In an extremely rare move, the Design Commission has denied the Ankeny Apartments. The Central Eastside development, designed by YGH Architecture, would include a mix of 17 one and two bedroom apartment units. The 5 to 6 story building is intended to achieve net zero energy use, and incorporates sustainable features such as photovoltaic panels at the roof and walls, triple pane passive house rated windows, and highly insulated walls and roofs. The project would not contain any vehicular parking, but would include long term bike parking for fifteen bicycles at the ground floor and parking for thirteen bicycles in the units.
The project would be constructed on two adjoining lots, which together form an “L” shape. The 34′ x 100′ lot facing at 1122 SE Ankeny St is currently occupied by a residential structure, built in 1903 and currently in use as a hair salon. The 30′ x 66′ lot facing SE 12th is currently vacant. The project is being developed by owner of the salon, and would incorporate a new space for the salon facing SE Ankeny St.
In response to the tight 5,380 sq ft L-shaped site, the building would be built almost to the property lines at all sides. The mass of the building is arranged as three primary volumes, connected by exterior stairs and walkways.
Materials proposed include white textured plaster skim coat and steel panels at the ground floor, flat-lock zinc panels in two sizes and 3-coat plaster render above, stainless steel cable mesh, aluminum-clad windows, and solar panels.
The denial of the project is unusual, given that the City of Portland’s Design Review system is set up to “get to yes”. The project went before the Design Commission five times, with hearings held on October 6th, December 1st, January 5th, January 19th and February 2nd. Changes made during the process since the first hearing included: the elimination of the ground floor vehicular parking; a reduction in the height of the building on 12th Avenue, adjacent to neighboring single family houses; the replacement of the wood elements with more durable and long lasting materials; and setting the upper floors on 12th Avenue further back from the street.
At the third hearing, where the images in the post were first presented, a Staff Report and Recommendation to the Design Commission recommended approval. The Design Commission nevertheless continued to have reservations about the scale of the project in its context. While the development is within the limits of the height and setbacks allowed by the Portland Zoning Code, the Design Commission felt that it did not meet the subjective approval criteria of the Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines and the Special Design Guidelines for the Design Zone of the Central Eastside District. A Revised Staff Report was therefore presented at the fourth hearing, which concluded that the project should be denied:
While there are many aspects of the proposal that are admirable, such as the net zero goals, and meet several design guidelines, such as A8, Contribute to a Vibrant Streetscape, fundamental challenges of scale, massing and compatibility have not been successfully addressed. While the applicant pursued some significant changes such as eliminating ground floor parking, the remaining changes were far too modest to ultimately meet the approval criteria.
Therefore, due to the lack of substantive changes to the massing, scale and bulk of the sidewalls, the open stairwells, and the extent of metal cladding, the Commission found that the following guidelines are not yet met:
• C3-2. Respect Adjacent Residential Neighborhoods.
• C4. Complement the Context of Existing Buildings.
• C5. Design for Coherency.
Additionally, due to the concerns with the massing of the sidewalls, and the compatibility of the metal panel cladding, staff found that some aspects of the following guidelines were also not yet met:
• A4. Use Unifying Elements.
• A5. Enhance, Embellish, and Identify Areas.
• C3-1 Design to Enhance Existing Themes in the District.
Given the fundamental challenges of this high density development on an extremely restrictive lot size and unusual, mid-block “L” shape, a Design Advice Request would have been extremely beneficial to the process and the timeline for this development, as was advised by Staff at the beginning of the process, and by the Design Commission at subsequent hearings.
The revised staff report was unanimously adopted at the fifth and final hearing. The denial of the project is likely to be appealed to the City Council.