Contemporary

1106-1114 SE Lincoln St.

Building Data:  Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy Year Built: 2017 Typology: Townhouse, styled to look like Walk-up Apartment Building Units: 6 Stories: 3 Site Area: 2,850sf Building Area: 6,090 FAR: 2.14:1 Density: 91.7 du/net acre Zoning: RX (Central Residential) Off Street Parking? None Is it Legal? Yes

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy
Year Built: 2017
Typology: Townhouse, styled to look like Walk-up Apartment Building
Units: 6
Stories: 3
Site Area: 2,850sf
Building Area: 6,090
FAR: 2.14:1
Density: 91.7 du/net acre
Zoning: RX (Central Residential)
Off Street Parking? None
Is it Legal? Yes

Notes:

Just west of Ladd’s Addition, we discovered this fascinating recent addition to the neighborhood. This little project shows what a little attention to proportion and form can do. This building takes a form common to pre-war multifamily housing, a U-shaped building with to wings and an entry court. Unlike a typical apartment building in this format, this project is a somewhat unorthodox configuration; six three-story townhouses.

The façade material is the mundane material, EIFS, a foam and stucco cladding system we typically associate with suburban strip malls. Here it’s used to great effect, including a nice offset around the windows, giving them a depth not usually found in contemporary construction. We located a great precedent about a block away, showing historic context for this design.

Breakdown of how a good façade is composed

Breakdown of how a good façade is composed

The subject property “Before”

The subject property “Before”

We particularly appreciate this building because of its sensitivity to its surroundings and its careful application of classical proportions. While composed in the form of a well-established typology, the building also exhibits a clear hierarchy of base middle and top. It is symmetrically composed, and its windows are roughly twice as high as they are wide. On the block face, the building’s cornice is roughly in line with the roof heights of surrounding structures. The building achieves a very high net density because it is on a very small lot. At roughly 50x57, the lot is about half the size of a standard Portland residential parcel. We uncovered a “before” photo from the City, showing the property before this building was constructed. The lot appears to have been chiseled off from a neighboring property, creating a new half-lot.

Nice window detail, unfortunate PGE meter placement.

Nice window detail, unfortunate PGE meter placement.

Formal-factor compatibility with surrounding context

Formal-factor compatibility with surrounding context

Neighboring Historical Precedent

Neighboring Historical Precedent

Site Plan

Site Plan

 

2413-17 SE Division

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Site Data (just the 5000sf containing the two new structures) Building Area:  Building 1 (Front) 4500sf Building 2 (Rear) 1800sf  Neighborhood:  Hosford-Abernethy  Year Built:  2014 (per Assessor data, actual phasing unknown)  Typology:  side-by-side townhouse/rowhouse  Units:  5 (3 in phase I, 2 in phase II)  Stories:  2  Site Area:  5000sf  Building Area:  6300sf  FAR:  1.26:1  Height: 2 stories,  25’ approx.  Density:  Phase I Triplex – 26.1 du/ac Triplex + Phase II Duplex 43.6du/ac Whole Site:29.0du/ac  Parking:  on-street  Zoning:  R-1 (1du/1000sf)  Is it legal?  Yes

Site Data (just the 5000sf containing the two new structures)
Building Area:
Building 1 (Front) 4500sf
Building 2 (Rear) 1800sf
Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy
Year Built: 2014 (per Assessor data, actual phasing unknown)
Typology: side-by-side townhouse/rowhouse
Units: 5 (3 in phase I, 2 in phase II)
Stories: 2
Site Area: 5000sf
Building Area: 6300sf
FAR: 1.26:1
Height: 2 stories, 25’ approx.
Density:
Phase I Triplex – 26.1 du/ac
Triplex + Phase II Duplex 43.6du/ac
Whole Site:29.0du/ac
Parking: on-street
Zoning: R-1 (1du/1000sf)
Is it legal? Yes

2413-2417 SE Division provides a lovely modern example for a traditional two story row house similar to what you would find in historic English and northeastern U.S. neighborhoods. Unlike many of its contemporary cousin townhouse designs, this building has been freed from the design constraints imposed by the addition of garages. This allows the structure to better blend into a neighborhood primarily constructed before the mass use of the automobile, and also allocates more street parking on a busy commercial corridor rather than limiting public parking due to curb cuts for private garages.

