Weekly Roundup: Block 216, The Carson, Rothko Pavilion, and more

Block 216

The GBD Architects designed Block 216 tower would rise to a height of 455′, making it one of the tallest buildings in Portland.

The Oregonian published the latest images of Block 216, the hotel, office and residential tower proposed for the 10th & Alder food cart block. The Daily Journal of Commerce reported that the project team faced tough questions from the Design Commission at its second Design Advice Request hearing*.

New construction has sent a flood of new apartments onto the market, leading to a month’s free rent becoming standard, writes the Willamette Week.

The Willamette Week reported that The Carson “appears to be among the first apartment complexes in the U.S. to feature Amazon smart-home technology in every apartment“.

The Portland Art Museum Rothko Pavilion has been redesigned to incorporate an open passage between the Park Blocks and SW 10th Ave, writes the Oregonian.

Portland Monthly wrote about the District Office, the six-story, cross-laminated timber building that “reflects a booming Central Eastside“.

The Overlook Neighborhood opposes new rules for how developers notify neighbors about coming construction projects, reports the Portland Mercury.

The Willamette Week reported that Oregon GOP gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler opposes the Metro housing bond.

*This article will be unlocked for the rest of this week. After this week it will only be viewable by DJC subscribers.

15 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup: Block 216, The Carson, Rothko Pavilion, and more

  1. After seeing so many of these alienating glass structures pop up all over downtown with all their alluring “affordable housing” & academia-based terms like “street activations,” I find that these almost always don’t fulfill either of their concepts. Block 216 seems to be heading in that same direction with a completely indifferent facade. In favor of the ‘monumentalists’ on this site, if we build big, why not make it specific to its location that relates to its past and trajectory? Successful urban projects are ones that rely on small, incremental investments (little bets), instead of large, transformative projects. Although that concept typically applies to towns, on a macro scale, I believe it can and should be applied to how a city grows, as it has always grown. It may be our education nowadays but there isn’t any real commitment, indebtedness to our ancestral peers in the Architectural field. Think ‘low time preference’ and see how that theory reflects on our development habits in Portland. As this city dives deeper into “progress” & globalization quicker than ever, I am beginning to understand how developers, including globalized architecture firms, can be enemies of inherited urban cultures that have a commitment to a place and particular people.

    • I sense where you are coming from, and I am sympathetic. But I also find the juxtaposition of small scale historic buildings with perhaps-glassy contemporary neighboring buildings to be invigorating. I think of Melbourne, Aus. as a pretty good example of mixing old and new. For instance, what if the developer had kept the Lotus and Ancient Order buildings and incorporated them into a large office/ hotel project that knitted them together? It would have had a unique ‘Portland’ feel.

      • DMH, I agree utterly with your suggestion about the Ancient Order and Lotus buildings being incorporated into a new project; that would have been wonderful. But that’s not what happened; those buildings have been bulldozed into history now. That’s where I sympathize with cupcake’s sentiments.

        The “little bets” are what bring so much interest and variety to a city. Look at most streets in Manhattan, and you’ll see an incredible amount of tall, but very thin buildings walled up against each other. The fact that they’re built by different people at different times creates tremendous vibrancy. Unfortunately, Portland is increasingly being shaped by superblocks and mega-projects instead of small-scale efforts. I understand that there are macro-economic forces driving these patterns, but the result is still a shame.

    • I have noticed this in the multi block developments like the Pepsi site, and most of the Lloyd / inner Eastside developments. When one company owns the whole thing, they play it safe. We get cute little cafes and shops curated for the same group of people. Places like strip clubs and porn shops aren’t welcome….I know those examples are the extreme, but there are alot of businesses / people that are excluded from their vision and since they control everything, what they want is what they get.

      • An extreme example though that may be, I think you’re dead on. In newer stuff, a great deal of things are excluded. It’s par for the course that newer development will be for higher end markets, and the appearance of respectability matters tremendously. Anything low market, edgy, or potentially offensive is never invited. Look at the area around The Roxy in Downtown. That used to be a gay neighborhood, and now much of it has been lost to higher end things. Would clubs like Steam or Hawks, set up in areas that were (and still are to an extent) undesirable be allowed in the Pearl or South Waterfront? Upscale housing is going up near both of them (and in the case of Steam, next door). How much do you want to bet the neighbors will eventually take exception because they don’t like the idea of a gay bathhouse? There’s also a sex shop just down the street on Sandy in the 30s. What happens if that area becomes desirable? Look how many small mom and pop shops are still on Hawthorne compared to upscale ones in all the new development on Division.

