Month: April 2020

The Skinny Infill

UPDATED – The lot at 8020 SE Madison Street has been split and permit applications have been submitted. The proposed new single family residence will be a two story, 1-car garage structure on a very narrow lot.

Capital Builders LLC is listed as the owner of the 1989 single story house at 8020 SE Madison Street. The future address for the new house is not know, as the parcel division has yet to be recorded in Portland maps. Although, the boundary of 8020 SE Madison Street has been reduced on the map to end at the new fence line.

Montavilla should expect to see even more infill like this one. Developments that fit in spaces some may think are too small to accommodate another house. Despite the feeling that we are endlessly adding new residences to Portland, new reports show we are still falling short of what is needed. The alternative, to this type of infill, is more apartments and less single family housing. Both new apartments and new homes are being built in Montavilla and will probably continue to be built, in quantity, over the next decade as our population spikes.

Good architecture and infrastructure improvements will help lessen the appearance of density. It will be exciting to see how this new house on the skinny lot uses the space to its fullest.

Update – The house number has been assigned. 8014 SE Madison Street is the new house address. 03/​02/​2020 08:01 NSFR 20-111080-RS.

Originally published February 25, 2020

Making Sure the Last to Reopen, Can

Our Academy Theater has anchored Montavilla Town since its opening in 1948. It closed as a theater in the 1970s and operated as an office. 2006 saw its return to glory as a movie house. Modern issues have threatened the viability of the Academy Theater. Whether it was the conversion from film to digital or a electrical fire, the community has supported it. We all know how valuable it is, not just for the entertainment they provide, but also as an icon of our neighborhood.

So once again we need to show our continued support. Please consider buying a Gift card.

It may feel like Oregon is on the cusp of reopening, but some businesses will have to wait longer than others to serve patrons again. Places of mass gathering will not be opening quickly. Even when opened, people may be scared to go to the movies. Things will get better but if we want to enjoy the future as it was before, we will have to invest in it now.

Needed Return of the Rowhouse

Very few terms in architecture and city planning are met with as much impashioned opinions as the Rowhouse. It has been associated with an image of poverty and bland living. However, attach the name Brownstone to a street of similar shaped houses with shared walls, many have a more positive view. The Rowhouse exists all over the world and in many different iterations. Consequently, the way you feel about them could have more to do with were you grew up and the media you watch.

Row houses offer affordable ownership without a HOA fee and offer more expressive freedom to residents than a condo. It is attractive to first time home buyers and people who could never afford the prices of a detached home. These positives have been countered by negative economic changes for the areas where these houses were built. Clusters of lower cost properties, over time, will turn neighborhoods into a blight on the city. This can happen to any centralized location of affordability. When a neighborhood only has one class of housing, residents must move away as soon as they can afford a better home. When a flow of financially stable people move out of an area, that drives down the property value for the people who remain. A few cycles of that migration will devastate the value of an area.

The biggest failing of the classic Rowhouse in america, has been its location in a sea of identical buildings. As a solution for density they can be a great solution, as long as architecturally and socially they meet a high standard. Dim, skinny houses, made from inferior material is bad building regardless of if it’s in a row or detached. If a substantial width is preserved, greater that 18 feet, a house will feel comfortable.

The properties pictured above are not row houses, but instead are classified as Townhouse condos. 603 NE 92nd Ave is owned by ADS Properties LLC. All five residences share the same lot, although they have different street numbers. Many people think of Townhouse as a nice term for a Rowhouse and there is endless debate on if that is true. The one thing stopping anyone from calling these row houses or Townhouses, is the lack of distinct parcels of land with independent ownership.

Despite its distinction from being a Rowhouse development, the scale of this project is perhaps the ideal length for row houses. Although this is a large block of housing, it occupies less than a quarter block. Most other residences around it are detached single family homes, making it more acceptable to the community standard. Row Houses can cost less but do not have to be cheap. With a mixed block approach to row houses, if the residents want to upgrade their homes, they can find options in the same area.

Infill houses are trying to squeeze into spaces that make them awkward and ugly. This is all in the name of maintaining a slim yard between houses. That land between two houses is often wasted and could have been used to add an additional five feet to the width of the house. Housing density is a good thing when balanced with other housing. We should be inspired by solutions in between an apartment and a detached house. Good city planning is based on selectively saying yes to different housing ideas, not maintaining uniformity in neighborhoods.

Additional Reading on Row Houses – American Planning Association offers a detailed look into the Rowhouse, past and present. The Urban Omnibus, a publications of The Architectural League of New York, also provides a social and historical look at the Rowhouse.

Corner Lot Carved Out

UPDATENew information posted in followup article.

The corner of NE 72nd and Burnside is looking more open these days. The new owner of 7 NE 72nd Ave, Kimco Properties LTD, has cut down the once dominate hedges that surrounded the house. The now exposed yard has been cleared in preparation for future development. An application to split the lot has been submitted and is in the final review phase.

