Council gives Pearl District tower second chance
Over the strong objections of commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman, the other three members of the City Council reversed themselves on Wednesday and voted to reconsider a controversial proposed Pearl District development project they had all tentatively blocked last month.
Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Nick Fish voted to support a motion by Mayor Ted Wheeler to reconsider the unanimous vote that tentative upheld the appeal of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association against the Fremont Place Apartments near the Willamette River at 1650 N.W. Parkway.
The Texas-based Lincoln Property Co. was given a week to redesign the 275-unit project to address council concerns that it encroached too much on the Willamette Greenway used by pedestrians and bicyclists that runs along the property. Although some neighbors had complained the new towers would block their views of the Fremont Bridge, all council members said that was not a concern of theirs.
Fritz said she has other concerns that could not be resolved with a minor redesign, however. Among other things, she said the proposed building is larger than allowed by city rules.
Much of the debate centered around whether the council should give developers the opportunity address specific design concerns, however. Like many buildings in Portland, the proposed project had been considered and reviewed by the Design Commission, a citizen group appointed by the council to ensure the quality of the designs of buildings in the densest parts of the city.
The commission had approved the design of the project, which is what the neighborhood association appealed to the council. The council had not backed an appeal of a commission approval before last month's vote, and has never given a developer an opportunity submit a revised design directly to them.
"I am loathe to see the council become the Design Commission. This just doesn't feel it's the right way," said Saltzman.
Eudaly said she was surprised by the original council vote, including her own, explaining that many complex issues had been raised late in the hearing that she could not adequately consider. She also expressed concern about the message that was sent to the "larger development community" when the council rejected a project that had been approved by the Design Commission.
The council then voted 3-to-2 to give the developer a week to submit a revised design, which the council will consider on May 10. The public can comment on the redesign in writing and in person at the hearing, which is expected to be lengthy.