In a move that will expand the highly successful Brewery Blocks one block to the East, a new mixed-use project is being proposed from Vallaster Corl Architects on the corner of 9th Avenue and Couch Street. At first glance the project looks like a Lower Burnside Lofts‘ larger, more complex sibling mixed with the nearby 937 Condominiums from Holst/ Ankrom Moisan. Looking deeper the project is quite different in its use of colorful loggias and perforated metal sliding panels.
The project is proposed to have 84 one-bedroom, 18 two-bedroom, 10 three-bedroom, and 34 studios all mixed together in an 11-story tower above two floors of underground parking. A nice array of varying residential sizes, which has been unheard of in the past few years of apartment construction. At 125′ to the roof, this project will be quite prominent only because of its immediate lowrise surroundings, but will be shorter than most newer towers in the area. The project is also on a 3/8ths block parcel with two party walls facing existing parking lots and single-story buildings from the turn of the last century, which gives the design team fewer options for the West and North sides of the proposal.
The overall form of the proposal is broken up into two masses that visually step back from each other with a subtle height difference and material arrangement. The street level is set back slightly to help protect and define the pedestrian space, in a ribbon of as-of-yet defined material. The ground floor is still in the early stages of development, but it is currently proposed to have 4 retail spaces, the lobby, ample bicycle parking, and a Pearl District necessity: a wine cellar.
The existing conditions on the site will be hardly missed, as the current parking lot and brick buildings are visibly in their last years of usefulness after years of neglect. As one of the most walkable and retail rich areas in Portland, this proposal will ultimately patch together one of the few remaining gaps in an otherwise wonderful pedestrian environment. The ground floor treatment is therefore key to this project, which is still in its infancy in the design process, but already has a lot going for it. In addition, the amount and variety of exterior balconies above will also help with eyes-on-the-street and the overall energy of the immediate area.
So far the reception of the building has been very positive, from the city and the neighborhood, with a few exceptions regarding the proposed height and auto parking, which are both policy issues and not directly related to this proposal. Unlike the less-than-satisfactory hotel designs recently proposed nearby, this project is a breath of fresh air. Even though Couch 9 is in the early planning stages, the current proposal is already beyond a lot of other proposals we’ve seen lately here in Portland. Basically, it comes down to the details from here on out, and I don’t expect any major changes to occur to the overall design concept.