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Old Posted Jan 5, 2006, 4:37 PM
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SoWa soon to be ready for 2006 debut

South Waterfront is ready for its close-up
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Fred Leeson
The Oregonian

A neighborhood unlike any other in Portland will finally start to blossom this year after years of planning and talk.

People will begin moving into slender condo towers with stunning views of downtown, Mount Hood and Ross Island. Patients and doctors will meet in a new medical building. Airborne visitors will be whisked silently to and from the neighborhood in silvery capsules suspended from a cable running to Oregon Health & Science University. The Portland Streetcar will provide a vital artery to downtown.

Although completion will take a few more years, the South Waterfront Central District (the official name) will show its face, springing to life from barren former industrial land south of the Ross Island Bridge.

It's the real test for many top architects and planners who worked on it. "Here, it's all being designed simultaneously," says Michael McCulloch, chairman of the Portland Design Commission, which reviews each new building proposal.

Even in the fast-growing Pearl District, architects have had a decade to learn from successes and mistakes. Not so on the South Waterfront.

"These developments are happening in quick succession," McCulloch says. "They are in sympathy with each other, but they are not evolutionary in terms of learning from each other."

The design commission has tried to make sure new buildings fit with their neighbors and create a pleasing pedestrian environment for residents and visitors. Many buildings will offer retail spaces at street level for neighborhood-oriented restaurants and businesses.

Further, a Portland Office of Transportation plan offers a unified approach to street furniture such as benches, street signs, utility poles and newsracks intended to lend a tasteful uniformity to the new district. Will it all work?

The answer will lie in the eye of each beholder. "It has been a challenge to imagine something as good as it possibly can be," McCulloch says.

Key elements to watch for this year:

Opening of the first condo towers, a 21- and 24-story duo called The Meriwether.

Topping out of The John Ross, a 31-story elliptical condo tower that will be the first to hit a 325-foot maximum height allowed in the district.

Completion of Building One, the start of a new Oregon Health & Science University complex that represents the university's first major expansion off Marquam Hill.

Start of service by the Portland Aerial Tram, that will carry passengers between the main OHSU campus and the central district in less than three minutes.

Extension of the Portland Streetcar along Southwest Moody Avenue from RiverPlace to Southwest Gibbs Street.

Clearing and planting of interim turf for a two-block neighborhood park bounded by Southwest Moody and Bond avenues between Curry and Gaines streets. Planning will come later for a permanent park design. "We don't want to start planning before residents move in," says Larry Brown, a Portland Development Commission senior development manager. "People who live there deserve to have a say in their park's design."

Fred Leeson: 503-294-5946; fredleeson@news.oregonian.com
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Old Posted Jan 5, 2006, 5:00 PM
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"These developments are happening in quick succession," McCulloch says. "They are in sympathy with each other, but they are not evolutionary in terms of learning from each other."
this is an interesting statement, i think he's right. this is also something that the pearl has been very good at
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Old Posted Jan 17, 2006, 7:28 PM
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BooHoo...I've highlighted some of the better "stop SoWa and protect our views" quotes!