Image from Google Maps

The new, and yet to be renumbered, house will become the corner lot on the block. The lot is skinnier than most seen in the neighborhood. The documents seem to indicate a request for a “reduced side setbacks allowed under 33.120.270.D” for this property. This should allow the new building to use more of the property width than regularly allowed.

Just a year ago, March 22nd 2019, the original owners sought to partition the property into two or three separate lots. The Kamasz Family LLC filed Early Assistance request 19-136919-000-00-EA:

Option 1 – Three lot land division with one corner lot, one lot fronting on Burnside only & one lot lot fronting on SE 72nd Ave only. Existing dwelling to be demolished. Option 2 – Two lot land division with existing dwelling to remain on corner lot with one new lot fronting Burnside only.

Apparently neither of the two options were accepted as both lots seem to be fronted along NE 72nd Ave, in the current application. However not all documents are available at this time and the front door could be along Burnside.

This reduced width lot will have many architectural challenges and its exposure along Burnside will make those choices highly visible. It is unknown how long it will take before a building permit is issued for this new property. However, the clearing of hedges from the property could indicate it will be sooner rather than later.

Fire Damaged Auto Shop Rebuilt

Back on September 11th, 2018, Portland Fire & Rescue responded to a fire at Erick’s Auto Tech. Located at 8633 SE Stark Street the fire was reported at 12:46 am and destroyed the building. Now, just over 18 month later, the reconstruction is complete. The result is a more modern replacement for what had been destroyed.

Image by em architecture, llc

The commercial garage is designed by EM Architecture, and stands on the same footprint of the damaged structure. The only interior division is a single half bathroom in the Southwest corner.

Empty Lot on NE 91st

716 NE 91st Ave is an undeveloped lot owned by Mate Skoro of Skoro Homes. It is the remaining undeveloped lot from Skoro Homes previous projects at that site. The five lots had once been the location of a 1940s erra home located at 720 NE 91st Ave. The lot was divided into five lots, 4 of which are fronted on NE Irving Street. The lots along NE Irving Street share two common-wall duplexes. Those two buildings were completed in early 2019.

9107, 9109, 9115, and 9117 NE Irving Street.

The original Early Assistance request was a “proposal for a 7-lot land division.” It is possible another Duplex or Triplex is destin for this location. However the lack of permit activity on this lot could indicate that the plans have changed.

Skoro did not respond to a request for comment. Without any activity on the site, and no proposals apparently in the works, anything could happen with this lot. Likely the developer wants to see how the housing market reacts to the predicted economic downturn. Perhaps the lot will be put up for sale or just sit empty, waiting for better times to come back to Portland.

Empty But Not Gone

One of the two Family Fun RV locations along SE 82nd Ave, is noticeably devoid of any RVs. They have consolidated their inventory of new and used RVs to the 333 SE 82nd Ave location. All branding and signage remains up, however the lot looks empty.

When reached for comment, a representative from Family Fun RV said the 1027 SE 82nd Ave location is still in use as a service location. He further explained that due to the current social distancing in effect, they have decided to keep only one location open to shoppers.

It is Family Fun RV’s intention to reopen the 1027 SE 82nd Ave location for sales, and balance the inventory between both locations. However this is dependant on when restrictions are lifted.

Effect of Staying Home on Where We Go-out

It has almost been a month of empty streets and closed shops. Even if you are safe and secure during this time, you are looking around at the businesses in the neighborhood and hoping they will survive. There are some programs to help these small businesses but not enough, and certainly they are not timely in providing the help needed. Those programs are for established businesses trying to make it through the forced closures. However, they do not cover establishments that have not opened their doors for the first time. We have many businesses in Montavilla that are mid construction.

The Oregonian has an article detailing the struggle of four restaurants and bars that had all been scheduled to open in Montavilla town. In the article, the owners of White Rabbit, Tinker Tavern, Lazy Susan, and Sebastiano’s all lend their voice to the story of uncertainty around us. No business in Montavilla is immune to the financial hardships being felt right now but the ones that have yet to see their first customer, are proving to be the most vulnerable.

All is not lost for these future landmarks of Montavilla. Some should be able to postpone plans. Others are adjusting the business to fit what is practical right now. Andrew Mace, of Lazy Susan, is quoted in The Oregonian article as being thankful they did not hire staff yet.

Unlike other shops with staff, payroll and unemployment is one burden the new locations in Montavilla are not contending with. There are many established businesses in our area that need cash flow to keep some of their staff employed.

Brian Stafki put together a Google Sheet of Montavilla, and other nearby businesses, that are open or offering services in an alternative form. If you can continue to give them business, please do.

The Montavilla East Tabor Business Association has created a COVID-19 Info and Resources page that has some additional information about its members, during this prolonged shutdown.

