OCC Hotel and Garage plans go to the design commission

The long-awaited hotel in the Lloyd District, after years of planning and funding disputes, is finally seeing its architectural plans nearly finalized.

The designs for the Oregon Convention Center Hotel and Garage went to the Design Commission last week, who essentially supported it but offered further revisions.

ESG ARCHITECTS - The rendering shows the light-colored base chock full of public activities and the dark grey tower of guest rooms.

The two-block development will be a 14-floor Hyatt Regency with 600 rooms, a ballroom and event spaces. The garage plans are for a six-story, 419-space development with ground-floor bike parking and a commercial area. There will be an additional 25 parking spaces for retail customers. Total cost is projected to be $228 million and construction is slated to begin in late 2017.

The hotel will be located directly north of the Oregon Convention Center and is anticipated to open in late 2018 with a late 2016 groundbreaking, pending city approval. It’s a Metro, City of Portland, Multnomah County and Portland Development Commission partnership intended to boost jobs and tourism, leveraging future private investments.

“This building has a role to play. It acts as ambassador and host to warmly welcome and introduce new guests to Portland specifically, and Oregon more broadly to the unique and special identities embodied here,” said Trace Jacques, vice president and design principal based in Minneapolis with ESG Architects, at the Design Commission meeting. “We were asked to tell a story about Portland and we’ve done that. We were asked to design Portland’s front porch and we’ve done that as well.”

Troubled history

The hotel has been controversial in past years over the use of $60 million in revenue bonds that came from reallocated lodging taxes, to help pay for the build.

Metro agreed with Mortenson Development to design and build the LEED-certified hotel in 2014 to serve national convention clients, exhibitors, sponsors and planners.

Metro officials settled with the opposition coalition in January, deciding private investment from Hyatt and Mortenson Development will be above 60 percent, around $150 million. Public investment from Metro ($4 million from the OCC reserves), the PDC ($4 million from the OCC urban renewal area) and lottery funds ($10 million) will total less than 10 percent. Construction funding from the Metro revenue bond, to be repaid by visitors staying at the OCC hotel, will contribute $60 million.

Construction documents

“We have four unique and special front doors,” Jacques said. “Massing pushes and pulls to create relaxing plazas and reinforce the importance of the building’s base and defining street fronts and edges along MLK.”

In addition to the tower itself, tentative plans include seven floors of leasable office space integrated with the parking garage, an expansion expected to begin after the garage completion.

Commercially leased space totalling 13,608 square feet surrounds most of the street frontage, and there are plans for a 740 square foot kiosk in the bike parking plaza on the south side, which could be a bike rental or repair service.

“The tower’s design seeks a quiet and elegant presence in the composition, acting as a backdrop or foil to the iconic Convention Center glass spires,” Jacques said. “More ethereal, the appearance of the tower subtly changes with the ever-changing lighting and weather conditions in Portland.”

The plans for the hotel’s third-floor ballroom are 32,000 square feet. The hotel will also have meeting room space on the third floor to complement the events at the OCC, and public spaces including a restaurant, bar, lobby and 24-hour retail market planned for the first floor along Hassalo Place, MLK and Holladay.

“The site also forms a new and important urban edge along the entirety of the north edge of the Convention Center,” Jacques said. “We also take advantage of the views and connection with downtown, the fabric of the city, river and landscape beyond.”

The designs offer an internal pedestrian link connecting the first floor public areas with the corner crosswalk leading to the OCC.

ESG ARCHITECTS, MORTENSON DEVELOPMENT - The hotel site is directly north of the Convention Center and will incorporate new pedestrian pathways between the OCC, the hotel, the river and the Rose Quarter.

Neighborhood style

To maintain the Portland personality, the development is expected to meet design guidelines and modifications set by the convention center, the Lloyd District and the city’s design commission.

“The Lloyd is becoming a neighborhood with greater density of housing and mixed-use properties, and adding more walkable streetscapes to Portland,” Jacques said. “Our design plans play an important part in this district’s transformation by bridging and filling a major gap in the city fabric between the Lloyd District and the Rose Quarter, and the river with its change in grade.”

The Convention Center requested architectural and landscape elements be oriented toward the Willamette River and greenway, development of pedestrian connections to the river and greenway, integrating Portland-related themes into the design concept and maintain superblocks and integrate pedestrian paths.

The Lloyd District requested including sense of place and identity features along with the district’s style, connecting major public use facilities in the district to the river, incorporate works of art and underground utility services and incorporate landscaping into the built and natural environment.

The designs, responding to the guidelines, include guest room riverfront views 3 to 4 blocks from the Willamette, improvements to pedestrian experiences walking and using the light rail, plentiful bike parking, using wood at primary entrances to connect with users and capture Portland’s vibrancy, using superblock geometry to reinforce smaller elements and pedestrian mid-block crossings, and creating a significant plaza at the corner of Holladay and MLK.

“Wood is important due to its historical use as a primary mechanism and medium between the natural and man-made environment of Oregon,” Jacques said. “The building’s design is extremely active and on a pedestrian scale animated at its base, it seeks to connect pedestrians with building activities, and connect with the city beyond in a diversity of ways.”

Details they’re still ironing out include more active corner retail space, a larger main plaza to enhance connections to the hotel’s entrance, the light rail and bus stops, the markets and the retail shops, and a lighter-colored cladding material.

“Metaphorically, the broad landscapes and dynamic climate of Oregon are explored and re-presented in both palettes using varying metallic panels and differing tinted glass types, patterning composition on the guestroom tower mass,” Jacques said. “In contrast, the building’s base represents the mad-made base of Oregon and is rendered in brick.”

The staff report reads “The predominant medium grey tones and use of metal material for the tower does not appear to connect with other tower-like buildings in the district,” and “its darker tones and metal material appear to more closely reference similarly massed new construction to the south of the site at the Burnside Bridgehead,” citing the Yard development along Southeast MLK Jr. Blvd. and East Burnside, which has faced controversy over their dark shades that ended in the city funding additional windows.

“Refined wood and stained concrete all layered over an inner layer of metal panel and glass which eave down from the tower,” Jacques said. “These entities, in an abstract and varied way, represent the multitude of man-made constructs that form the city.”

The OCC Hotel and Garage designs are scheduled to return to the design commission on Sept. 29.

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MLK and First

District: The Lloyd

Owners: Starterra LLC, Metro, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc.

Developer: Mortenson Development

Designers: Ankrom Moisan Architects, ESG Architects, Mayer/Reed

According to independent analysis, the hotel will achieve these project goals:

• Create 3,000 jobs (2,000 construction and 950 hotel & hospitality)

• Attract 5 to 10 new mid-sized conventions to Portland each year

• Boost annual hotel business by 70,000 to 110,000 new room nights

• Increase convention-related tourism spending to $600 million per year

• Generate $5.6 million in new state tax revenues and $4.7 million in new local tax revenues annually

Source: Metro