The Historic Landmarks Commission has offered Design Advice on the New Omni Building, a proposed mixed tower in Old Town / Chinatown. The 15 story building by Ankrom Moisan Architects for Palindrome Communities would include 138 residential units, over ground floor retail and below grade parking. The project would be required to comply with the city’s inclusionary housing policies, with affordable housing units provided on-site or nearby, or a fee in lieu paid.
The project site is a little over a quarter block, in the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District. Most of the site is used as surface parking, adjacent to a 1954 building considered “non-contributing” to the historic district. The southernmost portion of the site is occupied by the 1941 Harper Brass Works Co Building, designed by architect Richard Martin, Jr. The building, which is considered “contributing” to the district, was most recently used by the Omni Gallery.
At 170′ tall, the tower would be significantly taller than any of the contributing structures in the historic district, though of a similar height to the Pacific Tower, which was built in 2000. Under the current zoning code the maximum height allowed on the site is 425′. Revisions proposed as part of Central City 2035, likely to come into effect next year, would reduce the maximum allowable height on the site to 125′.
The Design Advice hearing was held on June 26th. A memo to the Landmarks Commission outlined areas for discussion, including the demolition of a historic resource; the height and massing of the tower; the character and design of the project; and the proposed streetscape and urban character. Much of the discussion focused on the height of the building, with a majority of the Commission members present expressing the opinion that 15 stories is too tall for the district. The Commission expressed some flexibility over the demolition of the historic building, noting that it may be approvable if the street facing facade is retained and the new building is sufficiently set back where it is located over the existing building.
In order to gain approval the New Omni will be required to go through a Type III Historic Resource Review, with public hearings before the Landmarks Commission. The demolition of the historic building would require City Council approval, through a Type IV demolition review.
Why even have maximum heights if the landmarks commission can just arbitrarily decide it’s too tall anyway?
The limits and allowances on height and bulk contained in city zoning, are important policy decisions adopted by the elected City Council, made within the context (and constraints) of state land use laws and policies and regional goals and plans. The Design Commission should not have the authority to overturn these considered policy judgments. This pattern of making ad hoc judgments about what is the proper height and bulk of a building based on the aesthetic opinions of design commissioners is also inconsistent with one of the important principles and practices in Oregon planning, which is the reliance on clear and objective standards for housing. Clear and objective standards for height and bulk provide consistency and fairness for everyone – developers, neighbors and persons in need of housing.
I should have referred to the Landmarks Commission not the Design Commission, but I have exactly the same concerns about some of the decisions of the Design Commission.
That location would be great to have a new Residential tower there. Chinatown needs people to help support the neighborhood. Also the jobs that will be created and having 200+ people living in the area would be nice. More business’s would open shops there I believe and the offices that were built there or were Recently remodeled would attract newer commercial tenants. I on the other hand do not understand why this project should have an issue with height, as it is Zoned for 425 feet. But also lowering it to 125 feet does not make sense that is a 30 story difference, it would be nice to have more people downtown then in the suburbs.
What would be nice to see is some new condo projects in the city, maybe in this area.
Last thing and maybe someone could explain or direct me towards what the rules are as far as Developers to give so many units to the city or build those units in the current structure??
Thank you for your time. Josh-Robert Stevenson