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Two sizable projects OK'd... finally

Daily Journal of Commerce

Two major projects that languished in the design review process for months finally received the Portland Design

February 22nd 2016

Plans for a 15-story mixed-use project at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Harrison Street call for 424 residential units atop almost 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. (Myhre Group Architects and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture)

Commission's OK on Thursday.

Commissioners took only 45 minutes and imposed a few minor conditions before approving Oregon Health and Science University's plans for two new buildings: a 15-story surgical center with a sky bridge and a six-story guest housing tower atop a three-story parking garage at OHSU's Center for Health & Healing South in the South Waterfront District.

But approval for another project, a 15-story mixed-use development at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Harrison Street, came only after three hours of discussion by the commission and with many conditions, said Don Sowieja, principal with Myhre Group Architects.

Development plans call for 424 residential units above a 33,000-square-foot supermarket and 5,000 square feet of retail space at ground level. Two basement levels will provide 151 parking spaces. Myhre Group is working with the architect of record, Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture of Chicago, where the developer, Core Spaces, is also located. The site is owned by Goodman Generations LLC of Portland and Bay City Capital of San Francisco.

Sowieja said that after navigating four design advice hearings and two design review hearings in 15 months, he hopes to see construction begin soon. No start date has been set, however.

But Sowieja said he disagreed with a condition recommended by staff and approved by commissioners that clear glazing be used for all ground-level retail space facing Fourth Avenue and Harrison Street. He believes that is too restrictive and may limit the types of retail occupants.

"We had proposed something similar that was not as onerous and made our argument," he said.

But after a sometimes heated discussion, commissioners agreed with city staffers.

"With the exception of that portion (of the hearing) it was a good meeting," Sowieja said. "There's always head-butting - but the majority of their (commissioners') questions were detailed in nature."

The city staff report recommended that the ground-floor facade on Southwest Fourth Avenue and Harrison Street "consists of clear glazed storefronts, establishing a direct visual connection between the sidewalk and the interior."

The condition is important, city planner Staci Monroe said after the meeting, because the building faces Pettygrove Park and a pedestrian trail.

"We wanted to ensure that no back-of-house occurs along the park and trail edges in floors one and two," she said.

Sowieja said the commissioners' other final conditions included using metal panels with small perforations at the podium level and larger perforations at upper levels, installing landscaping instead of terraces along Southwest Third Avenue and Montgomery Street, placing a transformer below grade and setting windows at 5.5-inch deep instead of 4.5 inches in the building's framed portion.

The design team over the past year has met with many neighborhood groups, business owners and property owners as part of the process, Sowieja said.

"We are very excited to gain approval and although the lengthy process has had its ups and downs, our team is convinced this is a wonderful project," he said.

For the OHSU development, the Design Commission attached a few conditions. These included: changing flat metal panels on the garage to folded tri-colored metal panels, and using a marigold accent color on elevator lobbies in the guest housing building, said Brian Newman, associate vice president of planning and development at OHSU. The color matches the underside of white bird-like accents that will be featured on the parking garage facades, he said.

Newman said the project team needed 10 months - including two design advice hearings, two land use hearings and visits to Portland City Council - to get final approval from the Design Commission. One of the elements that slowed the process was the two-story sky bridge, which North.

The project was approved 4-1; Commissioner Tad Savinar gave his reasons for voting no.

"I just think you're missing the boat," he said. "There is no wonder, there's no discovery, there's nothing here. The buildings are OK and for me the parking structure was an opportunity to create a You've got to see it; let's go there and look at the thing' moment, but there is no human spirit here and I just can't approve."

Newman said he had hoped for a different response.

"I appreciate Mr. Savinar's input and he has been very thoughtful throughout (the hearings), but I was disappointed," Newman said. "We made so many changes to address his concerns and it was nice of him to acknowledge that we were very responsive, but I'm disappointed he couldn't support it in the end."

But Newman said he is thrilled that the other four votes were for approval. The process to secure building permits is under way; construction will be overseen by Hoffman Construction Co., he said.

As OHSU continues to expand its South Waterfront campus, Newman said the next building project will be the proposed Knight Cancer Research Center. The first design review hearing for that project is scheduled for April 7.