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You're right on the money here, Brian. There seems little support to build anything that represents our times and supports freethinking in architecture and design in Portland. We're doing little to inspire the next generation towards achieving great things, instead teaching them that new thinking is unwelcome - that we should rely on old ways; even, as you point out, the so-called 'vernacular' is faux-historic.

I guess I'm a little surprised that an organization which considers itself a force for anti-establishment independence would cling so tightly to establishment rules, rather than encourage a little rule-breaking towards a more vibrant and diverse community.

Jeff Joslin

Without discussing the specifics of this case, I'd like to simply, once again, assert that is not about a conflict between architectural style (modernism) and historic fit (contextualism).

To reduce this discussion to a conflict between regulation and style, or regulation and "good design", is to ignore the fact that the guiding process and guidelines were created and emplaced by an exhaustive community process. The purpose of these project-specific processes is to determine whether proposals correspond appropriately to those embodied values. In this case, those values speak principally to specific qualities found in this historic conservation district. This does not preclude stylistic departures, bold design, and absolutely does not suggest "faux historic" approaches.

For example, there's nothing faux historic about the Mississippi Lofts project, or those elements (additional window area and some form of canopy) that were requested of Apple. In both these cases, changes were requested that did not conflict with the stylistic intent of the respective projects, but were intended to ensure the projects gesture to, and integrate with, their respective historic contexts to an appropriate degree.

It's not untrue that our regulatory environment may afford freer expression in some locales than others. A particular design premise or desire may be more challenged in a National Register historic district than in an area with neither historic constraints nor design review. These are among the choices we've made as a community. I genuinely appreciate this worthy and challenging, ongoing discussion about how we manifest these goals and values, in these specific areas, over time.

Jeff Joslin


To me the ironic thing about this is that if the Black Rose Collective were really anarchists then wouldn't they favor all regulation and government interference be removed? Isn’t the basic tenant of anarchy that everyone is allowed to do what as they please? Yet they're using a government board to block a building that doesn't fit into their personal ideal of what the neighborhood should be. It's a shame that this sort of NIMBY-ism is blocking great modern projects all over town.


I think challenging the fake-historical look is worthwhile, and it's obviously the typical (meaning, cheapest) strategy to appease these vaguely-specified mandates to "reflect the character of the neighborhood." Rather than in some way integrated, they generally look pointlessly compromised and, in a word, cheesy.(I'm thinking especially of the attempts to emulate structural brick or stone with what is basically paneling.)

Then again, aren't old residential neighborhoods exactly where the assertively modern-looking will be most disruptive? Ordinary people are always going to be turned into architecture-critics by the new place on the block, and in a way they have every right to whatever resentment they feel, and to whatever conservative actions they undertake.

I'd say it's important to keep in mind that the various stories lately of neighborhood resistance have nearly all concerned a single type of development: the mixed-use condo/retail. Maybe municipal or commercial buildings affect us less emotionally than those erected to house a bunch of new neighbors. I don't think we're examining what the immense reliance on the "mixed-use" designation implies. Presently, condo life atop upscale retail is what we're told to expect. But ten or twenty years out upscale retail may well move on, and maybe all we'll have is an oversupply of cheap storefronts for convenience stores, fast-food outlets, or whatever future unsavoriness will sign a lease. To me it's this cautiousness, as well as the likelihood of eventually stupid-looking buildings, that justifies efforts against filling the future with too many hastily-built, "mixed-use" relics of the housing bubble era.

Toni Magic

Mixed use housing is not a fad. It is the way cities have been developing for thousands of years. This is because it is the most efficient use of space. The neighborhoods that these mixed use developments are reenergizing will be centers of our city for years to come just as they were before the automobile took over. The relics will be the strip malls and single use, auto oriented developments we continue to build now.


What was that load of crap Joslin just posted? I'll try and translate; They didn't do what we wanted them to, so we rejected it. Were holding out for Starbucks.


Good comments Mr. Joslin. Design for new buildings within historic districts do not have to become "faux historic" and it is imperative that people understand the amount of work that goes into historic district or neighborhood plans. Often these things take years to create and finalize and they are not created in a vaccum by some cabal of NIMBYs as some may believe.
There needs to be a realization on the parts of developers, architects, and for that matter, all property owners, that if they live or are planning a project in a certain area there may be well-defined design guidelines in place that must be followed. In this case, the architecture firm is no stranger to running up against design guidelines and should have sought from the outset to use their creativity in a manner that both met their creative expectations and the expectations of the design review commission. The plans for the MAL were adapted to meet district requirements - a good example of what can be done - if one is willing to try.

