Residents have never been very happy about the placement of affordable housing in the mixed-use development attached to the new park, Gateway Discovery Park, at Northeast 106th Avenue and Halsey Street. Its absence from original planning documents and then its unexpected inclusion in the 2014 and 2015 property dispositions has attracted the ire of many residents.
But while the affordable housing at the one-acre site is here to stay, developers met with the community again on Oct. 24 to present the latest changes to the project in response to community feedback. There were roughly a dozen residents in attendance.
The most significant change is the addition of 35 units of market-rate housing. This is in addition to the 40 units of planned affordable housing, for a total of 75 units of housing.
With these changes in mind, Holst Architecture, developer Gerding Edlen and nonprofit Human Solutions were on hand to present different build options with varying heights, footprints and costs.
The least expensive possibility, Option A, will stack the entire building along Northeast Halsey Street in a single 72-foot, six-story structure. Office and retail would occupy the bottom floor, with a 65-space surface parking lot between the building and the park.
Dave Otte, a principal with Holst Architecture, noted that taller building designs would be incongruous with the rest of the neighborhood. “What’s been built doesn’t match what’s been zoned,” he said.
Option B, which comes with a more expensive price tag, would blend more smoothly with the neighborhood. It features a stepped height from 45 feet up to 68 feet. The housing and retail components would be placed in a smaller six-story structure, with the office space and the rest of the development in a nearby three-story building.
The costliest possibility, Option C, received the strongest approval from attendees. It would vary the heights of the development’s components most drastically, from 58 feet and shorter. The buildings would be slightly longer than the other two proposals to compensate for losing height. The surface parking would be architecturally screened from the park by raising some of the building on top of the parking lot. It would also give the greatest number of residents a view of the park.
Cost estimates for each option were not available yet.
Neighbors raised several objections. “The whole point, we were told long ago—one reason we needed to have a building there—was to generate TIF [tax increment financing],” said Linda Robinson, a member of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association and local resident. “We’re not generating any TIF to put back into other projects,” she added.
Representatives from Human Solutions noted that the newly added units of market-rate housing would generate TIF, along with the retail portion. However, the subsidized housing would not. The office space would only generate TIF if nonprofit Human Solutions declined to file for a tax exemption.
Sarah Zahn, project manager for Gerding Edlen, pointed out that since Human Solutions is self-financing the office portion of the building and taking no public assistance, they would not be taking away any tax revenue.
“It’s likely that Portland Development Commission and Portland Housing Bureau would not require the office space were Human Solutions not in favor of it,” she said. “It’s not generating something that would then be taken away.”
In response to more questions regarding tax revenue, Deb Meihoff, facilitator at the meeting, said, “It’s not that we’re ignoring you, it’s that these folks were hired [by the city of Portland] to do a very specific job, and that’s the job they are doing. And so it might be helpful if you all had a conversation with other folks at the city who are setting policy amongst yourselves.”
Ideas for the retail portion of the building were explored at the meeting. A grocery was mentioned as a strong possibility, although attendees also expressed desire for a bookstore, fitness center with (full of fitness exercise machines), bakery or restaurant. Otte added that there are potential plans for food cart infrastructure in the development’s plaza.
There are several upcoming opportunities to meet with the development team. On Nov. 10 from 6 to 7 p.m. there will be another focus group for Gateway neighbors at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization at 10301 N.E. Glisan St. Additionally, an open house is scheduled for Nov. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. also at the same location. Call Mary-Rain M. O’Meara Human Solutions’ housing development coordinator at 503-548-0284 for more information about the project, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The project website has been updated with these new dates: humansolutions.org/gateway-park.