The price of a high-rise city

As South Waterfront towers rise, nearby residents lose cherished view
By JOSEPH GALLIVAN Issue date: Tue, Jan 17, 2006
The Tribune Few things are as sacred to Portlanders as their view of Mount Hood.
It tells the time on a seasonal scale: If it’s brown it must be late summer. It tells the weather: Fifty miles of clarity is a dramatic break in the rain. It drives home sales and leisure plans, provides bragging rights and an object of contemplation.
So as city planners, developers and home buyers embrace the idea of building up rather than out, someone’s going to lose out.
The residents of one of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods, Lair Hill, have been able to count their losses on a daily basis lately. First the brown skeletons of the three new towers at the South Waterfront District went up. (Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Health and Healing, formerly known as Building One, and the Meriwether Condominium Towers.)
In the last month, glass has sheathed the buildings almost as rapidly as in a time-lapse movie, blocking the remaining glimpses of the snowcapped mountain for certain residents.
“I hate it,” says Emily Scranton, 20, of the 16-story Center for Health and Healing, which rose slap-bang between her bedroom and Mount Hood. Recalling last summer, she says: “I went on vacation, and the tower was real low. I came back, and the mountain was covered.”
Scranton moved here from the flatlands of Indiana to study massage, and rents the top-floor apartment in a triplex at Southwest Corbett Avenue and Gibbs Street.
“You could see Mount Hood from the shower and from the porch,” she says. “I used to sit up on the roof for hours talking with my friend Heather. We had 360-degree views. We’d see the mountain glowing.”
She gives practice massages on her porch: “People loved it. It was very peaceful.”
Scranton’s landlady, Kathleen Root, lives on the first floor of the 1893 Victorian. She’s still upset about the new towers.
“I had a peekaboo view of Mount Hood if I stood at certain place on tippy-toe,” she says. “That was a whole lot better than that massive building. What I’m really losing is the open sky. That bugs the heck out of me.
She went to the public meetings about the tram, which will run above Gibbs Street from OHSU’s new tower, but didn’t feel she was heard. (She predicts the tram will be “a scar on the hill.”) She stopped going and missed the discussion of the view.
Justin Auld owns an 1880 house at 3325 S.W. Kelly Ave. that lost its view to the apartment building opposite in the 1960s. “On a clear day I can see the tip,” says the Vermont native, 33, who moved here six years ago. “I always look at it for a few seconds at the corner of Whitaker and Kelly.”
As a teacher at the Art Institute of Portland, he has an aesthetic appreciation of the form, and has driven up to Council Crest to draw it. He’s also a hiker and has been on the mountain many times.
“It’s always been cool to watch it in the rain and see the snow cover it, then get patchy in the summer. It’s kind of like insurance, telling us how much water we’re going to get.”

View comes to some

Dennis Wilde is one of those people who will gain a view of Mount Hood: In April he and his wife move into a brand-new 2,000-square-foot condo in the east tower of the Meriwether condos.
The empty nesters downsized and moved out of their Terwilliger home last year and into an apartment in the Pearl District, to get used to the urban lifestyle. The roads through the South Waterfront District are as muddy as Stumptown in its founding days, but by April he is confident there will be asphalt and coffee shops.
Wilde is putting his money where his mouth is: He’s the project manager for Gerding/Edlen Development Co., which is jointly developing South Waterfront with Williams & Dame.
Standing on the bare concrete 24 stories up in the west tower, hard hat on, he points through the driving rain at various future points of interest: the streetcar turnaround, the bioswales and the two-block area that will eventually become Central Park.
“These buildings have been designed with views in mind,” he explains. The towers are narrow and are aligned to maximize the view eastward. “I’ll have a pretty nice view of the Willamette looking south,” he adds.
Troy Doss is a senior planner at the city Bureau of Planning and a project manager for the South Waterfront. (His department comes up with the rules about height, design, architecture and types of land use that the developers have to follow.)
“The street plan was laid out in part to provide extra sight corridors, with 200-by-200-foot square blocks, like the downtown grid pattern,” he says.
Doss says the bureau also considered the view from the east, from the Brooklyn neighborhood to the West Hills. There are limits, though.
“The building heights were capped to protect views of Mount Hood from Terwilliger Parkway,” which was built as a greenway with scenic viewpoints for drivers, bikers and pedestrians, he says.
“Obviously the people farther down the hill were more affected because of the elevation. We can protect public views, but it’s almost impossible to protect private views. It’s a matter of virtual impossibility to do development in that district without affecting someone.”