Jeff Joslin

Not a great translation, Jim. As always, I'd be glad to have an off-line conversation, if you'd like to develop a better understanding of the intent.

Jeff Joslin
503 823 7705


the proportion of mississippi ave that actually falls within the historic district is much smaller than most people imagine. its just 3 blocks long or so.

if you check portland maps, most of the mississippi ave business district is zoned more loosely for "central city development".

i think jeff is doing the right thing by ensuring that this tiny district is better served.

personally, i would prefer having contemporary buildings predominate the infill. but its not about what i think. its about following the rules.


I'm generally more of a fan of pre-WW-II architecture than modern-era stuff, so I have some sympathy for the folks who opposed the building in question. But I'm even more fundamentally appreciative of how buildings functioned, not just looked, in cities and neighborhoods that came to life before the car-dominated era. Mixed-use buildings--residential on top, commercial on the bottom--are an essential structural element in cities that are interesting, vibrant and not environmentally disastrous. The city of Portland is exactly right in promoting that kind of development. And as Toni pointed out, it's not some new, trendy experiment in urban planning.

While accurate reproductions of past architectural styles are theoretically possible (in the case of small apartment buildings if not gothic cathedrals), they almost never get built. I generally agree with Brian and the many commenters on this blog who see the "historicist" style as a failure. The best we can reasonably do as a community is preserve the old and viable buildings that are still standing as we return to developing our city according to the still-sound principles that gave rise to many of those old buildings.

I don't know enough about the situation in question to draw conclusions about the actual motives of those who opposed the development. I just hope it didn't boil down to "I was here first, and I don't like anything new." If that's the kind of feeling that Jeff Joslin has to deal with as he tries to interpret vague architectural guidelines, then he must have a very frustrating job. As for the building itself, it looks good to me, and I wouldn't mind if it were built near my 1910 craftsman-style house.


Mississippi Avenue is the business street for the so-called Mississippi corridor in the Boise neighborhood. The site for the building that Kurisu proposes is not on Mississippi Avenue, it's on a side street next to people's homes.

If they were aware of the codes and guidelines for this area of the Boise neighborhood, why would the Kurisu's contract with their architect to design a corporate monolith building that overpowers neighboring homes on a side street aparrently dedicated to residences?

Maybe the Kurisu's weren't obliged to seek out community input relative to the design of their building and its impact on the neighborhood, but it certainly seems unwise for them not to have done so.

I actually like this building's design, but as near as I can tell from the few sketches published, it looks pretty damn awkward next to the splendid old ballroom, and is likely to be equally so alongside the nice old houses in the neighborhood but not included in the picture.

I can't understand how educated people with pencil, paper and computers, trained as architects, seem unable to scale divergent design elements of a building so as to complement architectural styles of a different era or philosophy manifested in neighboring buildings. I believe Holst and Kurisu could successfully submit the very same design motif of their current proposal if it were scaled down to be compatible with neighboring architecture. Not the height or floorspace of the building, but the design motif.

The impression is left that they gave not the slightest consideration to what this building would look like in the neighborhood, or what it would do in regards to other aspects mentioned in BDS's denial.

As regards Apple, if they want to bail out rather than accomodate the needs of rain assaulted Oregonians with the installation of something like a simple, nearly invisible glass canopy/awning, let them go. This isn't California.


Mixed-use buildings certainly are a fad. The trend to "mixed use condo/retail" hit Portland recently and hard enough to qualify. And it represents significantly different economics than the apartments-over-shops left over from previous centuries. Condos cause the city to become more of an ownership society, off-limits to any but the solidly successful.

I fail to see that condo housing, when it's unaffordable to so many of us, has to be promoted as the only possible solution to questions of society and its environment. The obvious reality is that condo+retail is being built because it turns a big, fast profit -- no waiting around for rent! But it's got nothing to do with saving us from strip malls, the car culture, or urban areas that aren't "vibrant."


