A 148-unit affordable housing development in the Alphabet Historic District has been approved by the Historic Landmarks Commission. The development is being designed by Carleton Hart Architecture for nonprofit developer and housing provider Northwest Housing Alternatives. The project will be comprised of two buildings, which with varying levels of affordability (income limits will be 0-60% Area Median Income). The north building at NW 18th & Irving is intended to be workforce housing with no age restrictions. The south building at NW 18th & Hoyt will incorporate and add to the existing Buck Prager building, and is intended to serve low-income, vulnerable seniors. As part of the development the Buck Prager building will receive a seismic upgrade. No vehicular parking is proposed.
The project site at 1727 NW Hoyt St is the western half of the block bound by NW Hoyt St, 18th Ave, Irving St and 17th Ave. The northern portion of the site currently has a small apartment building on it, which was built in 1940. The southern half of the site includes the Buck Prager Building, also known as the Ballou & Wright building, which is a contributing resource in the Alphabet Historic District. The building was built in 1918, as a woman’s hospital. It was subsequently used as an office building. It has been vacant since 2007.
In 2014 developer Gerding Edlen proposed to demolish the Buck Prager Building, in order to build a market rate apartment building. Demolition of the building would have required City Council approval, which was denied after strong neighborhood opposition to the proposal.
The five and a half story north building will include 99 studio apartment building, plus 1 one-bedroom apartment for on-site management. The building draws design influences from the American Apartment Building at NW Johnson St & 21st Ave and the Wickersham Apartments at NW Flanders St & 18th Ave. Materials proposed include red brick, precast concrete, fiber cement panel, wood, cementitious parge coating and white fiberglass windows.
The south building will incorporate the existing Buck Prager building, where 18 new studio apartments plus a community room and resident amenities will be placed. The three and a half story addition to the Buck-Prager will include 30 studio units. Since the project last went in front of the Commission the addition to the Buck Prager was redesigned from an art deco expression to a more stripped classical design.
Materials proposed on the addition include running bond brick in an ironstone color, parge coating over brick, decorate metal guardrails and fiberglass patio doors. At the Buck Prager existing brick will be restored and repointed will be retained at. New custom wood entrance doors, wood windows and a steel entrance canopy will be added to the building, as well as a new metal eyebrow which will restore an element that was once on the building.
The NW 18th & Hoyt Apartments went in front of the Landmarks Commission five times in total: for Design Advice Request meetings in January, February and April 2018; and for Type III Historic Resource Review hearings on August 27th and September 24th 2018. The Commission voted 5-1 to approve the project, with Commissioners Minor, Roman, Foty, Fuenmayor and outgoing Chair Ranzetta voting in favor of the project. Commissioner Mahoney voted against the project, feeling that the north building was too derivative of buildings from earlier eras. Commission Chung, who lives across the street and had pushed for a smaller building, did not attend either of the Type III hearings.
In the Tentative Final Findings and Decision by the Landmarks Commission it was noted that the proposal succeeded where previous efforts to develop the site had failed:
The purpose of the Historic Resource Review process is to ensure that additions, new construction, and exterior alterations to historic resources do not compromise their ability to convey historic significance. There have been previous attempts to redevelop the west half of this block, including a proposal in 2014 which proposed demolition of the Buck-Prager building to allow for the construction of a 6-story apartment building with below-grade parking, however, the Type IV Demolition application was denied.
This proposal reflects a strong response to feedback provided to date, including changes to height, massing, design, materials, colors, and details to better emphasis the Contributing Resource and respond to historic resources. With the conditions of approval listed in the findings above, the site and building design features respond well to, and are compatible with, the original resource, adjacent properties, and the historic district. This proposal meets the applicable Historic Resource Review criteria, modification criteria, and adjustment criteria, and therefore warrants approval.
Building permits will need to be obtained before construction can begin.
Full disclosure: the author of Next Portland submitted testimony in support of the project in advance of the second and third Design Advice Request meetings and the the first Historic Resource Review hearing.