Planning makes a difference

Doss says that with the buildings going up according to a grand plan, rather than willy-nilly as usually happens, it’s easier to insist on things like views and create a “dynamic district with a light and airy pedestrian environment.”
The Meriwether’s two towers will have 243 condos. Mount Hood views start around the 10th floor, where you can see over the trees on Ross Island. Around half of the owners will have be able to see the mountain — which is a lot more than the number of views the towers will obliterate.
Looking back at the West Hills, the Corbett-Terwilliger and Lair Hill neighborhoods seem small and sparsely populated.
And with the standard line about the $2 billion redevelopment of the South Waterfront, the 3,000 new residences and potential 10,000 new jobs, the concerns of residents of these few homes have little hope of making a difference. (They’ve been tossed a few bones: a pedestrian bridge across the freeway, sunken power lines and a new Ross Island Bridge onramp.)
Mary Guenther and Jim Wallace have lived at the corner of Southwest Corbett Avenue and Curry Street for 25 years. It’s that busy spot where traffic turns to get onto Hood Avenue and then Interstate 5. Every time they step out of their side entrance they glance eastward, where the Meriwether towers now loom large.
“The river’s what I’m going to miss,” Wallace says. “I’ve been looking at Mount Hood for 25 years. Now someone else gets to look at it.”
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Old Posted Jan 17, 2006, 9:25 PM
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boo-ho, want to see the mountain, buy a home in the country.
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Old Posted Jan 17, 2006, 10:48 PM
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You've got to be kidding me. It's a big city, people are going to have to accept that SOMEDAY.
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Old Posted Jan 18, 2006, 12:55 AM
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I find it interesting that the new residents of the condo's can see Mt. Hood if they have a condo on the 10th (or higher) floor. You lose some and you gain some.....this is a growing city for freakin' sake.
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Old Posted Jan 18, 2006, 5:06 AM
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“I had a peekaboo view of Mount Hood if I stood at certain place on tippy-toe,” she says. “That was a whole lot better than that massive building. What I’m really losing is the open sky. That bugs the heck out of me.”

Let's see, if she stood on her tip toes, she could see the mountain, but now b/c of that tower she's *losing open sky*? Give me a break. Whine, whine, whine.
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Old Posted Jan 18, 2006, 3:21 PM
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she makes it sound like the towers are rising right next door to her. I am pretty sure she is not losing that much.
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Old Posted Jan 18, 2006, 4:14 PM
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I am pretty sure she is not losing that much.
I'd rather have a full time futuristic skyline view than a once in a blue moon stand on tip toes to see the tip of Mt. Hood. The lady is a nut...and for the other people, they are renters for God's sake!
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Old Posted Jan 18, 2006, 4:23 PM
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those damn dirty renters!! (j/k, renters are what makes the world go round)

besides, they are probably going to get kicked out once the developer decides to turn them into condos.
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Old Posted Jan 23, 2006, 2:49 PM
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Oh please, people are whining over losing a view of Mount Hood? It could be worse, they could have lost their home in a flood or something like people in New Orleans.

They should feel lucky for what they have...
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Old Posted Feb 1, 2006, 11:28 PM
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I don't know anything about that neighborhood. In the small picture, it looked like the neighborhood had a territorial view as well as a view of Mt. Hood? It will still have a territorial view. What kind of premium do people pay in Portland for a view of Mt. Hood?

If you're going to get upset about this, at least make it be about money. Getting upset about losing a peek-a-boo view is just plain ridiculous.

I think that their property values have already grown more from Portland's development, than they have lost due to the changed view. Not everyone thinks like that though...
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Old Posted Feb 2, 2006, 6:29 AM
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I just watched the 10:00 KGW news and they said the estimated cost is now at $55 million. If the city approves the new budget fast enough they expect to have it running by December.
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Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 5:21 PM
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Instant community -- just add people
Thursday, April 20, 2006
By Erin Hoover Barnett
The Oregonian

Driving into South Waterfront along Southwest Moody is a 15-mile-per-hour crawl. The dirt-caked road is uneven in spots and, at one point, narrows to one lane. Men in hard hats take a Mountain Dew break on a newly poured curb. Rumbling equipment digs and smoothes. And jutting up from the mud are glass and steel monuments to the city's condo craze and the muscle of Oregon Health & Science University in various stages of completion.

Not exactly homey.

Yet, during the next week, into this work in progress will step the first residents, bound for the Meriwether towers. It would appear that a clash of interests looms over South Waterfront like the cranes. After all, high-end homeowners are not known for suppressing their discontent.

