Last month developer Ricardo Berdichevsky and architect Alberto Rinkevich discussed their proposed Hazelwood Plaza apartment project with the Portland Design Commission, and encountered some skepticism from both Commission and community members.

The Plaza would be a 61-unit building on the east side of Northeast 102nd Avenue at Davis Street, with 52 parking spaces in a rear surface lot. It would have a fourth-floor fitness area.

An ongoing issue with the development of the east side of 102nd is the juxtaposition of its dense zoning with existing single-family housing immediately to the east. Rinkevich said the project is aware of the development’s impacts on its neighbors and trying to soften them.

It would be five stories high on its western side facing 102nd, then drop to four stories in the rear. It would also increase the rear setback from a required five feet to 12.5. Rinkevich pointed out that the zoning allows a building seven stories tall containing 84 units. “We could do a lot more, but we’ve been told that’s not in the spirit of Gateway,” he said.

To accommodate these gestures, the developers are asking to reduce the front setback from 25 feet to 13, and to be relieved of providing interior landscaping in the parking lot. Rinkevich said the lot is narrow, that the interior landscaping would consume 1,100 square feet, and “for us, this is impossible.”

The developers were vague as to whether they would seek rent subsidies, but said rents would be geared to people earning 60 percent or less of median-area family income. They said they would accept pets in some cases.

The project generated one letter, and one piece of testimony, with sharply different viewpoints. A resident of 103rd Avenue objected that at five stories the project would “stick out like a sore thumb,” and “overpower the single family lots behind it.”

In contrast, Hazelwood Neighborhood Association board member Christopher Masciocchi said, “I am deeply invested in seeing urban renewal happen in a positive way.” So far, it has failed to produce much, he said, and the area has little to show other than “low income housing, social services and bars. This is the first major development on 102nd, and we desperately need someone to step forward.”

Commission members had concerns of their own, and their solutions probably would not have pleased the 103rd Avenue neighbors: David Wark suggested building taller, while Kathryn Schultz suggested reducing the amount of off-street parking.

Berdichevsky’s response to Schultz was, “I don’t think that’s a good idea economically. Even if they’re not used for work, people will have cars to use on the weekend.” Both complained the parking and building footprint “fills up virtually every square inch of the site.”

 Garish color scheme opposed

Most everyone who spoke criticized the proposed color scheme as too garish. “When I first saw the renderings, my first reaction was, ‘This can’t be right,’ ” Commission member David Simpson said.

Berdichevsky countered, “When you drive down 102nd you see red and beige, and that’s it. It’s boring. If you drive around northeast, you’ll see all these colors in the newer structures.” Despite this, the Commission urged him to simplify the color scheme.

Members also urged the applicants to provide some sort of “active use” on the ground floor, and Wark said that corrugated metal, one of the proposed materials, “screams low budget.”

When Berdichevsky pointed out that this was used in the South Waterfront’s new Mirabella high-rise, Wark countered, “That’s not our favorite building.” However, Wark concluded, “You’re on your way to a really good project.”

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