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Will Portland’s biggest apartment project wake the sleepy Lloyd District?

Posted by on September 4th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

The Lloyd Blocks project — adjacent to the new buffered bike lanes on NE Multnomah — is underway.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Dozens of new apartment buildings intended for low-car Portlanders are popping up across the inner east side, but the one where work just started two weeks ago will be the biggest one of all.

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With 657 apartments stacked into 21 stories and 44,000 square feet of retail space below, the Lloyd Blocks project, sometimes referred to as “the superblock,” is the Lloyd District’s best chance in years to shake off its reputation of sterility and change itself into a “16-hour district” with street-facing bars and restaurants that stay open after 6 p.m.

And because the Lloyd Blocks will include only one residential auto parking space for every two apartments, they’re also a $250 million bet by a major California landlord, American Assets Trust, on the long-term marketability of low-car life in Portland.

A May 2013 rendering of the Lloyd Blocks.

When it opens in 2015, the project will finally justify one of TriMet’s least explicable MAX stops, at NE 7th Avenue. It’ll give a major boost to the eastside streetcar line, whose tracks were rerouted northward just so they could stop at this project’s front door. And it’ll up the pressure for a new bike-friendly crossing of Interstate 84 that could create a neighborhood greenway on NE 7th and SE 9th Avenues.

If the project lures a “specialty grocer” to the southwest corner of NE 9th and Multnomah, as its developers think they can, the project could become a new main street for the rapidly growing Kerns and Eliot neighborhoods — but only if residents are willing to cross Interstate 84 and the auto-oriented Broadway-Weidler couplet to get there.

This is why, with bulldozers already at work, it’s especially strange that so few people seem eager to talk about this massive project.

“There is virtually no coverage by any news source on the project, and precious little info available from [the Bureau of Development Services],” said Craig Harlow, who lives and works near the Lloyd District and often uses bikes to get around the area with his four children. Harlow has tried to raise objections to what he describes as a “dead block face” along 9th Avenue that developers have requested to build despite a city standard that at least half the block should have street-facing windows.

“This neighborhood is particularly impacted by dead block faces, all around the DoubleTree Hotel, along most of the length of the Lloyd Center Mall on Multnomah, around most of the Lloyd Center Tower and the BPA building,” Harlow wrote in a June email. “They contribute to a ‘just keep moving’ message to pedestrians that provides a welcome environment for drug dealing and drive-fast environment for cars.”

Kara Fioravanti, a BDS staffer listed as a contact on the project, didn’t respond to multiple requests for information over the last three weeks. (In the meantime, the appeal window for a proposal related to the project expired.)

The Lloyd Transportation Management Association, a nonprofit with a regional mandate to reduce car dependence in the Lloyd District, said Tuesday that it has no comment on whether 657 new apartments on a single large block will increase the need for a more complete bike network in the area.

As we reported in 2011, real estate professionals associated with the Lloyd Blocks project essentially vetoed a consultant’s recommendation that NE Holladay Street should be the neighborhood’s main east-west bikeway, instead endorsing a plan to re-allocate lanes on NE Multnomah in order to create protected bike lanes. On Multnomah, thanks in part to advocacy from Harlow and others, the result isn’t bad at all. But if human-oriented streets fall by the wayside in the Lloyd, will the Lloyd Blocks ever successfully bring Portland’s most boring neighborhood to life?

— The Real Estate Beat is a weekly column. Read more here.

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Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

Thank you for revealing what it is, because it’s been very mysterious.

I ride up and down Multnomah every day and have been gobsmacked at the sheer magnitude of the project, and yet I haven’t spotted any signage saying “Future Home of Blah-Blah,” or a visualization, or anything. That whole stretch of Multnomah has a weird, unappealing feeling (though the new bikeway has mitigated that a little). I hope this project livens the place up.

Carl
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Carl

The real danger here is if the development gets built, but fails because the rest of the neighborhood remains resolutely car-oriented.

“See,” critics could easily respond, “we *told* you low-car development doesn’t work.”

Todd Hudson
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Todd Hudson

I think this is great, but the ground-breaking has been particularly annoying since I work in the Lloyd district. There’s been a huge amount of dust kicked up – so much that it hurts my eyes when I bike down Lloyd Boulevard.

There’s also the matter that the construction zone’s footprint has increased the distance I have to walk to the Fuego cart, but that’s really a First World Problem.

Chris Anderson
Guest

Good north south connectivity here would be a nice outcome.

Jim Labbe
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Jim Labbe

Kudos to Harlow and others for pushing for development that supports a vibrant, walkable urban street scape. We need more such voices everywhere. Construction of “dead block faces” seems to be a chronic failing of large public and private (corporate) developers. Wasting rather than embracing the street frontage is such a lost opportunity and can really squelch street level vibrancy and neighborhood livability.

Two other offenders I’d like to call out:

1. Portland Community College Cascadia Campus’s lackluster development along North Killingsworth. So far, most their new buildings feel like castle walls from a street corridor that has such potential to be more vibrant and pedestrian. PCC should be doing more to support community livability with its tax payer financed construction.

2. The new New Seasons on Williams is another total waste of both density and street frontage: the store design better fits a suburban setting. They have repeated the less-than-pedestrian-unfriendly design of their Arbor Lodge store (which is right along the Yellow Line MAX). You would think the “friendliest store in town” would know better.

