from the high rise times news service
for Park Avenue Concern (PAC)
Meet Bob Thompson, planning czar.
Was he elected? Appointed by the mayor,
the city council, the planning commission?
So who is this city-planner supreme?
Why, he’s Tom Moyer’s architect.
City 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 years.” –Daily Journal of Commerce, 5/25/07
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 Morrison).
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.
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 with it.”
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 be?
“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, 5/21/07).
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.”