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Three-to-one vote clears the way for taller buildings along the Willamette River, in Old Town/Chinatown, and in other parts of the Central City.

KENGO KUMA AND ASSOCIATES - An artisit rendering of the tall residential towers proposed for the RiverPlace area.The City Council set the stage for much taller buildings in parts of the downtown area with the passage of the Central City Plan update on Wednesday.

The most controversial changes from the current plan would allow apartment buildings up to 325 feet tall in the RiverPlace area along the west bank of the Willamette River and towers up to 400 feet tall in the Old Town/Cinatown neighborhood.

Central City 2035 will guide development in the urban core over the next 20 years. Voting yes were Mayor Ted Wheeler and commissioners Nick Fish and Chloe Eudaly. Voting no was Commissioner Amanda Fritz. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is not running for reelection, was absent.

Supporters say the height increases are necessary to help accomodate the tens of thousands of additional people expected to be living in Portland by 2035. The changes are expected to encourage 2,000 new housing units, including some affordable to households earning less than the area median family income.

A new coalition of existing downtown residents and business owners opposed the RiverPlace height increases, however, while the State Historic Preservation Office warned the council the Old Town/Chinatown changes could threaten its historic status.

"We are defining the future for the next 20 years," Wheeler said. "Every part of this decision is controversial."

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A tall building is proposed for this surface parking lot in the Old Town/Chinatown area.

Fritz opposed the two controversial height increases and also said the approval made it appear the council was favoring certain property owners over others.

The council had previously approved height increases in the Broadway Corridor area that includes the former US Post Office distribution center that has been purchased by the city. A master plan for its redevelopment is being prepared by Prosper Portland, formerly known as the Portland Development Commission.

Some critics sais the taller buildings in Old Town/Chinatown could block sunlight on the Chinese Garden, killing plants there. The council required a shade study before any of those buildings can be approved.

Wheeler said he was especially sad over something his wife said about that decision.

"She said, 'We're probably not welcome there anymore," Wheeler recounted at the meeting. "That makes me sad because of all the places in the city, that's where I asked her to marry me."

To read a previous Portland Tribune story about the RiverPlace controversy, go

To read a previous Business Tribune story about the Old Town/Chinatown controversy, go to

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story.

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