Phase II duplex behind primary structure

Phase II duplex behind primary structure

The project originated with the historical duplex located on the NE corner of SE 24th and Division, expanding to the neighboring lot with three forward facing townhouse units, with the later addition of two more townhouse units behind the first three. The living space of the units is not floating above a garage, allowing the living space to have a real relationship to the ground plane and the street. This relationship allows the building to blend into the existing fabric of the block - its sidewalks and other buildings, rather than floating 10 feet above everything else. Lots this close into the center of the city are well covered by public transit, and historically have not been designed around parking, this is a great place for garage-free design.

Unlike many contemporary examples, this building does not fear symmetry and uses a tried and true approach to building design. You have simple clean lines creating clear definitions between the units, windows that line up, solid choice of quality build materials. We would love to see more of this in the future.


Land + Construction + Time

Land + Construction + Time

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2701 SE Clinton St.

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy Year Built: 2014 Typology: Walk-up Apartment Building Units: 12 Stories: 3 Site Area: 10,000sf Building Area: 8,825 FAR: 0.88:1 Density: 52.3 du/net acre Zoning: R2 (1 Dwelling/2000sf)Is it Legal? Apparently

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy
Year Built: 2014
Typology: Walk-up Apartment Building
Units: 12
Stories: 3
Site Area: 10,000sf
Building Area: 8,825
FAR: 0.88:1
Density: 52.3 du/net acre
Zoning: R2 (1 Dwelling/2000sf)Is it Legal? Apparently

We were very excited to find this new building a block north of SE 12th and Clinton. 2701 SE Clinton is a 12 unit walk-up apartment building with four units per floor. It is an L-shaped building on a corner (double) lot with two wings parallel to the street sides. Access to upper units is provided by a shared stairway on the inside of the L, with exterior walkways leading to the upper units. Because of this configuration, it is very efficient, with most of the building area used for units instead of circulation. Additionally, every unit has at least two exterior facing walls. End units have three.

This building represents the lower bound of the “apartment” typology. Smaller buildings with fewer units are usually subsumed within the typology of “plex.” The boxy form, flat roof and brick cladding clearly say “apartment building.”

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Architecturally, this is a terrific design, with clean rigorous symmetry, quality materials, intentional façade composition and a terrific relationship to the street.  Ground floor units feature stoops and semi-private terraces. These are accommodated by a setback of approximately 8-10’ from the street lot lines. This sort of buffer is very valuable for making ground floor units tolerable by creating some privacy for occupants. Additionally, they integrate the building with its surroundings by mimicking the form and function of its neighbors. The project was designed by local architect Hillary Mackenzie.

Neighboring Stoops

Neighboring Stoops

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3955-3957 NE Mallory

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Boise Year Built: 2017 Typology: Townhouse/Duplex Units: 2 Stories: 3 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 3,882 FAR: 0.53:1 Density: 17.5 du/net acre Zoning: R2.5a (1 Dwelling/2500sf) Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Boise
Year Built: 2017
Typology: Townhouse/Duplex
Units: 2
Stories: 3
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 3,882
FAR: 0.53:1
Density: 17.5 du/net acre
Zoning: R2.5a (1 Dwelling/2500sf)
Is it Legal? YES

This townhouse-type duplex was completed less than a year ago, and is one in a row of 4 identical duplexes, totaling 8 units. These are fee simple townhouses, meaning that the original single family lots were divided down the middle into two 25’ X 100’ lots with a common wall dividing the properties. This type of development appears to be the most common use of the R2.5 zone, which allows 1 dwelling per 2500sf of land area. All units have a garage occupying much of the lower level, with the main levels floating above the ground plane, demonstrating a phenomenon we have been calling the floor is lava.

At the ground level, instead of stoops, yards and front porches, we have a large paved area, occupied by vehicles. Each duplex pair shares a curb cut.

These houses were constructed on the site where four single-family houses were demolished, in what was, until recently, a primarily African American community. According to city records, one of these units sold earlier this year for precisely $1M, so while adding housing may help home prices in the aggregate, at block and neighborhood level, we wouldn’t expect any relief from gentrification from this type of development – in fact, quite the reverse!

