Possible Changes to Portland’s Skyline, in Exchange for Affordable Housing



NBP Capital, a Portland-based real estate investment, and development company has brought an awfully interesting proposition to City Hall. They wish to dramatically change our city’s skyline with the addition of eight apartment buildings along Southwest Natio, Riverplace. These buildings would be starting at heights of 100 feet and climb so far up as 325 feet (the height of the South Waterfront buildings – Aredea, John Ross, Mirabella), plus one building reaching 400 feet tall (think Fox Tower + 28 feet).

Portland is not only notorious for resisting growth out, but it also resists growth up. These developers realize that asking for a pardon on height limitation and access to Portland skyspace is asking a lot, so in exchange, they are offering to build 500 units of affordable housing on their dime. Willamette Week put it into perspective with this comparison: Prosper Portland, the city’s urban renewal agency, expects to spend millions of public dollars to build roughly the same number of apartments on the old U.S. Post Office site in Old Town.

This proposal brings about an interesting dilemma, as the affordable housing issue has been a regular topic of discussion in Portland. Would these 500 affordable units be enough to sway the city? City Commissioner Dan Saltzman says he’s “heartened” by a project pledging to use inclusionary housing. Many private developers, he says, “are saying that inclusionary housing is killing our city. Here we have a big development stepping forward and providing affordable units in a big way. That’s counter to a lot of naysaying we’re hearing”.  At this point, four members of the City Council, including the mayor, have expressed preliminary interest.

For several years the city’s Planning and Sustainability Commission has already been debating the  “Central City 2035 Plan“, which would allow some developers to build higher. There is certainly plenty of pushback to go around, as well. The voices speaking out against allowing height increases proposed under the Central City Plan has been strong and consistent over the years. In fact, many argue that the current height limitations should be lowered.

The project would create about 2500 apartment units, including those 500 units priced to be affordable for people making 80 percent of the median income or less. These changes would not only affect the skyline but also to the quite Riverplace Marina and Tom McCall Waterfront Park area. Renderings have been drawn up by Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, who most recently designed the $33.5 million Japanese Garden expansion. Kuma is best known for designing the $1.5 billion National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games. He, alongside local GBD Architects, have started to dream up what this new waterfront community could potentially look like. City Council still has some deciding to do but in the meantime, check out some of the preliminary images:

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