And by the way, that 80s classic, "NIMBY," is a bit nyah-nyah if we're trying to have a serious discussion, and anyway less than apt. NIMBY's more like, "put the porno store in someone else's neighborhood, I don't care..."


ws you are misinformed. the building fronts mississippi avenue between the ballroom and the anarchists. it fronts a transit street that is intended to have 4 story, mixed-use density. it is made of finely detailed wood and stucco - what was the last corporate monolith built this way?

also, the neighborhood association is in support of the project. how much more can the Kurisus "seek out community input"?

this isn't about window size or materials or scale. it's about fear. vocal minorities are afraid of losing a perceived value, and bureaucrats are afraid of standing up for what THEY KNOW is good design.

Jeff Joslin

Well, no, as one of those bureaucrats, I'm a passionate promoter and supporter of good design. And I think we're phenomenally successful in encouraging and ensuring the best and most-fitting design that a given team and circumstance can rise to. We're also not shy about getting out of the way of good or strong design when it presents itself in the right setting. However, as I've said previously, good design in-and-of-itself does not necessarily win the day.

The typical design review process offers a provision that affords decision-makers the opportunity to waive certain design guidelines if it can be demonstrated that a project better meets the purposes of design review. This is in place specifically to allow the process to get out of the way of propositions that present the unanticipatable and/or the remarkable.

The historic design review process offers no such flexibility - designated historic districts were created specifically to ensure compatibility with that pre-existent fabric.

All design operates within constraints (budget, regulation, program...), and such constraints can be viewed as limitations or opportunities. Good design can happen within the bounds of historic design review, but it still needs to demonstrate consistentcy with community-established rules and expectations. These values are not inherently in conflict with projects being bold or of their time.

Jeff Joslin


Ben, thanks for the heads up on the building's intended location in relation to Mississippi Av. I have been to the location and seen the ballroom, so I was pretty sure I had it right, but maybe not. What you say, based on what I can gather from the rendering showing the portion of the ballroom on the right side of the picture, doesn't make semse to me. I intend to go there soon and check it out again.

I don't really see that people consider this building to bad design. I certainly don't. The BDS isn't denying approval for its style, but for a lot of technical criteria pertaining to code guidelines.

As for the corporate monolith description, I haven't walked right up to them, so I don't know that they're using stucco, but if you go driving out in Washington County, past those corporate campuses....well, this building would seem to fit right in there as a kind of corporate monolith reception building.

Meanwhile, the following website features a design that might have worked quite well for the Kurisu's purposes and the fit into the neighborhood without major problems. In fact, it looks like it would have worked great.



Sure enough, I was confusing the Mississippi Ballroom with a similar looking building on Skidmore that people on the avenue today told me was Mississippi Lofts. Sorry about any confusion.

So Kurisu's building would be on the business street, but what a different business street it is. Across the street to the west, the vintage Rexall Drug building. Going north from there, in the same block, two old houses, then a cleared lot, then the vintage building that used to be Niklas and Sons nursery. Kurisu's direct neighbors to the north would be the collective house and a vintage commercial type building where they have their bookstore.

It's hard to guess everything that people imagine will occur in the form of development in this little (3 block historic conservation district according to george, above)area. I imagine a lot of people anticipate that economic momentum will cause all the houses on the avenue to be torn down and replaced with something offering greater density. Nothing wrong with that.

Well, I'm not doing the deciding about whether a building like the Kurisu's propose gets placed in that setting. I walked around the neighborhood for several hours today, looked at the site and the neighboring houses and buildings from a lot of different angles, under different exposure to the sun. I'm not completely decided, but am still inclined to think their design would be awkward for that setting.

I think the Kurisu's could try just a little harder to conceive of something that would be a little more complimentary to the kind of architecture represented by the ballroom bldg, the drugstore builiding, and some of the other vintage buildings to the south on Mississippi Avenue.


the black rose collective and the house adjacent ARE NOT ANARCHIST. Please stop this rumor crap.


Talk about 'faux historic' crap, that building looks like it was built in 1962.


That's right, BRC is not run by Anarchists they simply sell books on Anarchy among other things. Sort of like a Christian bookstore isn't necessarily run by Christians. It’s just a business opportunity.
As you might expect, the Indy Media discussion touches a lot more on the social justice aspects of the development. Anyone have an opinion on architecture’s benefits/impacts to the community? Will pastiche architecture lessen the impacts of gentrification? Are current residents better served by no development at all?

justin m

It seems to me that while the building may fit into the overall neighborhood, it doesn't really fit in well with the two buildings it's going in between.

