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Constantin

I'm going to miss the Virginia Cafe. I just love the low rise scale of the blocks north of the south parks block. It gives you a little bit of a breather between Broaday and 10th/11th.

The new building has the potential to be a catalyst for the midtown area maybe even be a mini brewery blocks. You already have Fox Tower nearby and all the foot traffic that come from Broadway.

Wonder how well this pencils out. There is an assumption that condo market is going to stay solid in the greater downtown area.

David

It's sad to see the interrruption of the low-rise slot between Morrison and Yamhill, crossing downtown from the river to the hills. It's a unique view corridor that few have recognized.

Jim

I agree they need to stop building retail in Portland, there is waaay too much already. I'm not sure we need any office space based on the current availability, maybe its's just the singage, but seems like evry building has availability. I will be excited to see how the new buildig looks in the skyline. The Fox Tower is so-so.

Check out JackBog's post. I'm still waiting for him to endorse a single building project in the City or Portland.

http://bojack.org/index.shtml

djk

I'm personally disappointed -- not just by the loss of the low-rise slot, but by the loss of the opportunity to work toward the future connection of the North and South Park Blocks.

I wonder if there's any prospect of the City swapping the Tenth and Yamhill Smark Park with Moyer, in exchange for another underground parking structure/park? If the City intends to develop the Smart Park anyway (and I know at this point they're looking at more of a remodel and addition than complete raze-and-redevelop), why not go all the way? Let Moyer build his tower one block to the west, with one and a half blocks of underground parking, and get another Park Block out of the bargain.

MarkDaMan

The PDC/city actually had issued a RFP for the smart park garage on 10th. I don't think they care either way if it is a complete demolition or some demo-addition. I do know they are requiring all the parking to be replaced, but that could be done a variety of ways. Since the zoning for the area is 460', I'd like to see a complimentary building go up next to the new Moyer building. The area really needs some cleaning up between the square and library.

Since Moyer is building 45,000 sq ft of continuous retail space, it shouldn't be hard at all to find a national retailer wanting to break into the Portland market. As we hear time and again, there are retailers lining up to enter downtown, but nothing is over 5,000 sq ft. Most national retailers need at least 30,000 sq ft, so 45,000 will be much sought after. Anyone else know of 30,000 sq ft or more of continuous retail space in downtown sitting on the market?

This tower will dramatically change Portland's skyline so lets hope for a high quality design. The Oregonian has a very prelim southern elevation (facing the new park block 5) in their representation of how this tower will compare with others. It looks to have an exciting shape.

I do wonder though if this will doom the First and Main project?

ws

The downtown business community joined up against the proposal to complete the park blocks. Maybe that has a lot to do with Goldschmidt's tarnished star, since he was a major figure in that proposal. The idea was good, but would obviously have been hugely disruptive through its realization and could only have worked out with broad based support and vision.

The view from the third floor of Central Library to the east is going to be obstructed by this building and the other tall ones that follow it.

The Virginia Cafe is small and doesn't have much invested in its equipment, furnishings and so forth. Why couldn't such an institution find a place in the new building? But the VC is a just a nice little dive in the center of downtown. New, gargantuan buildings tend to kill such fragile species.

Jake

I was a bit surprised to hear the concentration of comments regarding excessive retail, yet nothing about condos.

Maybe there is enough retail, maybe enough restaurants, maybe enough galleries, but all I see going up in Portland are condos. This makes sense considering everyone moving here, but what will they do? Where will they work?

Perhaps it's just that I frequently pass through the Pearl, but the only real public hangout space there for all the new residents seems to be Jamison Square. I think that space works because it is a void in the new density there. I believe that in many places in Portland (surrounding 405 for example), there is too much open, uncontained space.

I vouch for more density, specifically public institutions to create public activity and gathering.

NLP2P

I'm less concerned about where they'll all work, particularly when it comes to people who can afford spendy downtown condos. I would imagine they've got that figured out, or are retirees. So, at the risk of being a simple optimist, it seems that there is an easy answer to the question "what will they do?"