Row of 4 identical townhome-duplex structures (8 units)

Row of 4 identical townhome-duplex structures (8 units)

We selected this project for a case study to illustrate the tendencies of the market at present, and thus illustrate the likely outcome of upzones without additional controls on building form. The City’s Residential Infill Project says very little about building design, and we believe it is worth noting that without the addition of such controls, projects of this type will likely become much more ubiquitous in our neighborhoods. You’ll pardon our cynicism when we roll our eyes at blandishments such as “Duplexes are beautiful.” Well, some are but those tend to be historic examples, built before a time when accommodating automobiles was a primary driver of building and site design. So be careful what you wish for.

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2502-2524 NE 11th

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Irvington Year Built: 1931 Typology: Courtyard Apartment Units: 10 Stories: 1+ Site Area: 10,000sf  Building Area: 6,086sf FAR: 0.6:1 Density: 43.5 du/net acre Zoning: R5 (1 Dwelling/5,000sf) Is it Legal? NO

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Irvington
Year Built: 1931
Typology: Courtyard Apartment
Units: 10
Stories: 1+
Site Area: 10,000sf
Building Area: 6,086sf
FAR: 0.6:1
Density: 43.5 du/net acre
Zoning: R5 (1 Dwelling/5,000sf)
Is it Legal? NO

This courtyard project in Irvington is a fine specimen of the courtyard typology and illustrates one of its common variants. Like most bungalow courtyards, the project is configured in a U-shape with the open end facing the street. This example illustrates a common adaptation of the courtyard when built on a corner lot; the sloping site and side access allows a row of garages beneath the side street-facing wing. This is in very common in 1920s courtyard buildings on corner sites. Additionally, the end of the wing on the corner accommodates a bonus unit. This is possible since the basement level is at street grade here. The main level wings have three units each for a total of nine. The downside to this arrangement is a large blank wall at street level and a long linear curb cut. This creates a less than ideal streetscape.



Elevated courtyard provides privacy and transitional space

Elevated courtyard provides privacy and transitional space

Basement bonus unit

Basement bonus unit

Garages, with catwalk for unit back doors above

Garages, with catwalk for unit back doors above

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22-30 NE Beech

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Boise Year Built: 2015 Typology: Townhouse/Duplex Units: 2 Stories: 2+ Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 3,882 FAR: 0.53:1 Density: 17.5 du/net acre Zoning: R2.5a (1 Dwelling/2,500sf) Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Boise
Year Built: 2015
Typology: Townhouse/Duplex
Units: 2
Stories: 2+
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 3,882
FAR: 0.53:1
Density: 17.5 du/net acre
Zoning: R2.5a (1 Dwelling/2,500sf)
Is it Legal? YES

The side-by-side duplex with garages below units is the modern day cousin of the twin-house duplex. Unlike its historical precedents, the modern twin house is dominated by parking and is not a rental but sold as a townhouse. This example was constructed three years ago adjacent to the Vancouver/Williams corridor. The land is zoned R2.5, or one dwelling per 2500 square feet of lot. In this zone, development typically takes the form of a builder purchasing and demolishing a low value house, partitioning the lot down the middle and erecting this type of duplex, with a shared common wall on the new lot line.

The market and the building industry’s preference for secure, off-street parking and the ease of selling a building, rather than holding it as a rental explains its difference from pre-war duplexes. The horizontally separated twin-house format makes fee simple partition and sale relatively easy (as opposed to condominiumization of a stacked duplex), and it also makes it easy for each unit to have its own garage with direct access.

Traditional site design; stoop and green space

Traditional site design; stoop and green space

Individually, there is nothing inherently bad with this building, but we believe the cumulative impact of redeveloping neighborhoods with these parking-forward structures is undesirable. The social and environmental benefits of front porches, stoops and small green spaces in front of dwellings have been well documented by the New Urbanist movement, and those factors lead the City of Portland to end the practice of “snout-house” building two decades ago.

Like our NE Mallory case study, this building represents a typology that is likely to proliferate if the proposed Residential Infill Project is not modified to address aspects of building design and typology.

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