Posted: Dec 6, 2011, 3:48 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Hollywood Apartments construction begins without neighborhood input
POSTED: Monday, December 5, 2011 at 04:14 PM PT
BY: Angela Webber, DJC
After a period of relative silence, a developer has broken ground for a mixed-use building next to the Hollywood Theatre in Northeast Portland.
Hollywood District business owners and historic preservationists had concerns about the project, which was proposed to include approximately 52 apartment units and no parking. A project manager said the team was concerned about a prolonged design review process, and chose to use a different process so it could build without facing potentially costly and delay-inducing appeals.
Construction of the Hollywood Apartments has “just started,” according to Creston Homes project manager David Mullens. The building, due to be completed in 14 months, will include 47 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 3,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space, Mullens said. The owner of the project is Hollywood Apartments LLC, part of Urban Development Group, which also owns Creston Homes.
In May, the Architectural Heritage Center’s Portland Preservation blog published a letter by Hollywood Theatre Executive Director Doug Whyte, who expressed concern that the new apartment building could hinder visibility of the theater’s historic marquee, particularly for people traveling on Sandy Boulevard.
Representatives of the building’s designer, Myhre Group Architects, met with Hollywood Theatre and neighborhood stakeholders a few times, but those conversations stopped last spring. That’s because the project team decided to take a different avenue to secure design approval, Mullens said.
The project proposed in May called for 52 units, enough to require a loading dock, according to city code; the team was seeking a variance for that requirement. The design, as it was, also varied from design guidelines for aspects like cornices and height, Mullens said.
The team discovered that it could make changes to make the project fit “Community Design Guidelines” – an “objective set of standards,” said Bureau of Development Services spokesman Ross Caron. Those standards can substitute for design commission review in some of Portland’s design overlay zones, including the Hollywood District, Caron said. And unlike the design review process, the community design process does not allow for public appeals.
Mullens said he can’t remember exactly when the team decided to use Community Design Guidelines.
“It had a lot to do with the fact that anyone in the neighborhood could file an appeal of any decision (of the design commission), for a small fee,” he said.
Such appeals, Mullens noted, could have derailed the project.
The commission’s design review process also could have been longer, he said. And that would have made a huge difference because city building permit fees increased on July 1. Because the team applied before fees increased, Mullens estimates that it saved $56,000. The permit for construction was issued Nov. 17.
Whyte and representatives of the Hollywood Theatre stopped meeting with the apartment designers once they started pursuing the alternate review process. Whyte has not seen an updated design.
“I would have liked it if we had been in communication through the whole process,” he said.
However, Whyte did say that the theater’s major concern – visibility of the marquee – seemed to be addressed in the new design. He said he heard that the new building will “step back” from the curb near the theater, so that views will be preserved.
Whyte also said he is glad something is being developed on the long-vacant property adjacent to the theater.
“We want to work with them to see if they can get something really cool into a retail space, like a restaurant that will both benefit the theater and the restaurant,” Whyte said. “The lot has been empty for so many years; it will be nice to have some life and activity there.”