They'll shop and eat and spend money in all these new retail spaces...

Frank Dufay

underground parking (350 spaces)

Wow...not a word about this. And this is added to how many spaces Moyer is already constructing next to his Fox Tower?

What ever happened to the notion of encouraging people to get out of their automobiles and onto mass transit?

ws

I was suprized to read in an article ..I think it was in last tuesday's tribune, that Moyer was a founding member of the Park Blocks Foundation that proposed the idea of continuing the Park Blocks through. So when that plan didn't pan out, aparrently he decided he wasn't going to be beat to the chase for the first to build the biggest baddest building on the site of that given up dream. Is this a good thing? Yeah...I guess.

I agree with Dufay. Bleep the parking. But realistically, give the ongoing obsession with personal cars, Moyer deserves credit for being willing to spend the money to put in more underground parking.

Ken Bauer

I like It. The rendering gives an appearance of a sleek tower that tapers at the top. Very un-boxy and very nice. Moyer is an asset to Portland and his contributions to the skyline should be appreciated. Portland, finally thinking outside the stumpy box. YES!!

Richard

I agree with WS regarding cars and parking. I'd personally love to see far less automobile use, and far less land and fewer buildings devoted to parking. But it's unrealistic in this culture to think that anyone's going to build an office or condo downtown that actually necessitates that people either don't own cars or not drive them to work. The best we can strive for, I think, is to offer ways of living and places to work that limit people's incentive to drive the cars that they'll no doubt continue to own. Downtown condominiums and office towers do provide that incentive. And if the parking that serves the building is underground, that's a huge step forward from what had been the standard approach for many years--building cheap, ugly above-ground parking structures. I hope to see the day when some of those structures get torn down and replaced with buildings designed to house and serve people rather than store cars.

On a different note, like many other people who have lived in this city for awhile, I'm saddened by the prospect of losing the Virginia Cafe. I look around downtown and see loads of surface parking lots, ugly parking structures, assorted other cheap and meaningless buildings, and various businesses that no one could possibly love--so many perfect sites for a new office or condo tower. It's just not fair that a good solid bar with some real history behind it has to be sacrificed in the name of progress. That's just how the marketplace works, I guess, and it seems silly to try to pin the blame for this minor cultural crime on the particular wealthy capitalist who's behind the deal. And obviously, the loss of the VC isn't nearly as bad as the destruction of the Rosefriend, for instance. But it's still a bummer.

scott

Given the choice between surface lots and underground, I'll take the underground lots. If they connect the PAW parking through PB5 and the Fox Tower (so that there's a grand total of only one entrace/exit) then that's fewer pedestrian interferences and greater space for retail on the first floor. I'm for it!

As for the Virginia Cafe, it's quirky but nothing special. My wife suggested we try it for breakfast this Sunday. We even walked from our house with the double stroller to get there. Sign on the door: "No minors permitted anywhere on these premises." Not very inclusive... Looks like there may be a large patio area atop the commercial space of the planned building -- maybe a new restaurant? I'll be sure to go there with my whole family if there is.

djk

The downtown business community joined up against the proposal to complete the park blocks. Maybe that has a lot to do with Goldschmidt's tarnished star, since he was a major figure in that proposal. The idea was good, but would obviously have been hugely disruptive through its realization and could only have worked out with broad based support and vision.

Trying to complete all the Park Blocks at once would be hugely disruptive. Doing it in phases wouldn't be. In the case of this block, it would be relatively easy. Put the Smart Park structure and the Zell Block both into Moyer's ownership, to be developed at once. The City owns the land and building; it costs them nothing to give it away.

Moyer gets to build a much larger building (a full block footprint instead of a half block) and one and a half blocks of continuous underground parking. Plus better parking access, since cars could enter off of 10th Avenue instead of Park or Ninth. Plus, maybe he gets the park named after him -- Moyer Plaza or something.

