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Final phase of 102nd Avenue Project receives funding

Editor’s note: Welcome to Perlman’s Potpourri: news items from across the Gateway and Parkrose neighborhoods of mid-Multnomah County from veteran Beat Reporter Lee Perlman. A selection of highlights for May follows.

Coming up, funding for completion of the 102nd Avenue Project — from Glisan to Stark streets — has been secured.

Russellville III, the four-story structure on East Burnside Street at 102nd Avenue, nears completion.

Plus, State Sen. Rod Monroe, representing parts of Mid-county, has introduced a bill that would allow Portland city leaders to require compulsory design review in “main streets, town centers and near major transportation facilities such as light rail stations.” In other words, pretty much anywhere.

Also in Perlman’s Potpourri this month — the ongoing, frustrating struggle of a developer trying to obtain Portland Design Commission approval for his four-story office building development next to I-205 freeway — a prime example of the design review process.

And, in another follow-up to a report in last month’s Potpourri: the identified snag in the attempt to develop a conceptual system of streetcar routes in east Portland — bicycle tires and streetcar rail lines do not mix well — will be addressed in plans unveiled at an open house to be held this month at David Douglas High School.

Cascade Station, the 120-acre retail shopping center, hotel and office complex at the southwest corner of Airport Way and I-205 announced the agreement between it and the General Services Administration to build a new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and three of the remaining four hotels’ construction is making progress.

And finally this month, despite local residents’ objections, TriMet proceeds with cuts to bus service in Mid-county.

But first, to the funding of the 102nd Avenue Project ...


102nd Phase II funded
According to Project Manager Dan Layden, the second phase of the 102nd Avenue Project has been funded, allowing improvements between Northeast Glisan and East Burnside streets. The $2 million in federal Flexible Funds awarded by Metro’s Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program will allow the city to create a boulevard treatment with bike lanes, new street trees and street furniture, and a planted median alternating with left turn lanes for this part of the street. However, Layden cautions, although allocated, the funds won’t be available until 2012 at the earliest, so construction will not begin before 2013.

Russellville III nears completion
The new Russellville Park addition, the third phase of the Russellville development in Hazelwood, should be complete and allow residents to start moving in this month, Manager Seamus McCarthy told the Memo. The four-story structure on East Burnside Street at 102nd Avenue will add 138 units to the existing 155 units in Russellville Park. Of these, 27 units, all on the fourth floor and ranging in size from studios to two bedrooms, will be for independent living. Another 95 units — some two-bedroom, two-bath — will be for assisted living, where seniors live in their own units but have paid staff available to help with functions they have difficulty performing. There are 16 memory care units for Alzheimer sufferers.

The building also has three restaurants, a bar, a coffee shop, a salon and spa, and a Prime Fit gym. The gym has a resistance pool — where you swim against a gentle current — that is “a state-of-the-art primo facility for seniors,” McCarthy said. The gym will be available to members of the public 55 years old and older.

Russellville is now taking reservations for the units. “We’re running short on independents,” McCarthy said, although they were still available in all categories at press time. For more information, call 503-254-5900 or visit

Bill provides for more design review
As the Memo went to press, the state legislature was debating a bill that could give both the city and neighborhoods more say in the look and design of new buildings.

Currently under state law, Portland is only allowed to do compulsory design review for new projects in Downtown, Gateway and National Register historic districts. If design review is offered anywhere else, it must be done as a two-track system. If a development project meets a set of objective Community Design Standards, it is allowed by right, and there is no review by either the city or citizens; public review processes only come into play if a developer wants to deviate from the standards. SB 907, introduced by Sen. Rod Monroe, would allow the city to require compulsory design review in other places, such as designated main streets, town centers and near major transportation facilities such as light rail stations. Applicable only to the city of Portland, it would not automatically create any new design zones, but would allow the city to do so.

