Ankrom Moisan Architects have gone before the Design Commission with proposals for a nearly full block development at SW 3rd and Taylor. The project for Onder Development would include a 20 story hotel building on the southern half of the block and a 10 story office building on the northern half of the block. The potential loss of two historic buildings on the site has brought significant attention to the project, including a mention by the Historic Landmarks Commission during their State of the City Presevation Report to the City Council last week.
The project site includes 7/8 of the block bound by SW 2nd, Salmon, 3rd and Taylor. The only portion of the block not included in the site is the Auditorium Building, which is under separate ownership and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The other buildings on the block have no historic designations, though both the 1906 Hotel Albion [PDF] and 1892 Ancient Order Of United Workmen Temple [PDF] were identified as “eligible” for inclusion in the National Register during the City’s 1984 Historic Resources Inventory. The Lotus Cardroom & Cafe has occupied the ground floor of the Hotel Albion since 1924, while the upper floors are vacant. The Temple building is currently entirely vacant. According to research by the project applicants the upper floors have been vacant or used as storage since the 1950s. The ground floor has been used by a variety of tenants, most recently Club 915, which closed in 2011 after a security guard was shot and killed.
As first reported by nonprofit advocacy group Restore Oregon, the Hotel Albion and Temple building were removed from the Historic Resource Inventory in early November, at the request of the owner. Though inclusion on the inventory offers no formal protection, it does require a 120 day demolition delay period. Current City code however allows property owners to remove buildings from the inventory. Other existing uses on the site include the Good Earth cafe building, a parking garage on SW Taylor and a surface parking lot at SW Salmon and 2nd.
The 249′ tall hotel tower would be located on the quarter block parcel at the corner of SW Salmon and 2nd, currently occupied by surface parking. A lower portion of the hotel would extend into the eighth of a block parcel currently occupied by the Hotel Albion. Ground floor functions would include the hotel lobby, a bar/market and a restaurant. Conference facilities would be located on the 2nd floor, and a fitness center on the 3rd floor. An outdoor deck would be located at the 5th floor, while the 20th floor would have a bar and another outdoor deck.
The office building would be located on the site of the Temple Building, the Good Earth cafe and the parking garage. Plans show retail space at the ground floor with offices above. Drawings submitted to the City for a Pre-Application Conference in September showed the retention of the Temple Building, however revised plans submitted for the Design Advice Request showed options for an entirely new building.
At the hearing the applicants were keen to stress that they were still exploring options that may include the reuse of the Temple Building, but are faced with a number of challenges. The building is constructed of seismically vulnerable unreinforced masonry, and the existing structure cannot take any additional weight. An addition over the top of the Temple Building would need to be constructed as cantilever hung from the new portion of the office building.
A memo [PDF] to the Design Commission was published before the November 19th advisory hearing, expressing staff concern over the potential loss of the Temple building. The Design Commission was receptive to the idea of a development that would activate the block, but expressed a strong desire for the preservation of as much of the existing structure as possible. While recognizing the challenges, Commission Chair David Wark made the case for saving the Temple Building:
I might be a bit biased, over half my work is in historic preservation, so I represent the Design Commission for new projects, but that is only half the equation of my professional career. And so with that context and background, there are a couple things to touch on. I think because a building hasn’t been used doesn’t mean necessarily reduce its significance. I’ve been living in Portland for 25 years, and I’ve wondered ‘what the heck is going on with that thing?’, so time doesn’t diminish its historic character, per se, unless it starts to fall apart. What the significance is, it’s a one of a kind building. You don’t see this kind of building. The Lotus has a lot of cousins out there, but this doesn’t. It is a very unique building. I don’t know about the interior, but from the images you showed there are pretty distinctive interior spaces too. And these things come down to basically money and understanding where the tipping point for these things are. What are the sources of income or financing or additional funds to help you get on the savings side of the tipping point? And my preference right out of the gate here is to try to figure out… to leave no stone unturned relative to saving the building. Because at that point you’ve got something in conjunction with a new building—that would be the office, and/or whatever could be programmed inside the Temple Building—that no one else in the city would have. And so from a marketing stand point that alone is something. And that only goes so far when you’re talking about development and money, but there are people and sources and organizations out there that I think would be more than happy to help you research, investigate, find and try to get funds to save this building. I’m on that side of the fence with this thing. Not relative to design at all – just the act of saving the building would catapult this into a different category of development.
The project will be required to go through a Type III Design Review with hearings before the Design Commission. Prior to the submission of Design Review drawings the applicants have the option of returning for a follow up Design Advice Request hearing, but are not required to do so.