The City gets a new park - built at Moyer's expense, as part of the project - and maybe a permanent partnership in paid parking (to replace the revenue stream lost from the Smart Park). Plus, a much larger privately owned building generating business tax and property tax revenue than they'd get otherwise.

The public gets one step closer to completing the Park Blocks.

Why couldn't this work? The Zell Block is going to be cleared anyway, and the City wants to do something more with the Smart Park.

ws

That idea sounds great, djk. It must have been talked about amongst Moyer and his associates. Wonder why this idea hasn't gone anywhere with them.


Justin

I'm worried that a contiguous 45,000 sq ft retail space, if occupied by a national retailer (or any other retailer operating the entire floor) will only have 1 entrance/exit on the entire block... of course, there will also be an entrance for the offices and residential, but that doesn't lend a whole lot to pedestrian activity on the block:

it might as well be a mini-mall. Much better, in my opinion, to have lots of smaller 3-5,000 sq ft shops, cafes, restaurants and bars flooding downtown, for which local business people can actually afford.

I just don't understand yearnings some people have for Portland to be flooded by out-of-state corporations and their influence on our physical environment.

val

Its funny that people are plotting to re-connnect those long lost park blocks - which would mean tearing down several historic & National Register listed buildings - at the same time we're still miffed at what is happening with the Rosefriend. But then again, I have noticed that often when people speak out in favor of preserving our historic buildings in Portland, and especially when they are to be replaced by fancy new architecture, we are castigated as living in the past. Well i'm sorry, re-connecting those park blocks is living even further in the past and I don't mind saying so.
In my opinion, save the Zell Block for what it is - a historic block of old Portland downtown retail. Replace the parking garage to the west with the 35 floors of glass, steel,and concrete. Hell, maybe we can get the folks at Apple to team up with a local architect to design an ultra-hip 45,000SF Home Depot, on the building's ground floor - he said with a smirk. But seriously, building a behemoth just because one can is certainly only an attempt to makup for some inferiority complex. If Moyer and others had real guts or vision, they'd rennovate the existing buildings, go after the parking garage for their tower, and try to redevelop other vacant and nice buildings in the downtown core. I'm sure they'd moan about bottom lines - sure you might make a few million less - but imagine what could be done. Just imagine (Hmmm...the Rosefriend gets saved). Unfortunately that's all we can do until someone truly steps up.

ws

I guess its just how things are considered. I'm undecided about whether a contiguous chain of Park Blocks is a good idea, but it seems like it might be. One thing is pretty certain though: Once 350' and higher buildings go up on those blocks, the window for that idea gets ever smaller.

It's interesting that the people that most frequently get to decide how this kind of thing works out are the ones with the money. I mean, that strip of blocks was long ago conceived as a very unique municipal feature and only wasn't realized because a few property owners decided they weren't game for the idea. In other words, because of their response to the idea back then, they in effect kind of determined for the entire city what would be there .

Living in the past or thinking for the future, its all relative to what people want to accomplish as a legacy for those that follow them. Moyer has the bucks to choose amongst interesting extraordinary options, unlike most of the people pounding the sidewalk past his building. I do respect and admire Moyer though.

Brian Libby

The original design of the park blocks by Olmstead (designer of NYC's Central Park) was never intended to have the North and South Park Blocks line up. I've been against this idea from the start.

Richard

I agree that "connecting" the south and north park blocks shouldn't be a goal for Portland, at least insofar as it would mean tearing down attractive and valuable old buildings. We do have a lot of land devoted to park space in downtown Portland, and I don't see a crying need for more. I'd prefer to see our current public spaces more carefully maintained and consistently patrolled.

It's just when you start from the assumption that the Zell block is going to be razed and converted to something or other that the idea of converting it to a park block seems appealing. But the ideal would be to preserve and restore the old buildings on that block, as Val suggests, and build the new tower on the adjacent block that now contains the high-rise parking garage.