That said, Mississippi is kind of a wierd funky neighborhood and doesn't appear have any consistent architectural theme. It's just a lot of different buildings on the same street. (Which is what I think gives the neighborhood its charm.) Anyway, I say let them build it.




It is nice to see everyone from city officials to surrounding neighbors involved in this discussion. I believe this may be a problem of presentation. The blocky and game-like rendering (probably sketch-up) does not portray the sensory dialogue this building could create. The most exciting aspect of this project is the semi-public experential japanese garden which is completely absent from the renderings. Whether it is stucco, wood, stone (faux or not), that garden would create the street presence first...the architecture would just contain, frame, and expose it. The height and proportions is fitting for this neighborhood, especially if you imagine what Mississippi will look like in 50 years. However the low stone base appears it is only there to appease something/somebody. It seems the stone, wood, and stucco could be more composed at the base than the rendering shows. Again, this project should be about the garden first. That is what people are going to see, hear, touch, and smell with different experiences depending on the season. That is what could have been presented more thoroughly. The garden is a gift.


Of course there are many implications, benefits, disadvantages and consequences that will occur as a result of developemt on Mississippi Avenue. At least some new development there, incorporating greater density is inevitable and desirable. Fortunately for this neighborhood, there are some zoning and planning tools that allow its residents to have some significant input into what form that development takes.

It seems as though some people advocate development with very little consciousness or regard beyond a very few select points, for the nature of change that such development will bring.

For one, higher buildings will definitely and dramatically alter the level of light that reaches into the avenue. Anybody thinking such a consideration for this neighborhood is a frivolous trifle is not taking the needs of the neighborhood seriously. New construction can be designed to mitigate the loss of this basic element to some degree, but have developers there to date shown any inclination to do this, thereby gaining the support of neighborhood residents?

This avenue has some good, historic architecture(the ballroom, the missi lofts, phipps rexall building, others) as well as a long history that can be used to help define architectural criteria for new construction. If neighborhood residents like this historic style, why shouldn't they work to encourage developers to create designs that, while not neccessarily of the same historic period, are at least complimentary to to the historic period and style exemplified by the avenue's existing historic period buildings?

How high shall the avenue's building's rise? Is the Kurisu's overly bold in comparison to existing architecture, justified because some people hope that developers will win out in favor of even higher, bolder commercial buildings?

I certainly can see that the houses to the west of Kurisu's building site will eventually give way to higher buildings offering living and business space to more people, as is likely to be the case with the collective house. Question is, should the new designs that come be welcomed to completely repudiate the fine, existing architectural tradition that aparrently many residents of this neighborhood appreciate and wish to sustain?

The proposed garden is just great, but the neighborhood shouldn't have to swallow a building design that isn't right for neighborhood, in exchange for a nice garden. In fact, prior to all this, I believe the lot was providing a very nice play area for neighborhood kids without being a fancy don't touch garden.

This just as a final note, because I'm still not that familiar with the Kurisu's rationale for, or plans to deal with the alley behind the site of their proposed building; I walked some of those alleys this weekend. They are great things for a neighborhood. There aren't that many neighborhoods that have them in Portland. Mississippi should take care to see that they are not closed for any reason by development.


It seems strange that nobody has considered the tenants. The design firm would be a great addition to a mostly homogeneous district that is full of coffee shops and retail. Also, what about the firms right to realize their vision for what they stand for? Portland needs many more successful firms (and the good jobs that come with them) and I hope we can celebrate them rather than leaving a bad taste in their mouths. This firm, I assume, already pays the mountains of local city taxes that come with doing business in the city. Hopefully this building can be built somewhere in Portland without neighborhood interference.

Brian Bailitz

Hey folks. I was alerted to this by a friend. I was mentioned in the beginning and my house has been referenced quite a few times.

first, thanks lupin for reiterating that it is not an "anarchist" house. When I intereviewed with the Oregoinain reporter Randy Gragg, he asked what I felt about being labelled as anarchist and I told him it was off the money, outright. While some anarchistic principles may exist there is definately no agreement amongst the folks that own the house or that volunteer in the store that it prescribes to "anarchy" as an ideology.

please stop spreading that around, thanks.

i didnt read through all of the posts here, but a common thought on the indymedia thread was that we wanted a faux-historic design instead of their ultra modern design. That one isnt really true either.

