation about the street’s long-term future.

Those young professionals are unlikely to want to stay in 400 – 600 square foot apartments for long, commented one resident. High turnover would make Division a transitory as well as transformative street.

Turnover means wear and tear. “Ten years from now the majority of these building are not going to look very good,” said Thomas, “especially those with wood. The wood will turn gray. There’s good gray and there’s not good gray.”

Time, and efforts of citizen groups like the DDC seeking design integrity, will tell which shade will prevail along Division.