APP Site for Sale or Lease

Associated Petroleum Products (APP) has moved out of their fueling facility at 9270 NE Glisan Street. The property is listed for sale or lease by Keller Williams Realty’s KW Commercial. The large lot is listed for a price of $1,295,000. Despite its diminutive appearance from NE Glisan, it is a long property equivalent to six residential lots.

For sale is a 35,000 SF lot with 31,736 SF of highly sought after partially paved and gravel yard. The property is fully enclosed by cyclone fencing, includes two buildings and environmental completion. The front building (2,400 SF) has three total grade doors, a reception area, three offices, a break room, a restroom, and a 600 SF loft. The back warehouse building (864 SF) has one grade door, a cement floor, and three phase electrical. The front 10,000 SF of the property is zoned mixed use commercial. The back 25,000 SF is zoned residential development, or grandfathered in as a truck yard. – KW Commercial’s listing description –

Although this location is well suited to a similar commercial application, its location would be ideal for a mixed use development. This lot would be a challenge to split into separate properties, as it is missing an access road. NE 93rd Ave does not extend across Glisan. This only leaves the option of maintaining a private access to the other lots. If residential development is destin for this location, a subdivision or apartment complex would be a good solution. Additionally the fronting along NE Glisan would allow for the potential to include retail in the development.

9000 Hoyt Street Subdivision

15 new homes are coming to Montavilla in a new subdivision. Only one street back from NE Glisan, this new project by 9000 Hoyt Street LLC and Todd Spencer, is in its early stages. Currently just basic infrastructure and a massive retaining wall are being constructed onsite. This stretch of Hoyt is an unimproved gravel road but soon it will be paved to make way for a the traffic heading to these homes.

The subdivision will have 11 single family homes and and two duplexes. Only one house will have its entryway fronted on Hoyt Street. It is also the only one with a distinct layout. Each house will have a single car garage and stand three stories tall.

The subdivision is comprised of two large lots that were combined in the first half of 2016. 9019 NE Hoyt Street contains a 1928 house and has been carved out of the subdivision’s Southeast corner. The Northwest corner of this block dips down along NE 90th Ave and NE Irving Street. The developers have chosen to place a large retaining wall along this corner to level the subdivision. It creates a interesting appearance along NE Irving Street and highlights the difference in terrain, experience in this part of Montavilla.

The frontmost house on the subdivision has its garage in the back of the first floor, with access from the private road. The entrance from NE Hoyt Street will lead into a first floor family room. Up on the second floor, is a great room, kitchen and 3/4 bathroom. The third floor has a standard bedroom, laundry closet, and the master suite. The master has a walk in closet and a 3/4 ensuite. The person in the standard bedroom has to use the bathroom on the 2nd floor.

The ten other single family houses feature a garage at the front of the first floor. There is s long hallway that leads from the front door to a bedroom in the back of the first floor. It has its own full bathroom attached and a exterior entrance to the backyard through a sliding glass door. The second floor features a kitchen at the front with a great room at its center. The back half of the floor has a 10 foot glass wall with double sliding doors leading to a covered balcony. Off the balcony is a large exterior storage closet. Leading from the kitchen is a step up platform that turns 90 degrees to become the stairs up to the third floor. Off the platform in the other direction is a half bathroom. The third floor contains two more bedrooms and a wide laundry closet. Each bedroom in these houses have there own attached full bathroom. The master bedroom is only differentiated by a walk in closet and two separate sinks and countertops.

Dual duplex buildings provide the remain four houses, of the 15 being built in the subdivision. Each has a single car garage in the front. The front door open up to a small entryway with a door to the garage and stairs up to the second floor. Accessed from the back of the garage is a bedroom with its own attached full bathroom and a walk in closet off the bathroom. The bedroom has access to the backyard through a sliding glass door. The second floor features a kitchen along the back wall and a great room in the center. Along the front of the second floor is a covered balcony with sliding glass door. Similar to the other houses, there is a step up platform that leads to the stairs on one side and a half bath on the other side. The third floor has two bedrooms and a wide laundry closet. Again each bedroom in this house has its own bathroom. However the Master bedroom in the duplexes have showers instead of a tub shower combo. Only the bedroom on the first floor has a walkin closet. The master bedroom is 5 feet longer than the other bedroom on the third floor and is placed at the front of the house.

Several design elements will make these desirable houses. The retaining wall and private road will create a small separate community, only accessible off a dead end section of NE Hoyt Street. Being high off the ground provides good views through the windows along the the North and West. Additional, the architecture has modern influences. The balconies push into the house instead of protruding out. The roof of the duplex units are Skillion and lean-to, while the other buildings use a Skillion roof.

The choice to include a bathroom for every bedroom in all the residences, except for one, is intriguing. It is one of those choices that seem unexpected at first but feel like a great idea when experienced. I suspect this could be a building trent to watch in years to come.