Honestly, I am not too concerned with what the building looks like. I would really like to see some softening of the design into the residential part of the conservation district...meaning, i think that the north side of their lot should really do alot to step down and blend in to the neighborhood.

some other things that folks are throwing around here, the conservation district is pretty big, however on mississippi avenue in the boise neighborhood, it is five blocks. from failing to skidmore. it goes further north into humboldt as well.

at the historical landmarks commission hearing, i spoke out against the project, and made sure to keep it positive and offer some ways that they can build there, my suggestion was to move the walking path to the north side of their lot as a further buffer between the commercial district to the south and the residential district to the north.

also, one last thing i remembered, you folks are throwing around that the kurisus had "overwhelming support" and that "2/3 of the neighborhood approved the project." At that meeting, the vote was 80 something for the project and 30 something against it.

there was also a comment section on the ballots, where many of the folks that approved it said they were doing so because of the garden. not becasue they liked the building. so, while it is true, it is only mostly true.


AT wrote: Hopefully this building can be built somewhere in Portland without neighborhood interference.

I agree that hopefully this building/project can be built somewhere in Portland .... where the neighborhood supports it. Hmmmm, that sounds like its current site.

Personally, and maybe Jeff Joslin can chime in here, I don't understand how the Development Services staff/design review commission can bend the rules to give a pass to clearly nonconforming proposals unsupported by the neighborhood, such as the Allegro, but claim their "hands are tied" by regulations that disallow albeit edgy proposals that as even Brian Ballitz agrees nearly 75% of the neighborhood association supports.

I hope the kurisus appeal prevail and quality design survives this byzantine approval process.


I haven't heard that the Kurisu's have appealed yet, only that they presented their design before the Historic Landmarks Commission. Read for yourself:


I also hope the Kurisu's prevail: with a revised design proposal that meets zoning and conservation guidelines, sustains the viability of the alley, ensures the safety of loading facilities, and keeps their parking faciliy landscaped as specified.


the presentation to landmarks WAS an appeal - because Jeff Joslin denied the project.

landmarks reacted favorably to the design, and were adament that the progressive qualities were not in conflict with the neighborhood or the guidelines. there remain a few issues of perceived scale and the relationship to adjacent buildings, but this was a positive step towards the approval of a project that exemplifies what we should be striving to achieve with urban infill on transit streets in portland.

sorry to label the neighbors "anarchists"...wasn't meant as a pejorative.


oh yea, on further inspection of portland maps the historic district is indeed from failing all the way up to where miss. and albina merge.

i got confused by the EXd zoning that runs into the district...

anyway, just learned that my house is in the district and that i have a "contributing structure".

uh oh.

Jeff Joslin

Well, there are enough aggregate comments worthy of clarification that I'll dive back in.

First, the process is not one of popular vote. We do our best to channel regulatory intent, the letter of the regulation, and recent interpretations into all decisions.

I'll revisit the Allegro, once again, oh so briefly. There was no "bending of the rules". There was an attempt to apply a process with little history to a degree it had not been exercised before. Concerns were expressed by BDS staff early, and the project flexed in response, with an ultimate approval by the Design Commission. Until that point, there had been little neighborhood input. that didn't arrive until the Council appeal. At that time, the Council peformed in kind, giving greater definition to the policy. This is how mid-course corrections are acheived in the Portland process- it's a feedback loop.

In the more current case, the Landmarks Commission agreed with the initial denial and the determination that the project was not yet ready for approval. Prior to the hearing, we'd attempted to work with the project team to move the design towards an approvable state. They chose to simply take the original design directly to Landmarks Commission, and short of a design advice request (which they also declined) a denial was the only way to get there.