I am venting… but the deadening effect of projects in places with so much potential and constructed by entities (PPC and New Seasons) that should know better is very disheartening.

Jim

Adam
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Adam

I live in this hood, and am similarly perplexed by the lack of news coverage of this project. It is really hard to find any info on it.

As a total sidenote – if I emailed a City staffer multiple times in three weeks requesting info on a project they managed, and they didn’t get back to me, I would email the Mayor’s Office to complain. City staffers are accountable to us – the public – I would not tolerate a no-response from a City employee, ever.

Hart Noecker
Guest

We visited this site on your ‘The Rent Is Too Damn High’ ride during Pedalpalooza, Michael Anderson. My question now, as it was then, is if this mega-project is going to include onsite affordable units (at least 15% below city wide average)?

True affordability is a crucial issue for people struggling to find housing, and I hope if you can find more details on this project that this information can be included.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

Classic real estate bubble formation. 2008: single family home bust
2010: overbuilt condos sell for 75% off, 2015: apartment vacancy rates at 6%, maintenance declines, market saturated with undesirable units.

Never underestimate the lemming like behavior of real estate developers.
Hopefully rising interest rates will slow them down.

Craig Harlow
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Craig Harlow

TODAY: http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/MAX-train-lifted-to-rescue-woman-pinned-beneath-4789160.php

In my opinion, MAX gets up way too much speed here to travel just two blocks in-between stops. Totally inappropriate for a dense, urban, pedestrian-heavy, livable-streets kind of environment.

Unless their policy changes to run at under 10 MPH inside the central city, they’re going to see a half-dozen or more of these per year once 637 new apartments and 1000 people take up residence at this exact location.

http://www.wpcwalks.org/>/a>, can we hear from you on the Lloyd Blocks project?

Craig Harlow
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Craig Harlow

With all of the noise at the construction site, MAX operators should be blowing their whistles multiple times, beginning well before reaching a stop.

Allan
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Allan

In my opinion-
One of the big problems to getting public input to a project like this is that the Lloyd District Community Association is not like any other neighborhood association in town because it is really a 501(c)6 business association like a TMA or other arrangement. They want residents to give input but in reality they have 2 residents on their board. There are neighborhoods nearby – irvington- sullivan’s gulch, eliot, kerns, but neighborhood associations tend to keep their minds focussed on their own turf. Additionally, the one venue for input on nearby areas is the neighborhood coalition offices- NECN or SEUL could have LDCA under them, but neither do, and as a result, there are very few residents keeping tabs on the huge projects that are destined to be built in the Lloyd area.
I think ultimately, the area in the lloyd district should seperate their business association from their neighborhood association and look to NECN to help them out with big issues like this one. otherwise they’ll be undermanned to deal with projects like this and the 20 to follow if this one works out

i ride my bike
Guest
i ride my bike

In that first photo, why dont they temporarily close on the on street parking adjacent to the construction site, temporarily shift the bike lane to the parking lane and place a temporary sidewalk/walking lane where the bike lane was? Its BS to have no foot access on that side of the block.

Adam
Guest
Adam

I live in this neighborhood, and the first thing I did was try and join the local neighborhood association in the Lloyd District.

But… there isn’t one!! Buckman, and Boise-Elliott, and all the other neighborhoods surrounding the Lloyd have associations, but the Lloyd doesn’t.

There is NOT a lot of residential here at the moment – I would estimate about six or seven large apartment buildings in the entire district. But… that is still a thousand people or so.

I would love to see a neighborhood association formed for residents, NOT businesses. With the new infill going in, that might provide some impetus.

Oh, and as for the affordability factor… we just renewed our six month lease… in six months, the rent went up A HUNDRED BUCKS. AGAIN.

The Lloyd is ugly, but that does not mean it is rent controlled, or cheap.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

I agree with Craig Harlow, and would add that a) BDS staff is too quick to give away “adjustments” to supposed “standards” for pedestrian-friendly design, and b) when a project such as this goes before Design Commission, they are also too easily swayed to give out adjustments that let the development have blank walls and otherwise be inhospitable to pedestrians. Being architects and builders, they sympathize with the developers, not the pedestrians.

New Seasons on Williams is a good example of things gone wrong for at least 2 reasons. One is that it is a one-story building where 6 stories could have been built. A tremendous waste of potential.
Two is that it has blank walls facing Vancouver and much of Fremont. I realize there’s a need to have “back of the house” functions. The answer is to bury them in the middle of the block and have retail storefront spaces for rent all along Vancouver, and along the remainder of Fremont. The Fred Meyer on Hawthorne had such spaces on it’s Hawthorne and on it’s 39th Ave (Chavez) frontages when it was built in the 50s. They were later filled in as FM expanded, and blanked out the walls. (Yes they added windows for a corner eating area, but still it’s not enough).

A giant first step would be to convince Charlie Hales to appoint different folks, folks who understand urban design, to the Design Commission. I’m afraid that it is in the sway of architects, who are excited about the abstract sculpture component of a building, and fail to grasp how a building should function and look to support an urban environment. (See the new tower approved for E. Burnside and NE 3rd!)

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/09/american_assets_trust_prepares.html

I guess someone finally asked the “O” to get into the game.