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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coming to North Williams: A New 84-unit Apartment Complex

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Yesterday I posted about the rapid change on North Williams and the decades-long process that has replaced black-owned businesses with fancy new stores, restaurants, and apartments. One current example is the major new building planned for Williams and Skidmore.

The lot on that corner has been vacant for at least 10 years, but community elder/hilarious person Paul Knauls talked with me recently about what used to be there. In the 1970s, Knauls owned four buildings on North Williams and Vancouver, including Geneva's, his family-run restaurant on that corner. The rest of the lot was a community garden for neighbors. "Anybody who wanted could have a 20 by 20 plot," said Knauls. He burst into laughter reminiscing about the annual potluck they held were people brought dishes made from their gardens' bounty: "It didn’t go over too well then, because people weren’t as into the vegetables."

Only one retail space is on North Williams today that was there when Knauls moved to Portland in 1963: The Tropicana BBQ joint.

Now, Knauls' old vacant lot is slated to be developed by the same owner who converted the former House of Sound lot into the 72-unit Albert Apartments, which are still under construction on North Williams and Beech. The initial designs for the new four-story, 84-unit building look like this:


At a meeting last month, neighbors raised various concerns about the building design. Here's a pdf of their criticisms, but one of the major issues comes down to massing: They believe the building looks too big for the street and should be split into smaller buildings, have its top half set back from the street, and build ground-floor pedestrian spaces. Architect Trish Nixon, of LRS Architects, says the team is "currently working on some options" to respond to neighbors' concerns, but nothing is set.

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