5 MLK Reviewed by Design Commission (images)

5 MLK, the 17 story Burnside Bridgehead tower, has returned in front of the Design Commission for its first full Design Review hearing, following three Design Advice Request hearings last year. The design of the project is by Chicago based GREC Architects, for Portland based developer Gerding Edlen. The 200′ tall building will include approximately 112,000 sq ft of office space, 220 residential apartments and 14,000 sq ft of retail space. Parking for 158 vehicles and 344 bicycles will be provided.

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. 5 MLK will be just to south of the recently completed Yard and Slate buildings, and the under construction Fair Haired Dumbbell and Aura Burnside. Other buildings planned or under construction in the lower E Burnside area include the Towne Storage Building, the Jupiter Hotel Expansion, the Ankeny Apartments and the Burnside Delta.

The massing and facade articulation of the project is based on the “Layers A” scheme presented at the third Design Advice Request hearing, held in October 2016. The building will be comprised of a five story retail and office podium, with a pinwheel form residential tower located on floors 7 through 17 above.

The main entrance to the building, shared by the office and residential uses, will be at the corner of E Burnside and SE MLK. A series of large rooftop terraces, with with landscape designed by PLACE, are proposed at levels 3 through 6. Amenity features including a fitness center, yoga studio and lounge will open onto the level 6 terrace. A roof deck with a pool is proposed at level 17.

The skin for the tower will be a window wall system, with a pattern of vision glass, spandrel glass, porcelain panels in two colors, and projecting mullions. Other materials proposed include metal soffits and stone masonry at the ground level planters.

Staff Report and Recommendation to the Design Commission, published before the March 16th hearing, did not yet recommend approval for the project. Issues cited as remaining to be resolved included: Bureau of Transportation review of the loading facilities and sidewalk design; Bureau of Environmental Services review of the stormwater facilities; the design of the soffits at the bridge elements; the proposed details and materials at roof deck at the 17th floor; and the details for the mechanical penthouse and screen cladding.

5 MLK has significantly evolved over the course of the three Design Advice Requests, held in JulySeptember, and October 2016. At the hearing the project was generally praised for responding to feedback given by the Commission. During the hearing Commissioner Molinar offered a summary of her thoughts:

So the positives: there’s a lot for me that works really well about this building, and certainly meets the guidelines. The materials are high quality, which I really appreciate, in particular the transparency of the glass (which I very much appreciate, especially on such a tall building). Overall the building is really cohesive. There are a few spots where it feels as if there isn’t quite enough of the facade treatment going on, but that’s a detail matter. The scale at the street is great: the relationship of this building to the other buildings at the bridgehead, particularly with the breaking apart of the massing on Burnside. The setback at MLK, providing more space for pedestrians and potential restaurants or other retail uses is really appreciated. And then the creative use of landscape and rooftops is fantastic. We don’t get this level of design often for rooftops. Sometimes we get one rooftop with green space, but this is the first time I’ve seen this many rooftops.

The areas of concern are: the integration of the art piece, I’m not really convinced that won’t appear to be sort of an afterthought; the NE corner with that landscaping in the lobby seems to me that it’s really going to take away from a view down to the activity in that space, and one of the major guidelines that we really pay attention to is activating intersections, and this will really turn it into a very passive intersection; and then the integration of the curve, I think that would be stronger if it was either proportional with the mass and continued, or a rectilinear mass with the curve cut out underneath, or one of the other options you showed, but what exists now is one of the few places where I think the cohesiveness does fall apart.

The project is currently scheduled to return in front of the Design Commission for a second hearing on May 18th.


5 thoughts on “5 MLK Reviewed by Design Commission (images)

  1. I’m a bit disappointed it looks so stumpy and flat-topped from the west, but overall not bad given where it started. I guess it’ll just need some other tall friends to the south to create that height variation I’m looking for.

    Also, it’ll be another 2.5 years until this thing is open. Surely within that timeline they could go through the lengthy city process of getting that rounded SW corner easement vacated and incorporated back into a normal lot shape. That feels like a big missed opportunity.

  2. I agree with Commissioner Molinar that design for the corner of Burnside and Martin Luther King is sorely lacking. If there’s any place where there should be an entrance, it is this corner. Instead, as noted, we get a landscaped “screen”, perhaps to protect those inside from seeing the common people on the sidewalk outside. This should be a grand corner lobby, at the 100% corner of the East Side!

    I’ve noted before that there’s no reason to keep that curved corner at 3rd and Ankeny, except the difficulty of vacating the required area. In this case the city should facilitate a vacation.

  3. I like how the curved corner works on the renderings. Portland has enough square blocks, I like seeing someone deal with something a little different, and in this case I like the results.

    I’m hopeful that it’s as bright as the renderings make it look. It should be an interesting contrast to the Yard

  4. This building looks like a big improvement over previous iterations. I think the Burnside/MLK corner is still too weak. I really like the curved building treatment on 3rd/Ankeny, In addition to a nice inflection to the rest of the building, it nicely enshrines a bit of Portland’s history. My preference would be to see them keep the curved building form, and vacate the street to create a small plaza similar to what was done at Killingsworth/Greeley.

    I am surprised that Gerden Edlen is being so cavalier with the historic façade of the Fischel’s building. They have done some creative restoration work in the past. If they kept and reinforced just the façade of the existing building along Burnside and MLK and demolished the rest, they could build this building behind it and have a cool juxtaposition. They did this in Yaletown in Vancouver, BC in a few places. It is not really historic preservation, but it does save a piece of history and it creates a nice feel from the sidewalk.

  5. This is one of my favorite buildings: love the blue color and the cascading floors give this building quite a bit of dimension. Living and working there, the views of downtown Portland are probably fantastic.

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