Under Construction: Pearl Block 136 (images)

This is an updated version of a post originally published on October 21st 2015.

Construction has begun on Pearl Block 136, which will be located on the site of the former PNCA Goodman building. The project consists of two buildings separated by a publicly accessible courtyard: a 5 story office building facing NW 13th Ave; and a 15 story residential tower facing NW 12th Ave. Underground parking for both buildings will be accessed from NW 12th Ave, with 211 vehicular parking spaces and 332 long term bicycle parking spaces. The design of the project is by Seattle based architects Mithun, for developer Security Properties.

Pearl Block 136

The project site is at NW 13th & Johnson in the Pearl District. The site was formerly home to the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s main campus building, which was demolished in the second half of 2015. The College sold the building to Security Properties in 2013 for $11.75 million, which helped pay for their move into the 511 Building.

Early meetings between the project team and the Pearl District Neighborhood Association resulted in three requests from the neighborhood: that the project include publicly accessible open space at the same level as the street; that the height be kept low on NW 13th Ave in deference to the nearby 13th Avenue Historic District; and that the developer include office space to make up for the loss of daytime activity formerly provided by PNCA. The first two requests were major drivers of the final design: a 76′ tall building on NW 13th Ave and a 148’-4” building on NW 12th Ave, separated by a courtyard.

Though Security Properties typically develops residential projects, they decided to incorporate 60,000 sq ft of office space into the NW 13th Ave building in response to the third request by the neighborhood. The brick clad building will also contain 15,000 sq of double sided retail, which will spill out onto raised docks at both 13th Ave and the courtyard. At the top of the building will be a roof terrace and ecoroof plantings.

Pearl Block 136

The taller of the two buildings will be just shy of the maximum 150′ allowed height. The primary materials proposed are window wall and aluminum composite panels. The tower will contains 208 residential units, including double height townhouses with entries directly onto NW 12th Ave and NW Johnson St. The 15th floor will have 6 penthouses with private terraces. A rooftop terrace will be provided, with community gardens for the residents.

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

The street level courtyard will contain a number of seating spaces, a raised dock facing the retail spaces, a bicycle repair station, storm water planters and a bocce ball court.

Pearl Block 136

Prior to approval, the project went before the Design Commission five times: for three optional Design Advice Requests; and two full Design Review hearings. The three DARs were held in part to ensure that the project would get Commission buy off on the height and massing of the project. While the residential building would have been able to go up to 120′ automatically, the Zoning Code allows the Design Commission the discretion over whether to approve the full 150′ of allowable height. The Design Commission granted the extra height in part because of the public benefit provided by the courtyard; and in part because the project team showed that Block 136 will cast no more shadow on Jamison Square at the Vernal Equinox than is already cast on it by existing buildings.

At the project’s first Design Review hearing on December 18th 2014 Commission discussion largely focused on the ground level at the townhomes. The applicants subsequently reduced the amount of board formed concrete at the ground level of the NW 12th Ave building, and made revisions to the design of the canopies around both buildings. The project was approved [PDF – 52 MB] by the Commission on January 22nd 2015.

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

Pearl Block 136

The Design Commission’s decision to approve the project was appealed to the Portland City Council by Preserve the Pearl, a group primarily made up of people who live near the proposed building. Preserve the Pearl contended that the Commission and City staff had erred in their interpretation of Zoning Code language related to bonus height; that there had been inadequate public process; that the buildings are orientated north/south where they should be oriented east/west; that the project blocked private views of the Willamette River; and that the project would cast shade on Jamison Square, as well as private condominiums.

The City Council took public testimony on April 8th 2015, where passionate testimony was given by a roughly equal number of people on both sides of the issue. Supporting the proposed design were a number of members of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, who were behind many of the original suggestions to the developer. On April 23rd 2015 the Council voted [PDF] 5-0 to deny the appeal. Preserve the Pearl subsequently appealed the City Council’s decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), a statewide body that reviews Land Use decisions by local governments. In the October 14th decision of Preserve the Pearl LLC v. City of Portland [PDF] LUBA affirmed the City’s decision, which allowed the project to move ahead.

Building permits for the two buildings were issued on March 4th. Andersen Construction announced on March 21st that they had broken ground on the project, and that construction is expected to take 22 months.

Plans, Sections and Elevations

5 thoughts on “Under Construction: Pearl Block 136 (images)

    • I guess I like bland then, because with the exception of the Comopolitan, I think it’s better than anything else going up in the north Pearl.

  1. Have there been any successful outcomes from taking a project to LUBA? It seems the norm now for monied NIMBY’s is to oppose projects late in the design phase and waste everyone’s time and money trying to challenge them on baseless claims. Wizer Block in Lake Oswego, the Japanese Garden expansion, this project and the apartment building on Division are recent examples. The apartment building on Division, opposed by some residents the Richmond neighborhood, is the only one I can know of that did rule somewhat in the opposition’s favor. But all they got was a half-built building paused for several months and then ultimately a much worse ground level design of an already lackluster building. People may enjoy the pain inflicted on developers by making them spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees and delayed construction but they should realize that that money is likely coming out of the project budget and results a much crappier building. And at the end of the day it is usually just over privileged people concerned about losing their street parking.

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