Ah, but this is where the true nature of the budding neighborhood reveals itself. The 38-acre River Blocks development is not just a collection of buildings in the making. It is a Lifestyle, created by the developers and their Realtor with wraparound marketing and buckets of savvy. It shows just how motivating a planned $1.5 billion investment can be.

Indeed, developers Gerding/Edlen, Williams & Dame and Realty Trust have put considerable thought into creating community amid a construction zone. Because that is what the waterfront will be for years to come. The homeowners' experience, says Realty Trust's Todd Prendergast, "has been a topic of discussion from the infancy of this project."

So instead of new housing development, think urban resort.

Observe, if you will, the Discovery Center. As the River Blocks' sales floor, it has the obligatory kitchen models and the 3-D rendering of the development. But this subtle, new building with "VENTURE" etched in 10-foot letters into its synthetic stucco facade is also the community center. Not the scuffed-wood-floors and the thud-of-basketballs-in-the-gym variety. We're talking Metropolitan Home-esque lounging areas complete with pomegranates-on-a-pedestal knick knacks. And an outdoor fireplace with weathered-wood patio furniture gathered round. Everywhere words and images telegraph the kind of serenity and liberation that $500-plus per-square foot affords. "If I had my life to live over," reads floor-to-ceiling tapestries, "I would take more chances. Eat more ice cream. Travel lighter. Ride more merry go rounds."

But the developers' solution to the construction zone concern is not just about providing a refuge. They are establishing separate traffic patterns for residents and for construction workers and have a formal complaint process. They are not, however, taking a "pardon our dust" approach. They are building a homeowner identity that incorporates the construction. "Urban pioneer," read the white-on-sky-blue buttons handed out at a recent gathering for soon-to-be-residents. Books artfully stacked in a lounging area echo the theme: "Undaunted Courage," "Wild in the City," and "Avedon at work in the American West." So does Meriwether fer goodness' sake.

That's not all. The developers have hired someone to help residents get to know one another: former Oregon First Lady Sharon Kitzhaber. Through her communications firm -- Kitzhaber Communications -- she was already helping maestro special events at the Discovery Center, which, according to Prendergast, has become one of the hottest event venues in town.

Kitzhaber's hard work and her skills commanded attention.

"She greets everyone on the same level -- takes their coats. She's able to disarm people," says Prendergast.

Kitzhaber, at home in a Discovery Center office behind a polished maple desk with a framed photo of son Logan, 8, says she will plan field trips, restaurant forays and other gatherings. Kitzhaber also will connect new neighbors with opportunities on governance committees, such as one advising the development of the greenway. They can join the Corbett/Terwilliger/Lair Hill neighborhood association but may eventually form their own.

"My role is really to help homeowners become neighbors," Kitzhaber says. "They're writing their own story and to the extent I can help them with that story, it's very exciting for me."

Soon-to-be homeowner Tom Noguchi also is excited.

An empty nester and an account executive with the Bonneville Power Administration, Noguchi, 62, and his wife, a retired teacher, will trade their Lake Oswego home for a two-bedroom condo in the Meriwether this summer. Noguchi would like the River Blocks' main park to be filled out sooner -- the developers will only plant grass initially as well as erect a river walkway for recreation. But he says he appreciates the role Kitzhaber will play. And he says the developers have helped by being honest about what to expect during construction.

As for the "urban pioneer" moniker?

"I think it fits," says Noguchi. "All of this is going up while we're moving in and so much of it we can watch."

