Neighbor’s appeal of modern North Portland design denied
Daily Journal of Commerce
by Alison Ryan
A neighbor’s appeal of a three-story modern triplex project in North Portland was denied Thursday by the Portland Design Commission.
The project’s slice of land on North Vancouver Avenue sits in a neighborhood of layered context: the front porches and intense detail of historic residences, and the boxes and utility of commercial use.
“It needed to be the transitional element between the residential element and what will surely be a very big commercial development,” said designer Daniel Kaven of William Kaven.
Stacked squares of glass and true cement stucco, three stories for each of the three units, are accented by stretches of ipe in Kaven’s design for the building. Living spaces are contained in the first and second stories; the third stories are large green roof decks.
The solution offers a creative, modern transition between the commercial and the residential, commissioners said. Kaven’s design is an integrated, sensitive response in a “well-orchestrated” piece of architecture, commission Chairman Lloyd Lindley said.
“You do have a historical view of development over time,” Jeff Stuhr said. “This is truly going to be a building that’s of it’s time.”
As developers and designers target infill lots in Portland’s grown-up neighborhoods, existing residents say buildings of their time can be too much: too big, too modern and too expensive.
The proposed design, said Deadra Hall, the neighbor appealing the approval, encroaches on neighboring properties, doesn’t fit within the visual flow of existing residences, and will ultimately usher lower-income residents out of North Portland.
“Mr. Kaven’s design is insulting and only serves to satisfy his creative appetite,” Hall said.
The project was approved by staff in the city’s type II review process, in an effort that involved much back-and-forth between staff and the design team, said city planner Justin Fallon Dollard. Changes like the addition of a front porch and front entry door, he said, helped move the project within the community design guidelines.
The end result, he said, “is probably the greenest triplex we’ve ever seen.”
Some of the neighborhood concerns, said commissioner Gwen Millius, are generated as by-products of sustainability efforts. Flat roofs create green roof opportunities. Higher density in an urban corridor means fuller use of infill lots.
“Architecture does have to evolve, and we have to allow it to accommodate certain values that as a city we’re trying to embrace,” she said.
But installing such a project could, residents said, change the dynamic of the neighborhood itself. Keeping the neighborhood a neighborhood, 25-year resident Bernice Dunn said, is her main concern.
“Not structure, life there,” she said. “Life.”
Commission vice-chairman Michael McCulloch said that future residents of the new triplex are likely to be attracted, and contributors, to the neighborhood character.
“I’m hoping you don’t think higher density, as such, creates a lack of neighborhoods,” he said.