SE Updates April 2013

Tower planned for Burnside Bridgehead


Representatives of Key Development, and LRS and Skylab architects last month treated the Kerns Neighborhood Association to their plans for Block 67, next to the Burnside Bridge.

The team plans to build a four-story podium on the vacant site, bounded by NE Second and Third avenues, Couch St. and the bridge. At the bottom will be commercial space and a garage with space for 150 + cars.

Above the podium, on a diagonal plane, will be a 14-story tower containing about 200 rental units. Of these, 60 percent will be one-bedroom with the rest studios or two-bedrooms. Rents will range from $950 for the studios to $2400 for the largest units.

There will be a green space at the base of the tower, primarily for tenants, “but we’re looking for a way to provide some public access,” Skylab’s Jeff Kovel said.

“The reason there aren’t more high-rise apartment buildings is that they don’t pencil easily,” Key’s Jeff Pickhardt said. He said that a “best case” timeline called for breaking ground on the project by the end of the year, with 18-months for construction.

The project would be the first new building on the Burnside Bridgehead site. Portland Development Commission, which owns the land, once envisioned the four-acre site as a mega-development containing more than a million square feet of new buildings.

The only progress in recent years has been Beam Development’s refurbishing of the Convention Plaza, a 90,000 square foot office building immediately to the north of the Key site.

“My family moved to central Oregon when I was ten, and it was a big deal to drive to Portland,” said Pickhardt.


City grants easier historic process, cheaper fees


Responding to community concerns that the Historic Review process is too difficult and expensive, Portland City Council last month adopted code amendments to make it easier and cheaper. Two weeks later, it lowered the fees still further.

Prior to the change, in a National Historic District, any exterior work on a structure (aside from routine maintenance and repair) required a Type II Design Review process. This cost a minimum of $900 and took six to eight weeks to complete.

Critics charged this was onerous, causing property owners to either forgo work or attempt to evade the process by doing the work illegally. Critics of historic districts, such as one proposed in the Buckman neighborhood, pointed to the difficulty and high cost of these reviews as arguments against designation, while preservationists argued that they were a hindrance to their efforts.

The Historic Resources Code Improvement Project exempts some work from review, including the installation of storm windows, fire escapes and handicapped access ramps, and changes involving a cumulative 150 square feet or less not visible from public streets or alleys.

Other features, such as small changes in visible areas and anything that makes an historic structure more like its original appearance is subject to a Type I Review, which takes two to three weeks and, unlike a Type II, can’t be appealed to any governing body.

Although some lamented the loss of local appeal opportunities, preservationists generally lauded the changes as a step in the right direction. They did call for the fees to be as low as possible.

Two weeks later, the staff of the Bureau of Development Services (which administers land use review processes) told Council the Type I fee would be $475.

Bureau Director Paul Scarlet said that his bureau is charged with paying for its services through the fees it generates, and that staff had determined this would be the cost of the review process. “If we want it lowered, it must be made up with other revenues.”

Christine Yun of the Historic Buckman Committee testified that the “long term health and character of older neighborhoods” is at stake.

“We either support historic protection for neighborhoods, or leave them to the mercy of development roulette,” she said. “People are being penalized for adding to historic resources with high design review fees.”

Cathy Galbraith of the Architectural Heritage Center said, “During the first year, it’s essential for the fees to be as low as possible. Our experience is that fees can always go up, but they never go down.” She recommended that the City instead raise or eliminate caps on fees for major new development.

Council eventually decided to lower the Type I fees to $250, at a projected total cost of about $6,000 a year. Commissioner Amanda Fritz called this a “negligible amount, and Commissioner Nick Fish deemed it “money well spent.”

Commissioner Steve Novick voted against the change, saying he was uncomfortable with “the idea that it will come from ‘somewhere.’” Mayor Charlie Hales replied, “This is not unprecedented. We want to incent people to form historic districts. The Bureau has gone as far as it can under its cost recovery program. We can authorize an exception.”


Muralists plan Southeast Precinct project


Spacecraft, a collective of muralists, have been doing outreach to the North Tabor community to get their ideas for a mural on the walls of the Penumbra Kelley Building, 4747 E. Burnside St. This included a public open house at the Laurelhurst Café across the street that attracted about 20 people.

Based on this, the artists have a design they are perfecting.

In their murals, “The past, present and future all exist in the same place and the same time,” Spacecraft’s Matthew Allen Woodridge said.

Based on the input they received, the North Tabor mural should include the 60th Ave. MAX station, Providence Medical Center, the historic Shogren mansion and kids in a soapbox derby on Mount Tabor, as well as farms and fields that once occupied the space.

Those who attended March North Tabor meeting called for minor adjustments, but in general gave the concept high marks.

The next step in the process will be securing grants to fund the work.


Division reconfiguration may be funded


The reconfiguration of SE Division St. between 60th and 82nd avenues into a three lane roadway may be funded this year.

Mary Louise Ott of South Tabor Neighborhood Association reported at a meeting last month that Portland Bureau of Transportation may have $50,000 available this year to re-stripe the street.

Currently carrying four traffic lanes, this section of Division would henceforth carry one traffic lane in each direction, a center turn lane, and two bicycle lanes.

The public will be invited to contribute input on the proposal at an open house scheduled for 6:30 pm, April 23 at Warner Pacific College, 2119 SE 68th Ave.

This section of Division has been identified as a High Crash Corridor. Residents have complained that the lack of safe crossing points cuts them off from use of Mount Tabor Park.

Public meetings on the issue were held last October and November, Ott said. There was strong support from South Tabor residents, but some concern expressed by Mount Tabor residents, she said, who were concerned with loss of auto access.

Residents and City planners have also called for pedestrian crossing aids such as crosswalks with beacons and traffic islands, but funding for these is not likely to be available before 2016, Ott said.

SE Updates April 2013

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