Erin Hoover Barnett: 503-294-5011; ehbarnett@news.oregonian.com
http://www.oregonlive.com/printer/pr...900.xml&coll=7
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Old Posted May 5, 2006, 2:57 PM
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Transit puzzle presents itself

South Waterfront desperately needs light rail, so where is it?
By JIM REDDEN Issue date: Fri, May 5, 2006
The Tribune
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The success of the South Waterfront development district depends on the construction of a long-planned light-rail line that is not yet fully engineered or funded, according to city Commissioner Sam Adams.
Streets in and out of the district will be overwhelmed by traffic without the line and other transportation alternatives, such as the Portland Streetcar, said Adams, who is in charge of the Portland Office of Transportation.
“The South Waterfront project is the most urban development ever planned in an existing city,” he said. “The street system is extremely limited there. Transit options are key to making it work.”
The light-rail line is the second phase of the South Corridor Plan designed to connect downtown to Clackamas County. It includes a new bridge over the Willamette River and is scheduled to be finished in 2014 at a cost of $550 million or more. Although the federal government has funded 60 percent of similar projects in the past, local governments still will have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the rest of it — probably requiring voters to raise their property taxes.
“Right now it’s hard to see where the local funds will come from without voters approving a financing plan. There’s just not a lot of available money,” said Ross Roberts, a Metro transportation planner working on the project.
City Commissioner Randy Leonard was surprised to learn the Portland to Milwaukie light-rail line is considered essential for the district to meet its transportation needs.
“I never heard that before,” said Leonard, who was the council’s most vocal critic of the cost overruns of the aerial tram that will connect Oregon Health & Science University’s facilities on Marquam Hill to the South Waterfront.
Although Leonard supports mass transit, he noted that city funding for the Portland to Milwaukie light-rail line is not a done deal.
“We’ll need to look at it closely when all the costs are known,” he said.
Metro now is in the process of reviewing the light-rail line’s alignment and will begin seeking public comment on the project this summer. When the review is over, the new cost estimate probably will be significantly higher than $550 million. That estimate was made in 1998. It did not include an environmental impact study of running the light rail out of downtown along Southwest Lincoln Street, the current proposed alignment.
Nor did the 1998 estimate take into account environmental laws that could dramatically increase the cost of building the bridge across the river. It currently is estimated at $100 million
“Because of laws like the Endangered Species Act, you can only build things in the river at certain times of the year, when fish runs aren’t threatened,” said Adams, who predicts the final cost of the line will be “very expensive.”

Street access points are few

The South Waterfront Planning District consists of 409 acres of former industrial land on the west bank of the Willamette River. It runs from the Marquam Bridge to Southwest Bancroft Steet and is cut off from the rest of the city by Interstate 5. Work is under way in the 130-acre Central District, just south of the Ross Island Bridge.
When the project is finished 18 years from now, the entire area is projected to be a thriving neighborhood with about 5,000 residents, up to 10,000 jobs and a new campus for the Oregon Health & Science University. City officials always have known that traveling in and out of the district would be challenging, however. Current plans call for just two streets at each end of the district, plus two signalized intersections off Southwest Macadam Avenue, which runs along the western edge of the district.
To compensate for the access restrictions, city transportation studies say that no more than 60 percent of all rush-hour trips can be made by one person in a single vehicle. In other words, at least 40 percent of all rush-hour trips must be made using alternative transportation.
Moreover, city transportation studies indicate that at least 30 percent of all trips must be made by alternative transportation during nonrush hours.
According to Greg Jones, the transportation office’s project manager for the district, the light-rail line won’t be needed until the district is almost completely finished — but will be absolutely essential then.
“We need the line to get the high mode split,” said Jones, referring to the split between single-occupancy and all other trips in and out of the district.
Adams acknowledged that no other American city has ever set such a high alternative transportation goal for an urban development project.
“The trips avoided and the trips on transit are really the key here,” Adams said.
To meet the goal, the district was designed from the start to be served by a variety of transportation options. They include new TriMet bus lines, an extension of the streetcar, the OHSU aerial tram, the Lake Oswego trolley and pedestrian and bicycle paths along the Willamette River greenway that is supposed to stretch the length of the district.
According to Adams, the options also include the new lightrail line. Current plans call for it to run along Southwest Lincoln Street to the river. That places the nearest light-rail stop approximately 12 blocks from the Central Disrict, where the tram stops in front of the first OHSU building currently being built there. Residents and workers would be able to reach the stop via the streetcar line that is planned to run the length of the district.

