The properties on both sides of the entrance of the Sellwood Bridge at the east end may soon look different

COURTESY OF MILBRANDT ARCHITECTS  - This is the first preliminary artists conception of this new project, coming to the eastern bridgehead of the Sellwood Bridge. Ever since the new Sellwood Bridge reopened in 2016, neighbors and commuters alike have wondered what would become of the properties at the eastern Sellwood Bridgehead – the space on either side of S.E. Tacoma Street between the landing of the Sellwood Bridge and 6th Avenue.

The answer to this question began to take form on Wednesday evening of December 1, at an online meeting of the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) Land Use Committee.

And, those who attended this well-attended meeting seemed to be pleased, overall, with the proposed design of this "gateway to Sellwood" – as well as with the responsive and forthcoming attitude of its developers.

Will straddle SE Tacoma Street

As it stands, the proposed development, on a combined 1.77 acres of land, is a retail/residential concept intended to provide a total of 104 apartment units, in four separate buildings.

Two larger mixed-use buildings will face Tacoma Street; and the ground floor if each is to provide high-ceilinged space for retailers or restaurants, with three floors of apartment units above. At the back of each property segment will be two smaller buildings, also with four floors each.

Right now, a consignment boat sales lot and a gentlemen's club occupy the property north of Tacoma, currently owned by North Block Property Owner, LLC. Where the new Sellwood Bridge's construction offices were once located – it's now vacant land – is owned by South Block Property Owner, LLC., according to City of Portland records. The "owner of record" of both these holding companies is Diana Richardson.

SMILE Land Use Committee Chair David Schoellhamer brought the December 1st ZOOM meeting to order, and introduced Laura Standridge, Principal of Standridge Inc., a firm that provides planning, civil engineering, and surveying services.

Having looked into this proposed development on either side of S.E. Tacoma Street between Grand and 6th Avenues, Schoellhamer explained that the property is all zoned "CM2", permitting commercial mixed use, with a maximum height of 45 feet – that's about four stories.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Project planner, Laura Standridge, Principal of Standridge Inc., describes the preliminary design concepts during an online meeting of the SMILE Land Use Committee.

Land use review not needed

There would be no land use review process or public hearing if the plans submitted satisfy the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS) "Design Checklist" – which, according to the preliminary plans, it does, observed Schoellhamer.

Also attending the online meeting were Pam Verdadero of Stanton Street Building Company, and Rick Tolleshaug from Milbrandt Architects.

The developers stressed that the plans they were showing at the meeting are very preliminary, and "would be refined, over time, to exceed BDS requirements, and meet construction plan needs".

Complies with 'Main Street Design' guidelines

Showing the very preliminary illustrations of how the project might look, architect Rick Tolleshaug pointed out that these plans not only meet BES zoning requirements, but also comply with the "Sellwood-Moreland Main Street Design Guidelines Design Overlay Zone".

"It's doing more than is required; in this case, in addition to the required design standards being applied, it incorporates optional standards for context, public realm, quality, and resilience," Tolleshaug pointed out.

"This project will incorporate the historical look of the area, and it be something that we all feel proud of," Standridge chimed in.

During the almost hour-long question-and-answer period, attendees learned the preliminary plans call for about 70 resident parking spaces; but none for the retail or restaurant customers.

Neighbors ask questions

Although, by and large, the reaction of those attending the virtual meeting seemed impressed and favorable to the development plans, there were some concerns expressed. With their highly-respected auto repair shop located immediately south of Tenino Street, adjacent to the southern development, Charles Letherwood, Outreach Coordinator for Tom Dwyer Automotive Inc., commented, "We're not excited about the impending construction."

In addition to losing parking on the stub of S.E. Tenino Street in front of their shop, Letherwood voiced concern about the potential for the street to be legally vacated altogether, closing off the public street's right-of-way. "Will construction crews be blocking access to our business during the day?" Letherwood asked.

Standridge responded, in part, "Sixth Avenue is intended to be open during construction. Due to [the need to be] making utility connections, there will be 'trench cuts' made in the street; but, for the most part, we will be keeping our people off the street."

Some neighbors voiced concerns about the four-story height of the main buildings

"[When designing buildings] there are competing requirements for zoning; one is mixed use and retail. We do need the four stories to accommodate this, and to be a viable project that meets all of the zoning requirements," responded Standridge.

Several attendees pressed the developers for a construction timeline, including when the groundbreaking might take place.

"Just when the work will begin will depend on the length of time it takes to get a building permit from BES," Standridge pointed out. "If we can get permits by the summer of 2022, for example, we'd expect to have occupancy about a year later, in 2023."

Look for THE BEE to follow progress of this project. And, to learn about this, and other proposed development in the Sellwood-Westmoreland area, visit the SMILE Land Use Committee's webpage at –

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

Have a thought or opinion on the news of the day? Get on your soapbox and share your opinions with the world. Send us a Letter to the Editor!