Stephanie Mendoza Gray of the Office of Government Relations told the Portland Design Commission last month that mid-Multnomah County has been especially unhappy with the status quo. The existing system “doesn’t provide for the standards and amenities we want,” she said. “What we heard, especially from east Portland, is that recent growth is not indicative of the type of designs we want. You see examples there of less than quality design. (With good design), you can see an increase in property values not just for that property but for the neighborhood as a whole,” she said. “It decreases maintenance costs down the road because there are better building materials. It creates ways to increase energy efficiency.”

Commission member and developer Ben Kaiser looked askance at the proposal. “This is a time when it’s difficult to build anything, let alone with an extra layer of review. It’s unfortunate this is coming now.” He said that many developers are consciously seeking to avoid building in areas that have design review, and that this may drive them to other areas.
Fellow commission member David Wark asked Kaiser, “Wouldn’t developers be at ease about not having to worry about bad development next door?”

“No, because they don’t look that far ahead,” Kaiser replied.

Commission member Tim Eddy noted that the city of Gresham has recently instituted design review in new areas.

Schatz project too colorful
After extensive remodel planning, developer Bob Schatz has a design for his four-story office building in Gateway, minus its signature giant O, that the Portland Design Commission can accept.

But he’ll have to wait at least another month for their approval because they don’t like the color.

Schatz has been trying for months to obtain approval for his proposed 18,000-square-foot building at 123 S.E. 97th Ave. The project features very small offices for people who use such facilities only occasionally, and for which Schatz feels there is a niche. The main sticking point has been his proposal to — as an attention-getter — put a giant metal O on the south side of the structure within sight of the I-205 Freeway. Planner Chris Beanes, assigned to the case by the Bureau of Development Services, objected not so much to the O, but to the fact that it detracted from emphasizing the street entrance, as city design guidelines call for. After arguing with Beanes for weeks, Schatz appealed the case to the Design Commission, hoping to engage their support. He appeared shocked when, at a hearing in January, the commission lined up behind Beanes. A second hearing was postponed three times as the developer sought to re-do his project, assisted by informal advice from commission members Tim Eddy and Lloyd Lindley, and planner Tim Heron.

When the second hearing finally occurred on April 16, Schatz had dispensed with the big O, and instead proposed facades consisting of light corrugated-metal siding, alternating with irregular patches of flat-metal siding on all sides. This time, Beanes dropped his objections and recommended approval. The commission did not follow suit, although they praised the changes. When asked what color the facades will be, Schatz said the flat siding would be black while the corrugated metal would be a galvanized gray. When Eddy suggested a monochromatic approach, Schatz replied, “I’d actually thought of having three colors. One would be too plain for me.”

The other commissioners made it clear they agreed with Eddy and wanted a single color. “This is a very toothy appearance,” Eddy told Schatz. “It’s a relatively small building and heavily articulated. Shadows and shades would make this much more interesting than colors. This is a rough part of town where there aren’t even sidewalks.” While the design review process might seem rough, he said, “We’re seeking a better quality of development here. This is a poster child for what Bob Clay and (Mendoza Gray) were talking about,” referring to the proposed new bill regarding city and neighborhood design review. (See “Bill provides for more design review” Page 4.)

Another commission member, Andrew Jansky, said he was fine with 99 percent of the plan, but had an issue with the light metal material Schatz proposed to use at the building’s base. (Asked exactly what he would use, Schatz said he was shopping around.) Looking at the siding sample, Jansky said, “Just from being handled, this has picked up little dents. Can you imagine what will happen the first time someone’s bike falls against this?” Schatz said the individual metal panels could be replaced, but Jansky said this, in fact, would not happen, a building owner would not go to that expense.

Commission member David Wark told Schatz, “You’ve come a long way from your first submittal. Overall, it’s getting there. You just need one more pass.”

Visibly shaken and frustrated, Schatz agreed to make more alterations and appear at a commission hearing on May 7.

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