Council to reconsider controversial RiverPlace towers

Civic Affairs
RiverPlace high rise

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The City Council could vote on Thursday to support a controversial redevelopment proposal to build eight tall residential towers on the west side of the Willamette River.

The council rejected the proposal by NBP Capital on March 7 on a 2-to-2 vote. Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who voted no, moved to reconsider the vote the next day.

The Portland Tribune is a media partner with KOIN 6 News

The proposal calls for 2,617 new units in the towers, with around 500 being affordable to households earning up to 80 percent of the area’s median family income.

Mayor Ted Wheeler moved to raise the maximum allowable building heights in the RiverPlace area for the project from 75 to 400 feet, as requested by the developer. He and Commissioner Nick Fish voted yes, but the motion failed when Eudaly and Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted no. Commissioner Dan Saltzman recused himself because his family owns property in the area.

The now-vacant RiverPlace Sport & Spa on SW Montgomery along the waterfront in downtown Portland, February 2018 (KOIN)

Eudaly did not have enough information about the project support the motion at the time, according to Marshall Runkel, her chief of staff. Among other things, Runkel says Eudaly wants to know how the council can guarantee the affordable units are built.

The proposal is controversial for several reasons. For starters, the proposal requires the demolition of the existing Douglas Place apartments and townhouses in the RiverPlace area. And city planning policies have long required that buildings “step down” to the river to preserve views and access to it.

In addition, the proposal requires the existing Central City Plan to be amended to raise the height limits, which is what Wheeler’s motion would have done. But the proposal was not released until after the Planning and Sustainability Commission had already recommended its updated version of the plan to the council, causing critics to charge NBP Capital was trying evade public scrutiny and comment.

At the same time, the council has repeatedly said more dense housing needs to be built downtown to accommodate the thousands of additional people expected to live here in coming years. It is also working hard to increase the supply of affordable housing after declaring a housing emergency three times in three years.

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