Northern line voted down

The idea of building a light-rail line from downtown across the Willamette River to Milwaukie has been around for a long time. It is part of the South Corridor Project, which calls for running light rail from downtown into Clackamas County The first phase of the project currently is under way. It includes building a light-rail line along Interstate 205 that will connect the Clackamas Town Center to downtown Portland, where another light rail line will run from Union Station to Portland State Univeristy.
Phase II of the plan calls for building a new light-rail line from near PSU through the north end of the district, across the Willamette River to around Southwest Caruthers Street, east to Southeast 12th Avenue and then south to Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard to Milwaukie.
Originally, transportation planners hoped to build light-rail lines from Vancouver, Wash., through downtown to Clackamas County as a single project. It was called the North-South Project and Portland area residents voted to increase their property taxes $475 million to pay for it in 1994. But the project was derailed when Clark County voters turned down their share in 1995. Oregon voters rejected statewide funding for the project in 1996 and again in 1998.
Since then, segments of the line have been built or engineered without asking voters to increase property taxes. The Interstate MAX light-rail line was funded with a mix of urban renewal funds and federal transit dollars. The first phase of the South Corridor Project is being funded by downtown business owners, TriMet, Metro, the state of Oregon and the federal government.
Planning for Phase II of the project — which also is called Milwaukie Light Rail — has been under way for more than a decade. Several options for crossing the Willamette River were considered between 1994 and 1998, including rebuilding the Hawthorne, Ross Island and Sellwood bridges to accommodate light rail. In 1998, Metro adopted a resolution favoring construction of a new bridge from the west end of the Marquam Bridge to Caruthers. That choice now has been incorporated in several land-use plans.
Roberts says the location of the bridge could be reconsidered in coming months, however. Metro now is launching a supplemental environmental study required for federal funding. Because of the current construction in the South Waterfront development district, the study may consider the benefits and costs of moving the bridge to the south.
“When the last study was conducted, South Waterfront was a hypothetical neighborhood. Now towers are springing up like sunflowers,” he said.

Streetcar may make a loop

Wherever the bridge is located, Roberts said it probably also will carry the streetcar over the river.
The streetcar currently runs from Northwest Portland through downtown to PSU and into the South Waterfront. It is operated by Portland Streetcar Inc., a nonprofit corporation that also is working with the city and Metro to build a streetcar line on the east side of the Willamette River.
Current plans call for a new line to loop from the soon-to-be-built Burnside Bridgehead development at the east end of the Burnside Bridge to OMSI via Southeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Grand Avenue. According to Roberts, the plans also call for the streetcar to cross the river over the proposed Caruthers Crossing, allowing connections to the downtown streetcar line.
“This will create a loop on both sides of the river,” Roberts said.
But the new light-rail line and proposed streetcar connections are not the end of the district’s transportation needs. According to Adams, several other critical transportation projects have yet to be completed, although much of the funding already has been identified for them. They include new and improved roads at each end of the district, extending the streetcar through the district to Southwest Lowell Street and building an overpass along the western edge of the district above Macadam to reduce congestion.
The total cost of the other projects currently is estimated at more than $221 million, with much of the money expected to come from urban renewal dollars, local improvement district funds and the Oregon Department of Transportation.
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Old Posted May 11, 2006, 9:33 PM
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Old Posted May 30, 2006, 4:08 PM
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Family of condos rises on South Waterfront skyline
Sunday, May 28, 2006
The Oregonian

Realty Trust Group is handling residential sales in the River Blocks project, co-developed by Portland-based firms Gerding/Edlen and Williams & Dame.

The only units still available at The Meriwether are three penthouses, ranging from a 1,600-square-foot two-bedroom for $815,610 to a 2,540-square-foot two-bedroom with a den for $1,399,000.

However, two sibling condominium projects under construction -- the John Ross and Atwater Place -- are still selling a wide range of floor plans.

