5 MLK, the 17 story Burnside Bridgehead tower, has returned in front of the Design Commission for a third Design Advice Request hearing. The design of the project is by Chicago based GREC Architects, for Portland based developer Gerding Edlen. The 200′ tall building is arranged as a five story podium, which would contain approximately 100,000 sq ft of office space, 10,000 sq ft of retail space, 160 vehicular parking spaces and 5,000 sq ft of bike storage. Sitting above the podium is a twelve story tower, which would contain approximately 220 residential units. At the ground level a shared lobby, serving both the residential and office uses, would be located at the corner of E Burnside and SE MLK. A cascading series of landscaped terraces would be located on top of the podium, with landscape design by PLACE. The uppermost terrace, at level 6, would be directly adjacent to building amenity features including a fitness room, lounge, dog room, and yoga studio.
The building will be located at the site that was until recently home to Fishels Furniture. According to a 1988 survey [PDF] the existing quarter block building at 5 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd was built circa 1900, to designs by an unknown architect. The building is described as “typical of others of its type which consist of a first floor retail space with offices above”. Other buildings on the same block, also used by Fishels Furniture, are listed on portlandmaps.com as constructed in 1920, 1941 and 1953. Fishels Furniture was founded in 1921, and announced in April 2016 that they would be closing following a liquidation sale.
The surrounding area at the east end of the Burnside Bridge is growing rapidly. Nearby projects under construction include Yard, Slate, 419 E Burnside and the renovation of the Towne Storage Building. Planned buildings in the lower E Burnside area include the Fair Haired Dumbbell, Block 75 Phase II, the Jupiter Hotel Expansion, 710 E Burnside and the Burnside Delta.
In response to feedback given at the second Design Advice advice hearing, the architects have moved forward with two schemes–conceptually named “Layers A” and “Layers B” based on the “pinwheel” options previously presented. The “west wing” massing options, originally presented at the first Design Advice hearing are no longer being pursued. In both schemes the office base and residential towers are clad with a glass curtain wall system, described by City staff as incorporating “a series slightly-shifting vertical elements which disintegrate as they move from the top to the base of the building”.
In the “Layers A” massing option the mass above the podium is arranged as two parallel towers, arranged in a north-south orientation. These are linked by a bridge element at the center of the block. The western most tower would be one story shorter than the eastern tower, with an amenity roof deck located at the 17th level.
The “Layers B” massing option is similar to “Layers A”, with the major change being that the two parallel towers would be arranged in an east-west orientation. The southern tower would be the shorter of the two tower, and would also have an amenity roof deck located at the 17th level.
A Bureau of Development Services Staff memo [PDF] to the Design Commission, published before the October 20th hearing, outlined the changes made since the prior hearing, as well as potential areas of discussion. The major discussion items identified were: whether the massing and facade concepts successfully unify the towers and the base; whether the the two towers should read as more distinct massing elements from the podium/terraces; and whether one orientation of the “Layers” concept more successful than the other.
The changes made were very well received by the Design Commission. A slight majority of the Commission, consisting of Commissioners Livingston, Clarke and Molinar, preferred “Layers A”. Commissioners Wark and Vallaster preferred “Layers B”, particularly when seen from across the river, but noted that either would be acceptable. During the hearing Commissioner Livingston explained why she thought “Layers A” was the better massing choice:
My sense of this is that “A” responds very well to the guidelines, [as related to] the view of the building from a distance, both from the west side and the east side. It seems as though the massing facing the river and facing MLK reads very strongly, and the bridge piece that in scheme “A” faces the Burnside Bridgehead developments really does a lot to enhance the character of that urban space. David [Wark], you had made some comments about the base of the building, where the lobby is, and the fact that it steps down to two stories, that it may not want to do that… I actually think the way the building is carved at that edge really does a lot to reinforce the character of the whole Burnside Bridgehead area. My sense of this is that you’ve done a lot of work on the facade, and it is reading much more clearly now. The integration of the two pieces is definitely moving in the right direction. The “A” scheme responds more fully to guidelines–especially the gateway issues that we discussed last time–than the “B” scheme does.
5 MLK is now expected to move forward with an application for a Type III Design Review, which will require public hearings in front of the Design Commission.