Finally, "Jeff Joslin" did not deny the project (I don't necessarily think there was any ill will there in stating it that way, but I want to address it anyway). The Bureau of Development Services denied the Design Review application, and I lead the dedicated group of architects and planners that administers the Design Review process. To personalize the process in that matter diminishes the fact that this is a process grounded in legacy and community, with approval criteria and regulatory history. We are doing our collective best to advance these projects, and the process, in a manner as consistent as possible with overarching aspirations and expectations. The quality and diversity of exchange in this blogstream is stunning testimony to both the challenge, and the success, we're achieving. Otherwise put - not many other cities have a process that affords this level of participation, and in turn prompts this type of dialogue.

And, once again, though it may draw more fire, I'll maintain that both these projects' paths demonstrate that the process works well, affording a fitting balance of - equity, consistency, inclusivity, quality, and flexibility.

Jeff Joslin


Appreciate the clarification. It's interesting to note the circuitous route that can be taken in the approval process, and related to this in the case of the Mississippi Garden Lofts, the decision on the part of the Kurisu's to decline the option of .."design advice" from BDS staff.

It would be interesting to hear their explanation for not exercising this option.


If you are concerned that your name is being used for comments directed at an entire staff of people, may I suggest that you refrain from publicly commenting in the way you’ve done on this blog. You’re speaking for the entire BDS staff, so obviously people personify the department in your name.

May I also point out that all other parties directly involved in this project have maintained silence on the issue outside of public hearings (apart from minor quotes in the Oregonian article). I feel that it would be appropriate for you to do the same.

Those involved all have their opinions about how this process works or doesn't work, but they are not airing the dirty laundry as the whole thing unfolds.

somone who lives in the Mississippi Area :-)

Jim, clearly you have neither read nor comprehended ANYTHING posted here (let me guess, you skimmed everything?...) The original blog entry is blasting the rejection based on a "gorgeous modern building" that "residents are afraid of" and then goes on to tag the Co-op people as anarchists--clearly this "architect" likes the building but should get a few facts straight so he can attempt to insult people & process properly.

First off, "Neighborhood Association buy-in" is not "neighborhood buy-in" - I'm not on the neighborhood association (and no one asked me) and I wouldn't approve of the current design. Second off, they *do* actually have to solicit feedback from the neighborhood.

Jeff Joslin makes all the right points--it's about following the process and following the guidelines for this HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT (which clearly you and seemingly half of the people desiring to weigh in with their commentary don't live in). I do live here, and spoke up and helped get the MAL project "fixed"--we got a very workable compromise, one that actually compliments the neighborhood, as opposed to creating a "box" that would please an architect (and blend in if this were the Pearl).

For those of you looking for a few straight facts, the historic conservation district is more than 3 blocks. The "southern border" starts at Failing (just north of the Mississippi Commons & Pistils), running north on Mississippi Ave all the way thru the "S" turn where Mississippi runs into Albina, and up to Blandena Ave (where the Albina Press is) as the North Boundary. No one has been able to show us any documents or photos of ANY 4-story "historic" structure from this neighborhood, nevertheless that is what our current zoning allows. There are actual guidelines that specify HOW a developer MUST solicit feedback from the community, allow for discussion and hold a follow up meeting (including required steps to notify residents within a certain number of feet of the site, etc.) ... Some of us KNOW these things because we've gone to the trouble to figure out HOW the process works, worked with it, and came to a (rather) successful outcome with the MAL project.

Yes, the garden is a nice "gift" to the neighborhood, but "gifts" and "war experiences" don't buy anyone latitude to ignore guidelines that weren't setup over night. Nor does it make people who support the rejection of this project, as it is currently proposed, NIMBYists.

I do think this building is beautiful, but I DON'T think it's a good fit for THIS neighborhood. Anyone that disagrees hasn't looked at the guidelines or walked around the area and seriously considered what our neighborhood looks like (go look at the Rexall Building, The Mississippi Ballroom, the numerous "little" buildings between Shaver and Failing that have clearly been around for more than 50 years, the soon-to-be Mississippi Ave Lofts, the John Palmer House, The Headstart Building...I could go on :-)

PS Ellen writes:

I hope the kurisus appeal prevail and quality design survives this byzantine approval process.

Clearly you don't understand this process. Hopefully what I have written will provide a little more context for you, and others like you, who need to understand what this is really about.

PPS sorry some of these comments are a little "late" - I've been out of town, but still felt this was important to add to the discussion here...


ah yes, the MAL project. another "phenomenally successful" project watered down to a lowest common denominator that is a testament to process rather than product.


