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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.