Instead, we lose the old Zell block buildings (and along with it the Virginia Cafe) and retain the ugly parking parking garage from the 1970s. It could be worse: the project could involve the construction of new above-ground parking. But the situation could also be much better--if only I were the one with Tom Moyer's land and money!

djk

re-connecting those park blocks is living even further in the past and I don't mind saying so.

Guilty as charged. The plans for a continuous string of parks goes back to the 1850s or thereabouts. It was a good idea then, and still is.

That being said, I wouldn't go so far as tearing down historic buildings to create a park -- but if the buildings are going to go anyway (as it appears will happen with the Zell block) I'd rather see the park blocks filled in than see a new tower go up.

As I recall from reading local history, Daniel Lownsdale's original proposal was to have the Park Blocks run from Stark to Clay. He made the land donation around 1850, but the title wasn't cleared until the 1870s -- by which point the blocks north of Salmon were in the hands of another developer. The Mayor at the time (Goldsmith, I think) wanted to purchase the blocks north of Salmon, but the asking price of $6,000 per block proved too steep for the City Council. The would-be park blocks went into private development, and the City purchased some acreage at the edge of town for "City Park" (now Washington Park) instead.

To my knowledge, Frederick Law Olmsted (designed of Central Park) never had any hand in planning Portland's park system. He designed parks and park systems for a lot of other cities, but not here. His son, John Charles Olmsted, gave us a comprehensive and visionary plan four our park system in 1903. By that time, the "missing" park blocks were developed and no longer available for park space.

Had the land still been available, I don't doubt Olmsted would have included a continuous string of park blocks in his proposal. (I suspect this would be true for Frederick Law Olmsted as well -- he liked parkways and linked green strips and put them in his plans whenever he could.)

It's just when you start from the assumption that the Zell block is going to be razed and converted to something or other that the idea of converting it to a park block seems appealing.

From my perspective, the best use of the block (in order) would be:

(1) Preserving historic buildings
(2) Park/plaza
(3) High-rise tower

If (1) is out, we really ought to push for (2). (Unless, of course, you think that the long-term goal of a continuous string of park blocks is an intrinsically bad idea.) The City could potentially swap the parking structure to make that happen.

Richard

"1) Preserving historic buildings
(2) Park/plaza
(3) High-rise tower"

That order of priorities makes sense to me, djk. But I think as long as we're dreaming about how to use Moyer's and the city's land and money, we might as well wish for a land swap that preserved the buildings on the Zell block--rather than assuming that option is out of the picture.

Perhaps in exchange for the larger parcel containing the 10th Avenue parking garage, Moyer could agree to seismically upgrade and restore the buildings on the Zell block. Depending on the cost of doing that, perhaps Moyer could be granted some percentage of future rents on the Zell block buildings, which ultimately would end up in city hands.

My interest in preserving old buildings isn't just aesthetic, by the way (though that's a big part of it). I constantly note how most of the most appealing and individualistic businesses are located in older structures. It's good to mandate ground-level retail in new high-rises, but how commonly is it the case that the businesses that go into those spaces contribute anything to the local character of Portland? In general I'd rather have a Kinko's or a Banana Republic than a blank wall at the ground-floor level of a high-rise, but more than that, I'd rather not lose places like the Virginia Cafe and the other odd, Portland-specific and therefore valuable businesses that tend to operate out of old rather than new buildings.

Brian Libby

DJK, it sounds like I may have been mistaken with respect to Olmsteads and Portland. Thanks for the info.

ws

Rock on djk! I'm still terrible about doing research, but everything I could remember supported the long standing idea of a contiguous chain of park blocks, and as you said (I did do a little research of my own a couple months back)it was Lownsdales, not Olmsteads, but somehow that attribution is firmly in the public mind. (at the design review commission some months back addressing the Rosefriend, one of John Carrol's employees made the same assertion.)

