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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Big Transit, Big Building, Big $$$

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 3:03 PM

In this week's paper, I reported on a fight between neighbors, the city and the developer who's building the four-story Albert Apartment building on the old N. Williams House of Sound site. Neighbors are upset about a variety of things with the project — some lament the gentrification of the area, others that the building is a different design character than the rest of the street. In the article I wanted to talk about historical importance of the site, so I didn't have space to discuss one important issue: Should this 72 unit mixed-use building qualify for a $1.12 million transit oriented tax break?

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LEED Silver Apartments - soon to be occupying an entire city block near you!

The city initially said yes. Since the design meets the city's transit oriented development guidelines, the project was officially stamped good for transit because it's over 10 units, makes 20 percent of its apartments "affordable" and is within a quarter mile of MLK Avenue (a rapid bus transit Main Street).

But that seems absurd to neighbor Tracy Olson, who wrote an appeal against the plan. "How is his development Transit Oriented? He is building a 49 car parking lot on the ground floor, something the City does not require and in fact a feature that in the City's eyes discourages mass transit usage. This parking lot will include ONE car share space - for 72 apartments, ONE car share as part of the TOD abatement qualifications, Transit Oriented?"

Olson's right - while the transit-oriented zoning means developers don't have to put in any parking spaces for residents in a project like this, the city's "transit oriented" criteria do not include a parking space maximum. The car share space isn't required for transit-oriented development either, that's just a "public benefit" a developer can putting in to qualify for the tax break. So what if Portland forced developers to build carfree housing in mass transit corridors? I wrote last year about some smart young architects who are doing density right in North Portland — their cohousing project started off with parking spaces, but ripped them out to make room for more condos.

That's an extreme. But, hey, isn't Portland looking to be the most sustainable city in the whole wide world?

The Albert Apartments design is up for appeal in July, drop the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods a line to figure out how to get involved.

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