The John Ross, a planned 31-story elliptical tower, was designed by architect Bob Thompson. Most of its 303 units (242 in the tower and 61 in the podium) feature curved walls of windows. Located at Southwest Pennoyer Street and Bond Avenue, it is expected to be completed in fall of 2007 and is 75-percent sold.

Units still available range from a 1,061-square-foot loft for $399,000, to a 5,085-square-foot four-bedroom penthouse for $4 million. Floor plans can be found at www.thejohnross.com.

Plans for Atwater Place, designed by architect Thomas Hacker, call for a 23-story rectangular tower featuring 212 units, including five town homes. Prices range from $369,000 for a 930-square-foot one-bedroom, to $3.5 million for a 3,800-square-foot three-bedroom with a den.

Atwater Place is on the river at Southwest River Parkway and Pennoyer Street. Completion is slated for December 2008, and more than 500 people have placed their names on an interest list. Floor plans are at www.atwaterplace.com.

Visitors can view plans and models at the Discovery Center, 0680 S.W. Bancroft Ave.; open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

-- Jan Behrs
http://www.oregonlive.com/search/ind...n?hrehs&coll=7
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Old Posted May 31, 2006, 2:03 AM
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I think the completion date for the Atwater is wrong.
Shouldn't it be Dec 2007?
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  #19  
Old Posted May 31, 2006, 3:49 PM
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^good catch! according to atwaterplace.com 'Atwater place is scheduled to be completed in late 2007, with the final move-in scheduled for early 2008.'
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  #20  
Old Posted Jun 9, 2006, 6:07 PM
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This article is all over the place, but it appears Prom. is finalizing SoWa plans

New builder in town prompts wage push
Union leaders press council for guarantee on PDC projects
By JIM REDDEN Issue date: Fri, Jun 9, 2006
The Tribune A Canadian construction company is prompting Oregon labor leaders to press the City Council over a long-simmering dispute — whether to compel the Portland Development Commission to require that state prevailing-wage rates be paid on all its projects.
ITC of Vancouver, British Columbia, has opened a Portland office and is planning to work on many future construction projects in the metropolitan area. Its first project is the Benson Tower, a privately financed 26-story condominium being built at Southwest 11th Avenue and Clay Street. ITC also is consulting on the next phase of construction in the South Waterfront urban renewal district, a nine-acre parcel owned by Prometheus Real Estate Group Inc.
“We didn’t come to Portland to do just one project,” said ITC’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, Lloyd Tosoff. “We expect to become a major player in the Pacific Northwest.”
Most of the large construction companies that work on PDC projects, including both the Hoffman and Walsh construction companies, employ only union subcontractors. But ITC is an open shop, meaning it employs both union and nonunion subcontractors.
“We respect unions and nonunions alike,” Tosoff said.
That worries union leaders like Bob Shiprack, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building Trades Council. He believes that ITC’s presence in the market will drive down the wages on all major construction projects, including those that employ union workers.
“We’re very concerned about ITC coming into Portland,” Shiprack said. “We think it would be bad for working people.”
Although unions could not stop ITC from working on the Benson Tower, they are trying to prevent the company from employing nonunion subcontractors in the South Waterfront urban renewal district, which is managed by the PDC. The unions’ main tactic at this point is to persuade the PDC to require that all developers on its largest projects pay state prevailing wages. The rates — which are set by the state labor commissioner — mirror union wages in the Portland area.
PDC Executive Director Bruce Warner said the agency is committed to paying fair wages on its projects. He noted that prevailing wages are now paid about 60 percent of the time, including on all street and sewer improvement projects. But Warner said the state’s prevailing-wage law does not cover many of the developers that work with the agency on the public-private partnerships that have built much of the Pearl District and are at work in the South Waterfront urban renewal district.
“The law does not say we have to require developers that do not receive any direct funding from us to pay prevailing wages,” Warner said.
The unions made their case before the council Wednesday at a hearing arranged by Commissioner Sam Adams. Although the announced subject was employment practices that should be avoided in Portland, several speakers took the opportunity to disparage ITC, including Cliff Puckett, organizer for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, who said, “We don’t need irresponsible, out-of-country contractors driving down our wage.”
Tosoff said the unions are merely trying to protect their turf.
“We’re the new kid in town, and we expect to be treated different. It’s called self-interest,” he said.
The council, however, seems ready to back the unions. After Wednesday’s testimony, Mayor Tom Potter and all four commissioners expressed concern about the need for more family-wage jobs in Portland. And a majority of the council — Adams, Randy Leonard and Erik Sten — appeared to be ready to direct the PDC to require that prevailing wages be paid on more of its projects.
Leonard said: “It’s what I care about. It’s what I am.”