I guess it's interesting to me that some people speak of the building on the Zell block with such regard. To me, just one on the SW corner seems worthy. Those 2-3 story jobs on the NW, NE and the VC building don't seem particularly notable, though the Zell buildings have that modern style treatment that will be missed (Carl Greve across the street too).

I think its a very intersting point that this kind of collection of buildings may be best suited to nurturing and sustaining certain desirable businesses that would be unlikely to survive in a slick tower. Successfully persuading city officials and forces in development that this would make such buildings worthy of preservation in the midst of comparatively super valuable real estate would be a heroic accomplishment.

djk

guess it's interesting to me that some people speak of the building on the Zell block with such regard. To me, just one on the SW corner seems worthy. Those 2-3 story jobs on the NW, NE and the VC building don't seem particularly notable, though the Zell buildings have that modern style treatment that will be missed (Carl Greve across the street too).

I took a stroll around the Zell block yesterday and noticed the same thing. The Dental Arts Building is the only thing on the block that strikes me as worth saving. From memory (and I could be wrong) it isn't currently occupied above the ground floor.

By comparison, the blocks to the north (from Morrison to Washington) have a stunning collection of buildings. Definitely worth saving if possible.

If we are imagining a multi-party, multi-block deal that incorporates historic preservations, I have a bigger concern than the Dental Arts Building. IIRC, Moyer owns part of the block south of the parking structure. If he eventually puts a tower there, we lose the Studio Building, the Pythian Building, and the Guild Theater. I'd sacrifice whatever's on the Zell Block in a heartbeat if it was part of a deal (say, surrender of development rights in exchange for a height bonus) to protect those buildings from future demolition.

val

"I'd sacrifice whatever's on the Zell Block in a heartbeat if it was part of a deal (say, surrender of development rights in exchange for a height bonus) to protect those buildings from future demolition."

djk I agree absolutely! This is a great example of the kind of creativity needed to preserve our most cherished older buildings. Of course I don't want to sound like the Zell Block buildings don't have merit but compared to the older buildings on the Guild theater block - I think those are much more important to preserve.

One other issue though concerns what you might call "peak concrete." At what point do we start to reduce our consumption of this and other building materials? As long as we continue to replace perfectly solid buildings with new ones, there is a tremendous waste of energy and resources - and for rather dubious reasons (money, leaving one's legacy...). In my mind historic preservation should not be solely focused on preserving the old for old's sake but also for the sake of our environment. In this way even a plain structure like the Zell bldg. should merit the consideration of preservationists.

Richard

"I took a stroll around the Zell block yesterday and noticed the same thing. The Dental Arts Building is the only thing on the block that strikes me as worth saving."

I don't want to try to exaggerate the specific architectural significance and aesthetic power of the buildings on the Zell block. My opinions of the buildings probably aren't too far from yours, DJK and WS. Basically, I think a couple of the buildings, the Dental Arts on the SW corner and the Zell building itself are pretty interesting and cool and, in light of present and especially future development, historically distinctive.

More generally, I think that almost any pre-International-era building in the downtown area should be cherished—should be considered something to hold onto if we possibly can. I believe this for several reasons. One reason is that, as I already mentioned, older buildings tend to harbor locally distinctive retail businesses and, in the case of old office buildings, small and start-up businesses. (Obviously, cheap rents are one factor in this regard.) Another reason I think old buildings need to be saved is that, especially in Portland, new downtown buildings are constructed on a much larger scale than the old ones. So whenever something new is built downtown, the overall character of the city is altered. This happens even if a new tower is built on an empty block. With construction of the Moyer tower and the destruction of the Zell block, the proportion of what is big and new will have grown substantially in comparison to what is old and small.

It's hard to make a precise case for what we lose through this trend, but it has something to do with aesthetic diversity, human scale, warmth, a connection with the past, a sense of mystery, a general richness of environment. Think of Greenwich Village versus mid-town in Manhattan, or North Beach versus the Financial District in San Francisco. What looks impressive from a distance is not necessarily the same place that people who live in a city actually want to spend their free time in. And downtown Portland could be transformed pretty quickly, because of its small size and strong real estate market, into a built environment that is basically new, big, slick and cold.

