The Twisting Saga Of Portland’s Fremont Place Apartments

person atrybnfolder_openUncategorizedaccess_time April 18, 2018

A controversial proposed apartment building in Portland has a new shot at being built.

The Fremont Place Apartments would be a 17-story building, standing 185 feet high along the Willamette River in The Pearl. The Portland Design Commission approved the building late last year, but then in a surprise move, the Portland City Council rejected it last month after an appeal by a neighborhood group.

“It’s incredibly unusual,” Willamette Week’s Rachel Monahan told OPB’s Weekend Edition. “They haven’t actually rejected a project that has been approved by the design commission in over a decade.”

Some locals were concerned the new development would block views of the Fremont Bridge and that it would encroach on the Willamette Greenway along the river.

But housing advocates say it’s irresponsible to reject potential new housing as the city struggles with a housing affordability crisis.

“The analogy people use is musical chairs,” Monahan said. “If there’s a renter who’s looking for an apartment in The Pearl but can’t find an apartment there because the housing doesn’t get built, then they’ll look elsewhere where housing might have been cheaper in the past.”

Surprisingly, rather than finalizing the development’s rejection, the City Council came back this week and voted 3 to 2 to give the architects another week to revise their proposal. Still, the development isn’t a done deal. “As someone said to me, they didn’t say no, but they didn’t say yes yet,” Monahan said.

There will be another hearing next month to see if the development gets the official green light. But experts are concerned about what the challenges could mean for other proposed buildings in the city.

“Economists and developers were saying the rejection would have a major impact on whether developers wanted to build in Portland,” Monahan said.

“I think people are watching this closely to see what City Council does here.”

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