I hope to hell that this "ellen" is not the same ellen that nominated herself to be the Boise Neighborhood Association Land Use Chair...


"May I also point out that all other parties directly involved in this project have maintained silence on the issue outside of public hearings (apart from minor quotes in the Oregonian article). I feel that it would be appropriate for you to do the same.

Those involved all have their opinions about how this process works or doesn't work, but they are not airing the dirty laundry as the whole thing unfolds."

I was under the impression that government, particularly in land-use & design approval cases, is supposed to operate in at least a semi-transparent fashion. This isn't a TOP SECRET black ops operation, after all.

While bringing dirty laundry out to dry can occasionally cost people their face and career (just look at Goldschmidt), as the public, do we really give a shit if some rats drown?

Jeff Joslin

My intent in participating in this discussion has been to offer clarification regarding the ways in which the review process has evolved and been applied. I've attempted to be non-positional on the project. I may have violated that intent in commenting on the team's choice to take their project as designed directly to the Commission. That point was not intended to be rhetorical, but simply to identify that it was a necessary step, given the process we have, to have the project reviewed and discussed at the right level - with the Landmarks Commission.

I've not cloaked any comments in anonymity because that would be entirely inappropriate. One challenge with these forums is that it allows broad participation, including many who've not had much contact with these processes before. I view my role here as not unlike any conversation with a reporter or a citizen. It's a great opportunity to illuminate the basis and workings of the system, and to remedy misconceptions, particularly when addressing those less familiar with, and less directly involved in, the specific review.

Jeff Joslin


You're doing just fine Joslin. You and Randy Leanord, who also drops in with comments and information over on blueoregon. Maybe the weblog format isn't cut out for all public figures, elected figures, and bureaucrats, but some have shown that their participation in them can work very well to shorten the learning curve between government and the public, on critical points related to important issues.


"Someone who lives in the mississippi area" wrote: "I'm not on the neighborhood association (and no one asked me)"

Clearly YOU don't understand the process. Membership in Neighborhood Associations is open to all residents and local stakeholders. No invitation necessary.


In order to be a member of BNA you must reside inside the boundries. Many of the most vocal and active neighbors reside on or around the boundry. some right on skidmore and mississippi just a few feet outside the boundry.

m. conroy

I was on Mississippi the other day looking at the proposed site. The renderings are interesting but do seem out of place next to the smaller historic buildings. maybe in the Pearl district would the juxtaposition of old and new work more successfully but on Mississippi, the buildings are on a much smaller, more human scale. I don't necessarily think we should build a theme park of "old timey" buildings. If you took into account, the colors, materials, quirkiness of the neighboring structures you could create a sort of fusion or hybrid that doesn't clash with it's neighbors but enhances them. The garden sounds fantastic but public access to the alley is a major factor that needs to be taken into account.

Recently I visited some friends in Seattle and I really paid attention to the architecture, particularly on Queen Anne Hill and saw some very beautiful buildings next to some obvious crimes of humanity. You would see a gorgeous Victorian apartment building next to a cement and pebble box-like structure that evoked a Walgreen's and then you would see something with vinyl siding next to an even uglier stucco building next to a replica neo classical building that was rather cool but all in all the effect was a confusing mish mash. here in Portland, we are not perfect but there seems to be more harmony between structures particularly in rejuvenated historic districts such as Alberta and Mississippi.


(http://www.shizenpdx.com) ws posted this site as a good example of architecture that would have work on that neighborhood. I wonder what ws think of the mixed-use building on NE broadway and 15th.
It is amazing that architecture from this part of the world seems to always to go backward rather than forward. I agree that historic buildings should be preserved and maitained. But trying to impose historic character to new buildings are just down right Disney. Have we not learned from some of the most beautiful cities of the -world? (i.e. Barcelona; Prague, Berlin) These cities embraced the idea of preserving the old by creating new innovative modern building as their neighbors. The historic buildings are symbol of their time, of their technology and social aspirations. Architectural aunthenticity where have you gone? It is the romantic idea of recreating history overnight and disregarding the fact that "faux historic buildings. Why would you water down the integrity of the existing building by introducing another that might mimic it by applying decorative elements. I wonder if Holst design the proposed building like the woodburn outlet mall if the BDS would have approve it because it is not a singular architectural gesture but a village like design. What makes a building fit into a given context is very subjective. The challenge is to continue history by creating them rather than recreating the same ones..