There's no defeating the demographic and economic pressures that Portland currently feels. And much good can come of them if they're managed properly. At least theoretically, one way of managing the need for places to live and work in downtown Portland is to direct construction to empty spaces—there are still many of those—and spaces now taken up by lousy stuff that no one likes, such as parking garages. If, for instance, the Moyer tower were constructed with underground parking on the site that currently contains the 10th Avenue garage, Portland would gain what could conceivably be a handsome high rise, would have eliminated what is now something of an eyesore (the garage) and would retain a somewhat charming if also somewhat dilapidated group of old buildings and small businesses in the downtown area. Setting aside for a moment the very large and practical considerations of who owns what piece of land and how ownership rights can or cannot be constrained, there's no reason at this point in time to sacrifice any good old buildings in Portland in the name of progress.

I think the big challenge for Portland, in terms of architecture and development, is to figure out how to direct new construction in a way that causes the least possible damage to what we value in our current environment. Right now, we're largely trusting to "the market," and that frightens me. For every developer or city official who wants to save the Armory, there are too many who are willing to destroy the Rosefriend--or the Studio or Pythian buildings, I'm afraid.

ben

good discussion. unfortunately we need either or a carrot or a stick to keep our older buildings - there's just too much money to be made otherwise. the armory didn't happen without hearty incentives, and old town doesn't look the way it does without legislated protection. sucks, but it's the system we work within.

djk

I wonder what it would cost for the city or a private trust to buy just the development rights on a parcel with a historic building? That wouldn't necessarily prevent the building from ever being demolished, but it would discourage anyone from buying the building with the goal of redeveloping it. Future buyers would know, going in, that they would need to preserve and maintain the existing building.

This wouldn't be complete protection by any means. The building could still be demolished and turned into a parking lot, or condemned by the government. But it might be better than nothing.'

Is anyone out there already doing this?

ws

djk, I'm wondering why you'd be inclined to think that the Studio, Pythian and Guild would be lost if Moyer puts a scraper on his part of the block. Do you know for a fact that he owns that part of the block with those buildings on it or it and the buildings both? I tried to find something about it on the web, but no luck. I got the impression from someone else on another site that someone else owned the Studio and maybe the Pythian. Those are all nice buildings, but I think they and the use of the block in general could be enhanced with a new tower on the west side of that block. Well, maybe whatever was built there would have to step down southward to maintain exposure to the west side of the Studio.

djk

I thought Moyer had purchased those buildings back when he was putting money into backing backing the huge Central Park Blocks Big Retail Street proposal, but I could be wrong.

I'd have no problem with the 10th Avenue side of the block being redeveloped.

Noel

Sorry to bust into your discussion, but this is the only place I've been able to find anything about the Pythian building, located at 918 SE Yamhill. Can anyone tell me where I might be able to look up some history on that building? I'm getting ready to set a site specific dance piece in the stairwell of the building and I'd like to have a little history on the building to inform the creative process.

Noel

Brian Libby

Bart King's "Architectural Guidebook to Portland" (available at Powells or anywhere) lists the Pythian Building as being built in 1907 and designed by William F. McCaw. Apparently it was originally called the Masonic Hall. King notes its Italian Renaissance style and detailed brick work.

J. Valentine

Court records show the Studio Building is owned by Tom Moyer Theatres, an Oregon partnership, and TMT Development Co., an Oregon Corporation.

The Studio Building is one of my very favorite buildings in Portland. I wish we had more like it, only taller.

Personally, Tom Moyer seems more vision-oriented than economically motivated. I think he builds stuff because he wants to see what will happen, not necessarily because it pencils. I much prefer this type of developer than the slash and burn strip-mall/McMansion type.

Cheers.

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