A building that would likely be the city’s tallest to have no on-site parking went before the Portland Design Commission on January 3rd. The meeting was reported to be packed with residents, many of whom opposed the development’s height and impact on traffic. But others in the neighborhood, including the Pearl District Neighborhood Association (PDNA), were more supportive of the project with some reservations.
The 250 foot tall building would provide roughly 170 hotel rooms on 11 floors and another 110 apartments on 11 more floors as well as ground level retail, all parking would be provided by off-site valet services.
The location, on NW 12th and NW Flanders, has been owned since 2016 by Vibrant Cities, a Seattle-based development firm. In June, the Oregonian reported that the developer had initially planned to build an apartment tower on the site, but shifted the focus to a hotel use after the city of Portland passed inclusionary housing requirements. Additional height allowed by the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, seems to have enabled a reimagining of the project to provide both a hotel and apartments, including the required affordable homes.
In September, the PDNA submitted a letter to the design commission which was particularly forward-thinking regarding the developer’s choice to forgo building expensive on-site parking, recognizing that “parking garages are the most expensive part of new developments” and building less parking can “[increase] housing affordability and [provide] more options for renters that do not own vehicles.”
This project will likely face further opposition from neighbors who will insist on lower heights and on-site parking. Ironically, on-site parking would cause additional traffic and conflicts with pedestrians and cyclists; the very issues opponents claim the current configuration will bring. Proponents of multi-modal transportation will be needed to point out what should be obvious, more parking brings more congestion.
While many smaller parking-free projects have been developed in the last decade, this is, hopefully, a sign that larger buildings with no parking will be able to secure funding in the future. As the PDNA points out, “the Pearl is an ideal location to live and work car-free, especially at this particular site where numerous amenities and tens of thousands of jobs are located in reasonable walking distance.”
Another issue with this project is its prominent location on the Flanders Greenway. The neighborhood has shared concerns about hotel drop offs impacting the safety of people walking and biking in the area. Also, the applicant had to move the loading space from Flanders to 12th in response to PBOT’s concerns.