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Height Attack

Neighborhood Association Decries New Condo

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Around the city, neighborhood associations often jump at the chance to decry a proposed building's height, in the name of protecting views, sunlight, or neighbors' privacy.

The Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), however, is not one of those organizations: While the group might speak up about a building's design, downtown transportation issues, or historical preservation, it's rare for the DNA to squawk about how tall a new condo tower will rise. Tall buildings are a fact of life for downtown residents.

So it was strange for a dozen DNA members to step up to the microphone at the July 20 Portland Design Commission meeting, and lambast the proposed Ladd Tower—a condo development that will soar 260 feet into the air between the South Park Blocks and SW Broadway, at SW Jefferson, next to the First Christian Church.

The tower could be 300 feet tall under the city's zoning regulations, the developers said at Thursday afternoon's commission meeting, before presenting drawings of the glass and stone building.

But neighbors—DNA members, many of whom live along the South Park Blocks—argue that projects along the chain of green park space can only be 100 feet tall, according to Portland's 1972 Downtown Plan. "'New development on the park blocks should be compatible with existing buildings,'" DNA member Daniel Friedman quoted from the downtown plan. Meaning, he explained, that the condo project should top out at six or seven stories—not 21, as proposed.

Rose Ann Clementi, president of the DNA and a 12-year resident of an apartment along the park blocks, seconded Friedman: "We are utterly opposed to having a 21-story building fronting the South Park Blocks. This overwhelming building is totally incompatible... it will not add to the character and livability of the park blocks." Another neighbor chimed in, declaring the planned tower "breathtakingly audacious and presumptuous."

The DNA suggested that the developers rotate the Ladd Tower 90 degrees, so it fronts along bustling Broadway instead. The historic Ladd Carriage House—the third building on the block—could be moved to face the park, the DNA added. The Design Commission decided to continue the discussion on September 7.

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