A 17 story tower at the Burnside Bridgehead has gone before the Design Commission to receive Design Advice. The design of 5 MLK 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 a 4,760 sq ft “bike lounge”. Sitting above the podium is a twelve story “T” shaped tower, which would contain approximately 220 residential units. 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 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.
Materials for the building are still to be finalized, however the design advice package indicates that the body of the tower would be clad in an “earth tone” rainscreen panel system, similar to the cementitious panels used on the Casey in the Pearl. At the office podium a sunshade / fin system is proposed over the floor to ceiling glazing.
The stepped terraces at the podium roof would be planted with landscaping designed to represent Pacific Northwest landscape typologies: hanging meadows; northwest woodland; riparian forest, and wetlands and rivers. The office floors and levels 3, 4 and 5 would have access to the terraces, as would the residential users at level 6. The 6th level would also contain amenity spaces for the use of both office and residential tenants, including a lounge, fitness room, yoga room and dog play area.
A memo [PDF] to the Design Commission, published before the July 21st advisory hearing, outlined potential areas for discussion, including the concept and massing, as well the ground floor programming. By far the largest area of conversation related to the scale and massing. During the hearing Commissioner Livingston offered her thoughts on the building’s base:
As I was reviewing the package, I really struggled with the massing, because it’s difficult to understand the scale of the building. Given the bulk and girth of the base of the building I would expect the tower to be significantly taller than it is. So I think that the overall massing parti is kind of hampered by the height restriction and the FAR restriction on this site. The base is just very massive. Especially when seen from the southwest, and when seen when you’re traveling south on MLK. The mass of that base is not helping the tower to be elegant.
Later in the hearing Commissioner Wark summed up his feelings on what would need to change in the massing:
For me there’s three things that have to happen: unification [of the podium and tower expression], simplification and moving the mass of the tower to the south. I don’t know what that dimension is, but it can’t be 200′ north-south, to me. It’s just too much of a repeat of what’s across the street. There needs to be some kind of breathing room to Burnside, in my opinion.
The applicants are expected to return for a second Design Advice Request hearing before submitting for the Type III Design Review that will be required.