the high rise times news service
for Park Avenue Concern (PAC)
puts czar in charge
Bob Thompson, planning czar.
he elected? Appointed
by the mayor,
the city council, the planning commission?
who is this city-planner supreme?
he's Tom Moyer's architect.
planners fade into deep background, as
new czar takes over after bloodless coup.
After a week of dark rumors, and
with the details of the overthrow still in a fog, city government
coup victor, Robert Thompson, made his first public declaration
in an exclusive interview with the biz press.
Asked for his development plans
now that he is in control of the city, Thompson declared:
“Portland's future rests on its ability to continue to create
greater and greater density in downtown. In order for Portland to
grow up and become a more metropolitan city, it needs to focus on
bringing greater density downtown. We need to create a 24-hour
city out of the downtown core in order for it to be a vital,
growing community that's going to continue to grow over the
Journal of Commerce,
Up, up, up, says the Czar.
Thompson insists that he can build
towers up to 460 feet high anywhere he wants in midtown.
Thirty five stories (412 feet) is
the Czar's next project, a new “mixed-use” skyscraper, known
in the real-estate trade as Moyer Tower (but in the press coyly
called, variously, the Park Avenue West, 722 SW Ninth, or 800 SW
The site is the 50's-style Zell
block, bounded by SW Park, Morrison, Ninth and Yamhill. Thompson
wants to demolish the Virginia Cafe and anything else in the
way. He is affiliated with boosters who claim as their own a
“Business Improvement Zone” from SW Third to Tenth, Salmon to
Washington. (Whose streets? Their streets.) They want to extend
this intense high-rise-retail development to Second and Twelfth.
The development model is a mix of New Yorky high rise and the
suburban theme shopping mall, like Bridgeport Village and The
Streets of Tanasbourne.
The intersection at Morrison and
Park, Thompson calls the “epicenter, the ground zero of the
city of Portland.” A spokesperson for Park Avenue Concern
(PAC), the citizen's group fighting the project, said, “Thompson
needs to work on his metaphors. Isn't ground zero where tall
buildings fall down?”
When challenged by Park Avenue
Concern that Moyer Tower was way too tall, Thompson's answered
(in the DJC)
“The design wouldn't work at all if the 412-foot building
were shorter than it is, or if the trio of retail-office-housing
uses wasn't within its walls. Geometry emphasizes verticality and
activity, with distinct planes and shapes identifying space for
selling, working, and living.”
“Er, thank you,” said PAC,
scratching its head.
Thompson continued, “You start
watching how the West End is developing, how retail starts
shifting from east to the west as it continues to grow. This
building (Moyer Tower) will be the pivot point in downtown as far
as the future evolution of growth in the West End,” said the
Czar Thompson is looking ten,
fifteen years into the future for us, and his scope is citywide.
“You look at the Hawthorne, the evolution of the Broadway
District, Belmont, NW 23rd,
the Pearl, South Waterfront. All those sub-districts are in
support of the downtown core. They offer a level of richness that
allows great diversity for people to have the option to go to
lots of different areas,” declared Thompson, who sees Portland
as “a cosmopolitan city that continues to grow richer.”
The PAC spokes commented: “Time
was when an architect took responsibility just for the designing
of a single structure. This is the architect's proper domain, and
he should be limited to it, lest he do his process backwards,
that is, designing a building and then inventing a city to go
PAC added, “Moyer Tower has
little correspondence to Park Avenue Vision, a planning document
done back in 2004 before the coup, but which Planning still calls
its 'most definitive' statement on the area,”
poster child” FAR
A thirty-five story building on a
three-story block in an eight-story neighborhood: how can this
“Why not? We've got the FAR”,
said the Czar.
The Design Commission agreed.
“This is the poster child for floor-area transfer”, declared
Tim Eddy of the Design Commission (DJC,
The Design Commission is the
only city panel hearing the issue. But PAC wants a full land-use
review before an appropriate body. “The issue is, should it be
there in the first place,” says PAC. “There has been no
public airing or consensus. For the city to allow the process to
start in the design stage is to say to the public, screw you,
this is a done deal. Presently the design commissioners and their
staff serve merely as a setting, a friendly submissive audience
for the Czar. In an appropriate land-use-review process, the
architect wouldn't necessarily even be in the room.”
The DJC article.
More on Gentrification
Who Killed Downtown?
Tom Hears from a Model Downtowner
The Virginia Cafe Meets the Cement Mixer
High Rise Times, the journal of midtown destruction
Portland, OR 97207