BY FRED LEESON
Two developers who played big roles in Portland’s high-flying condo boom of the early 2000s are returning to one of their primary neighborhoods with a different development plan: a residential hotel for the Pearl District.
Homer Williams and Dike Dame are working on a six-story Marriott Residence Inn to be erected on a vacant, trapezoidal block bounded by N.W. Marshall and Northrup Streets between N.W. 9th Avenue and Station Way. The roughly U-shaped building with 224 units would include a public/private courtyard opening off Marshall Street.
The hotel designers, SERA Architects of Portland, earned unanimous approval from the Portland Design Commission on June 7 after substantially reworking vehicular access to the building and switching locations of some internal components. “Marriott, we were pleased to discover, was pleased with the changes,” said Kurt Schultz, a SERA principal. So were commission members, who expressed pleasure that many of their concerns were addressed successfully.
The most compelling change involved vehicular access. The original plan called for vehicles to enter the courtyard off Marshall Street and drop off passengers deep in the courtyard. Never mind that the building’s primary façade on Ninth Avenue included a dominating six-story perforated yellow metal screen that virtually screamed “main entry. ” David Wark, an architect who is perhaps the most out-spoken member of the current design commission, criticized that version of the hotel as having “an urban skin and a suburban core.”
The revised plan eliminates vehicles from the courtyard, allowing the design team to craft a more inviting landscape for both public and private use. Landscaping and a water feature will separate a private meeting/drinking/eating space for hotel guests in the courtyard from the public domain that will face on Marshall. Designers also moved more hotel units on the Station Way side to look into the attractive courtyard, and shifted a pool and exercise facilities to open view on the ground-floor Station Way frontage.
Thus, the six-story perforated metal screen indeed becomes the main entry for both pedestrians and vehicles. Marriott agreed to provide more valet staff so that cars can be moved quickly from the loading zone on Ninth near Northrup. Because the hotel is intended for guests who routinely stay for five or six days, the loading zone is expected to be less busy than a hotel geared for shorter stays. Hotel parking will be at the nearby Station Place Garage.
Kurt Lango, a principal in Lango Hansen Landscape Architects, said the courtyard surface will be composed of two colors of pavers. A curving arc of evergreen trees on the eastern side will provide a buffer and some privacy for hotel-room decks overlooking the courtyard. There will be wooden benches in the public realm and fire pits and outdoor seating for hotel, restaurant and bar patrons. And how to maintain the separation of patrons and non-patrons? “We’ll have to police the space aggressively,” said Trevor Rowe, a Williams & Dame representative.
Dominant elements of the facades on the outside of the U-shaped buildings will be white bricks and ribbon windows, aside from the striking tower of perforated metal. Andrew Janksy, a design commission member, called the building “clean and simple and visually interesting.”
Wark, who had criticized the earlier version, said the change in the courtyard plan “allowed the project to coalesce.” As for the revamped courtyard, he added, “There is nothing like it in the Pearl or in the city. It could be one of our best outdoor spaces.”