Many changes since 1959

The 1959 Oregon Legislature passed the state prevailing-wage-rate laws to require that minimum wages paid on public works projects do not undercut the standard wages paid in the areas where the work is occurring.
The law authorizes the labor commissioner to set and enforce the wages paid on such projects. The commissioner oversees the Bureau of Labor and Industries, which contracts with the Oregon Employment Department for annual surveys to determine the prevailing wages paid in 14 regions in the state.
Much has changed since the law was passed in 1959. Urban renewal agencies such as the PDC now partner with private companies on urban renewal projects. The PDC pays for infrastructure improvements like roads and sewers, while private developers construct the office, retail, apartment and condominium buildings. These are called public-private partnerships.
State Labor Commissioner Dan Gardner thinks the law should apply to at least some of these projects — the ones with the greatest amount of PDC involvement. The PDC so far has disagreed, saying the Legislature has not included public-private partnerships in the law. Only one case has ever gone to trial; the PDC won it last month, to the chagrin of Gardner and union officials.

A case in point

The history of the building that now houses the Henry V event-planning firm shows how deeply the PDC can be involved in a project without its being considered public under the law.
The PDC purchased a 1.8-acre parcel in the renewal area for $1,725,600 in May 2000. The land, at 6360 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., had been unused for many years. At the direction of the PDC’s board of commissioners, the agency marketed the land through a real estate firm. A local marketing and communications firm, National Meeting Corp. Inc., began looking at the property in summer 2002. In January 2004, firm owner Douglas Daggett and Vice President Patrick Eckford formed a company, Tin Roof LLC, to develop the property.
To make the deal work, the PDC entered into an agreement with Tin Roof in June 2004. As part of the agreement, the PDC said it would loan $1.16 million to Tin Roof for the purchase of the property and to credit Tin Roof another $15,000 toward the purchase price because of a latent defect in the existing building.
The agreement also gave the PDC the power to review and approve the design of the building to make sure it “enhances N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, serves as an anchor development to the northern end of the (urban renewal area), and complements a burgeoning neighborhood node where a mix of uses is being encouraged.”
The PDC did not provide any of the approximately $1.74 million construction contract funds. Work began in January 2005 and was completed about six months later. The project came to the attention of the Bureau of Labor and Industries when a union — Operating Engineers Local 701 — complained that prevailing wages were not paid on it. The labor agency investigated, concluded that prevailing wages should have been paid, and entered a judgment against the PDC and several contractors on the project.
The PDC appealed the judgment to the Multnomah County Circuit Court, claiming the project was not covered by state prevailing wage-rate laws.
Judge Henry Kantor sided with the PDC and dismissed the labor judgment in May. But he did not issue a written ruling explaining his decision. Gardner has appealed the ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Prometheus may be exempt

Even if the PDC requires major developers to pay prevailing wages, the upcoming Prometheus projects may be exempt. Unlike other South Waterfront developers, Prometheus has not entered into a binding development agreement with the PDC.
“We’re not asking anything from the city,” said Prometheus project manager Ellen Brown.
The PDC’s Warner agreed.
“Prometheus is not a development partner at this point,” he said.
Puckett of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters believes all major developers working in city-approved urban renewal districts should comply with the law, even if they are receiving no PDC loans or grants.
“If they’re working in an area where the city is building the infrastructure, they should be a responsible company,” Puckett said.
Email Jim Redden
http://www.portlandtribune.com/archview.cgi?id=35650
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