BY FRED LEESON
The design solution would not be easy. For starters, the site at 2004-2010 SW Madison Street slopes downhill in two directions. It also sits in a corner of Portland’s Kings Hill Historic District, meaning that the design would have to be compatible with, but not a replica of, older buildings in the district, mostly erected between 1882 and 1942.
And because the new plan would have to be approved by the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission, two or more public hearings likely would be needed to reach a design satisfactory to the city’s historic design review body. Add to the stew: another developer, back in 1997, once proposed a seven story building that was fought by the Goose Hollow Foothills League (without success) at both the Landmarks Commission and the state Land Use Board of Appeals. For whatever reason, it was never built.
Well, new problem solved – with surprising speed.
Beaverton architect Ted Argo presented plans for two row houses, covered by a single hipped roof form with dormers and pediments over the front doors. The bottom floor is encased with cedar lap siding and the upper floor and dormers with cedar shingles. Brick veneer wraps the concrete foundation. Unlike plans for most new buildings in historic districts, Argo’s plan for Encore Homes won approval in a single brief public hearing.
Based on a recommendation from David Skilton, Argo didn’t bother with an advisory session before submitting plans for approval. “I felt pretty good about where we got,” Skilton told the commission at the meeting’s start.
“We knew we did not want copies of existing buildings, but there are compatible precedents,” Argo said. He took advantage of the slope to tuck off-street parking under the building.
Jerry Powell, a veteran planning committee member of the Goose Hollow Foothills League, criticized the plan, albeit with some reluctance. “It’s difficult to sit here and say I like it but I don’t like it,” he said. Powell said he felt it lacked “a certain amount of grace,” and said he thought the small front porches looked “kind of tacked on.”
But Argo’s plan drew little criticism from the landmarks commission. Brian Emerick, an architect-member of the review body, called it “a good infill design in keeping with the district without being a replica.” He added that he wasn’t “wild” about the exterior color scheme, but noted that the commission does not review color choices. “On balance, I think it will be a strong contribution to the neighborhood and a strong development,” Emerick said. The plan was approved by a 4-0 vote.
The vacant site was once home to an Arts and Crafts era apartment building that burned many years ago. Powell, the Goose Hollow representative, said, “The whole neighborhood is sighing with relief that finally there will be a building on that corner instead of a tent camp.”