BY HENRY C. KUNOWSKI
The issues for moving key elements of the Ankeny/Burnside Development Framework Plan forward created an excellent opportunity for investigation by an urban design studio at the University of Oregon’s Department of Architecture. The studio held its mid-term “pin-up” on Friday, February 4th at the UO Portland Center in the White Stag Building with a series of outside-review critiques.
While a complex set of interrelated dynamics are involved—urban, social, cultural, architectural, economic—the fundamental question posed is whether the development issues of zoning, floor-area-ratio and height are approached from a performance-based standpoint rather than fixed prescriptive numbers?
Since its completion in 2007 the Ankeny/Burnside Plan and its proponents have attempted to move several concepts forward to fruition with little success. While the plan itself is a example of what stellar documents city bureaus, PDC and effected stakeholders can produce, it has not fully achieved what it supported. The fundamental vision for the area, refined through a multi-faceted visioning process, is to “create a vital and vibrant district that retains and reinforces the history and character of the Ankeny/Burnside area.” No one involved with the creation of the A/B Plan or even those not involved will argue with this vision. Why is implementation of this vision such a difficulty with the appearance of no forward movement? While there are five implementation strategies recommended, few have been advanced.
As noted in the A/B Plan the five priority implementation strategy action items are:
- Development of six catalytic opportunity sites
- Demonstration of support for Saturday Market
- Improvements to the public realm
- Revisions the existing regulatory framework
- The identification of a management entity for the district.
The second and third strategies moved forward to some significant degree while items four and five have stalled. A national review of five case study sites investigated for the A/B Plan found items four and five critical for a successful implementation. Nevertheless, the first strategy has been the focus of at least two recent proposals that have ended with no resolve.
As a research, study and design vehicle for a senior/graduate level urban design studio, the key issues raised in the A/B Plan are what constitutes an “Edge Opportunity Site” and whether the current perspective on density and zoning height limitations in this duel historic district area the right approach.
The design studio is investigating the Edge Opportunity Site located on Block 28, between NW Third and Fourth Avenues and NW Couch & Davis Streets. The principle focus is the KIDA Company site at NW Third and Davis, but for the purposes of the studio, the entire block will be studied. This approach offers a greater opportunity for addressing the broader urban design issues that cannot be addressed by looking at any one single development parcel.
The project site is located within two historic districts, Skidmore/Oldtown National Historic Landmark and New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District and as such contains a split zoning height limit with the eastern half at 75-feet and the western half at 100-feet and hence will not serve to function as a “transitional site” to the remained of a “modern city” as noted in the A/B Plan. In reality, Block 28 is not an “edge” but the heart of two historic districts and is viewed as such.
To further add another layer of complexity to the design context, the Skidmore NHL is listed for its architectural significance, primarily the 19th century cast iron of the Victorian era Italianate style with influences of the Richardsonian Romanesque and Chicago/Commercial styles. On the other side of the spectrum, New Chinatown is listed for its significance as it relates to the early settlement of the Chinese and Japanese communities, in other words, there is no architectural record of this district but a cultural one. The only building in the New Chinatown area that reflects the cultural traditions of the Asian population is the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, CCBA, built in 1911 and located at 312 NW Davis.
There are 15 students in the class with eight of them working on the two historic buildings, the circa-1883 Sinnott House, 1883 and Simon Façade dating to 1892. The other 7 students are working on designs for two new buildings to replace the extant non-historic structures, the KIDA Company and Great China Bldgs, both facing NW Davis.
The studio is charged with three primary objectives:
Objective 1: Design two new adjoining mixed-use developments with criteria that are viewed from a “performance-based” approach to compatibility in the historic context vs. a “prescriptive approach” that works with the current and proposed height increase. The KIDA Co. site may also utilize the Simon Building Façade. New developments will evaluate their impacts and effects on the adjacent historic Hung Far Low Building, 1916.
Objective 2: Design an “adaptive reuse” of the extant historic Sinnott House, 1883, as a either a “Boutique Hotel” or student housing; including consideration of a roof-top addition. Use of the Sinnott will also utilize the adjacent historic Simon Building Façade, 1892. The adaptive reuse should satisfy the requirements of a “certified rehabilitation”, if not, use of the Secretary of the interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and the proposed Skidmore/Oldtown Design Guidelines with the inclusion of the Richardsonian Romanesque and Chicago/Commercial style as building types.
Objective 3: All developments will be following the guidelines of the “Living Building Challenge” 2.0 for environmental sustainability.
Four of the 5 parcels on the block will be redeveloped to meet the strategies identified in the A/B Development Framework Plan, i.e. mixed-use as noted in City’s Title 33 Planning and Zoning Code, Chapter 33.130 (Table 130-3) Commercial Zones: CX. For the purposes of this studio a “mixed-use” will encompass; Residential, Retail, Commercial and Professional uses. The specific uses for each of the 4 sites are defined in the site parcel description. Further, the specific retail and commercial uses will be defined by an informal class survey of extant similar uses in a three block area surrounding the Block 28 site.
Assumptions: Air rights above the one-story Hung Far Low Restaurant on the corner of NW 4th and Couch have been secured to prevent future high-rise development on that site and open the view-shed for the adjacent properties. The KIDA Co. site and the former Great China Restaurant site will be co-developed so that, in concept, they will share a central light-well type court or, to put it another way, independently they may have a basic “U” shape plan configuration. The Simon Building Facade site could also be developed to utilize this area for a possible hydraulic parking structure to serve either/both the Sinnott House and the KIDA Co. development.
The final design studio solutions will be presented for design review critique the week of March 7th in either Eugene or Portland with details and schedules pending.
Henry Kunowski is an architectural historian and adjunct instructor of architecture and historic preservation at the University of Oregon. He is a past Chair of the AIA/Portland Historic Resources Committee and is currently working for Dewberry + Davis, Consulting Engineers in Fairfax, Virginia and Zaik Associates in Portland Oregon.