Raya, I don't know what that building on NE broadway and 15th is..seems like it's the one holding Kitchen Kaboodle, Starbucks, etc. I don't like phony crap like some of those buildings on N.E. Broadway. But realistically, that street is a whole different story from Mississippi Avenue.

Developers and architects wanting to build in the historic conservation district of the Boise neighborhood have greater than average zones and guidelines to address. If enough people in the neighborhood dislike the idea that building's like the Kurisu's propose can't be built there, they should get together and change the codes and guidelines.

The Shizen Bldg is what I hoped people might take a look at and think about. It's an example of the idea that some of these developers who want to put buildings in the Boise Historic Conservation District might benefit from thinking about. Seemed to me that a building like this would meet the criteria better. Not exactly like it....but with the considerations it uses, in a different building, designed for Missi Av, as a complementary neighbor to existing quality vintage buildings there.

Modern buildings are great. Inspired, unique design is great. Holst's building is just fine, but as far as I'm concerned, it's not the kind of extraordinary, breakthrough architecture whose distinctiveness merits over-riding the zoning guidelines of Mississippi Avenue.

There's something odd in the way that people here in Portland have lately come to butt heads over architectural design. Some people get very excited about introducing a dramatically contrasting architectural design into an existing neighborhood occupied by residents with livability interests that conflict with those designs. Why should the people who want to introduce those designs expect anything less from the residents, especially in places like Mississippi Av or Goose Hollow?

Then, in a place like SoWa, the city virtually turns over to developers, a huge chunk of property in an area that has basically 0 residents to oppose building design, and what do the developers build? Block after block of the same, repetitive, uninspired building designs. The city was under such pressure to get that project on the road. The area could have hosted some really breakthrough architecture, had the city put a little more thought into who designed what.

At least Burnside Bridgehead may be appropriately getting some of those kinds of breakthrough designs. There's a thread related to one over at skyscraper page, but I don't happen to have it for you at the moment.

m conroy

I would have to say Paris, Amsterdam and San Francisco rank as more beautiful than Barcelona or Berlin. I have yet to go to Prague so I wont disagree. But much of Berlin was leveled in WWII and lost many of it's older buildings and Barcelona has some interesting structures but overall reminds me of Southern California. That's just me. But my point was that usually something about a classic structure or older neighborhood evokes something not just because it's old and represents a specific time period but perhaps, in that era, architects, developers and craftsman took pride in their work and more emphasis was placed on beauty and timelessness. now you've got developers thinking about the bottom line, speed, and profit.

Think about how timeless the Chicago projects are that were built in the 60's and hailed as urban renewal which is now a getto or the South Auditorium area of Portland that was traditionally a Jewish and Italian neighborhood that was leveled to build those nasty white apartment buildings. Not so classic.

People are instinctively drawn to beauty and form and honestly I feel that there is a lot of disposable construction going on with no foresight beyond thirty years. I feel that most of what was built in the 70's for example tended to go sour faster that what was constructed 80 years earlier. I'm not against modern architecture but people should be thinking, hmm.. will this building still be useful in 100 years? will it still be considered beautiful? does it function and do people like it? this is what we should be thinking about as a community. Usually if a building is still considered gorgeous and worth preserving than something must be working.


"I would have to say Paris, Amsterdam and San Francisco rank as more beautiful than Barcelona or Berlin." - WS

San Francisco if anything is inferior to Portland in its beauty. I cannot say on the other cities you mentioned as I have not been to those places. San Francisco I have been to and I'm not impressed especially when compared to Portland.

As for the actual topic at hand if the company has the money and owns the land they should be able to pretty much build what they want.

This company wants to build their HQ in Portland and continue to invest in it. Why hold them back?

Without people looking or willing to do what they are doing whole areas of Portland would be ugly and rundown.


"I would have to say Paris, Amsterdam and San Francisco rank as more beautiful than Barcelona or Berlin." . Actually. that excerpt seems to be m conroy's, not mine.

As for the following oft presented rationale: "...if the company has the money and owns the land they should be able to pretty much build what they want.", how would you make this case for the neighborhood in question, which has very specific planning and zone guidleines in place for good reasons in their own right?


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