        Class, sexuality, and race are still grounds for exclusion in this society. When black people on the north side talk about feeling like they’ve become outsiders in their own community, I can, as a gay man, relate. Gay people, contrary to popular belief, typically make less than average incomes last I read. Our businesses used to cluster in unwanted areas where you’d also find other minorities and subcultures. Once the straight, white money moves in, it’s not long before the original community scatters. The edginess of your community is commoditized and sold to someone else and finally “cleaned up.” Hard edges make a place interesting and give its character; homogenization diminishes that but makes it acceptable for investors and certain classes of people that want the benefits of urban living without the weirdos and problems that used to be there.

        In short, it’s illustrative of a trend in our country that’s alarmed me for a while: the conversion of community into a commodity. Community is becoming less about the people who live there and more about being able to plunk down the money to inhabit a given place which now commands a premium. If community is about wealth, then poor communities are non-communities and often treated as such.

  2. It’s a beautiful building, just as it is proposed. But the design commission, always openly hostile to any tall building, will try to flex their muscles and neuter this building into yet another soviet-style box, whether it be tall or not. The arrogance of the commission always amazes me. I’ll be surprised if the developers don’t just give up on the whole thing.

    • Oh the developers will surely give up on this.. In this recent boom we haven’t had anything in this scale break ground. In fact anything over 22 stories or so hasn’t even made an appearance..

      I have no idea why the design commission is hating on this proposal. It’s a very beautiful proposal and a real shame their pushing away the developers with much negativity.

      Add this one on the many “what if” lists in Portland building history

    • I have to agree with the commission on this one. Note that they did not object to the height of the building, but primarily to two problems with the design: 1) the amount and placement of the space given over to cars, and 2) the incoherence of the design and the poor job it did to respond to older establish buildings in its vicinity. While I do not always agree with the design commission, I find that when I compare the original designs submitted to them with the final ones that they approve, the finished ones are nearly always better. While there’s undoubtedly ways the process could be improved, I really encourage everyone who complains about the grueling process for getting stuff built in Portland to consider a some realities. First, building IS booming here; in fact, as recent news stories have pointed out, not only can’t City staff keep up, the labor market for needed skilled construction workers cannot keep up. And second, there is a good reason that more and more people are coming to Portland, both the live and as tourists. Our recent built environment – thanks in great part to the design commission – is done with considerable sensitivity to the pedestrian street experience, to avoiding the car-centric errors of the past.

      • Why on Earth should any new building “respond to” and “reflect upon” and “echo” the surrounding structures? Literally who cares. It’s a new building; the whole point is that it’s different than what came before. The existing structures should have ZERO say as long as the new building meets building codes/setback requirements and/or achieves legal variances thereof. I am so sick of every Tom Dick and Harry thinking they have a right to influence what other people do with their own property. Maybe if we didn’t drown every new project in years worth of red tape, pointless ‘design review’, and public hearings so that the whiny public can air their pointless and uneducated concerns, the housing crisis would have been solved by now.

        Tokyo, Japan has affordable housing even downtown because they don’t allow people to stop their neighbors from building something because “oh well the facade isn’t to my liking!!” They just check to see if it meets code, and rubber stamp it. Done. That’s how it SHOULD be done in “the land of the free”.

        • I think you raise a central question in urban development: To what extent should property owners get to do whatever they want with their property and to what degree does the community have the right, through its organs of government, to regulate property use? I am not sure where the exact line is, but I do think our city can legitimately set bounds on development. A property does not exist in isolation. It’s value is determined by context. It is precisely because there are lots of other buildings and people nearby that urban property is costly and worth sinking millions of dollars into developing. All kinds of public spending has gone into making private property more valuable: parks, transit systems, streets, legal systems, fire and police services, etc. And some places are more desirable and thus more valuable than others because they’ve been designed with an eye to street vitality and beauty.

          How people are allowed to build affects others. Thus the public has a legitimate interest in how you build.

          And by the way, I lived in Tokyo for over two years as a young adult and very much enjoyed my stay there. It’s certainly a dynamic place. But it’s not much on a human scale, and is not going to show up on many lists of most charming and beautiful cities. I’d love to visit Tokyo again, but I’d much rather live in Portland.

          • I understand where you’re coming from, but we already have laws that exist to promote good, well-designed buildings. They’re called building codes and zoning laws. They require certain amounts of glass at street level, landscaping for unsightly elements, setbacks or lack thereof where appropriate, etc. Those are supposed to make sure that any proposed building will be a decent contribution. I.E., the problem was ALREADY solved.

            I have no idea how all of this design review garbage started, but it needs to be canned immediately if we really care about affordable housing. I understand how the street-level of Tokyo is a bit more chaotic and that every 3 story apartment building doesn’t go through a fine-toothed comb for 2 years, but a perfectly designed streetscape (right down to the finish choices!) means nothing if developers are scared off or rent has to be increased to cover all the time and labor spent on the design review song and dance.

  3. What’s the point of building codes and zoning laws if you have design reviews telling architects and developers what to do?

    No wonder it takes up to 2 years to get things started in this small minded city

Leave a Reply