A proposal to construct a new five-story apartment building in the Albina Community Plan District in Portland is moving through the city’s design review process. The Design Commission provided the project team with design advice on Thursday.
The building would hold 17,984 square feet. There would be 32 studio apartments – 340 square feet each – and ground-floor retail space. All units would be affordable for people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income.
The 4,500-square-foot site is at 3606 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Vehicle parking would not be provided, but long-term bicycle parking would be in the covered rear courtyard.
Guna Collaborative designed the project for owner Ent Ventures IX LLC.
“We see this project as part of a prototype,” Guna Collaborative principal John Holmes said.
The project team is hoping to develop the prototype in other areas of Portland, Holmes said. The intent is to activate disused lots throughout the city by constructing affordable housing.
It’s a simple building design, Holmes said. The primary material would be corrugated metal cladding. Wood would be used for the entry and courtyard. The project team intends to source locally manufactured and harvested materials for structure and cladding. The massing on the building’s north and south sides would be carved to provide some relief and eliminate long, blank sidewalls.
There would be views toward Forest Park from the building’s west side as well as from the rooftop deck.
The design includes a recessed and covered entry, large windows, multiple entrances, and a large canopy that provides outdoor seating, Guna Collaborative stated in an applicant response. The double-height (15 feet) ground floor would have ample natural light. That recessed portion would be a point of gathering to activate space both inside and outside of the building.
Outdoor space would include a covered courtyard for year-round use and an uncovered area. The landscaped spaces would create a buffer between the building’s outdoor courtyard and adjacent properties, according to Guna Collaborative’s report.
A modification was requested to decrease the number of required long-term bicycle parking spaces from 1.5 per unit to 1 per unit inside each studio. This would be in addition to bicycle parking on the ground floor. Overall, commissioners supported the modification.
The proposed active use is a coffee shop, at 19.5 percent of the ground floor area. An adjustment was requested to reduce the 25 percent floor area requirement for ground-floor active use to 20 percent. That would be a decrease from 683 square feet to 533 square feet. The active use area would occupy most of building’s face along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The commissioners indicated the proposed size of the coffee shop would be appropriate.
“When I think of some of the other affordable housing projects, it almost feels like this is the first time we’re really looking at something real,” Design Commission Chair Brian McCarter said.
McCarter suggested finding a way to make the ground floor’s height apparent to passersby, but otherwise indicated the proposal was heading in a good direction.
Commissioners agreed that the design makes the most of a small lot and said they liked the carved slits on the building’s north and south sides. The planned use of wood elicited concerns from commissioners. But Holmes said it may end up being a wood-like material, which assuaged those concerns.
The project is valued at $3 million, according to the Bureau of Development Services.
The project team will apply for Type II design review in 2024.