The next bad-infill battleground
Ask what makes Portland great, and most folks will include in their answer its wonderful neighborhoods, particularly the oldest ones. But these collections of classic Craftsmen and Victorians are always under attack from greedy developers, who care not a whit about neighborhood character and are all about lining their wallets with retirees' money. Alas, since their plans invariably call for cramming more people into less space, and eliminating all setback and breathing room around their apartment bunkers, they play right into the "eco-density" fad touted by the current generation of planning bureaucrats (many of whom are well intentioned greenies being played by the true overlords in the West Hills).
Anyway, there are too many of these dramas to track them all, but the blogosphere steps up now and then to try to chronicle some of them. Alan Cordle's new site tells the story of an old house at NE 11th and Tillamook that's about to bulldozed to make way for a totally out-of-place condo bunker that might look swell in some places, but definitely will not in Irvington.
The house that's on the lot now (on the southeast corner of the intersection) is rundown but salvageable. Long ago it was chopped up into apartments. One of its finest features is the large yard that surrounds it. The place has a couple of nice evergreen trees on it; a rarity for this neck of the woods, during the winter months they give off an aroma that reminds passersby of eastern Oregon:
The house is doomed -- as you can see, the new owner is already gutting it -- and the yard and the larger of the trees probably are, too. What remains to be decided is what kind of building is going to replace them. Here's what the developer, a guy named Ry Koteen, is reportedly planning to erect on the site:
The neighborhood association is up in arms, and rightly so, as this design fits in with its surroundings not at all. Curiously, this is a block that Google Street View has not yet penetrated, but it is no exaggeration that the area is predominantly older homes in styles that are as far from Koteen's box as they are from the moon.
Of course, it was easy to see this coming. Several years ago, just a block away, the city allowed (probably encouraged) a guy to get rid of the historic Portland postmaster's house and slap up these things:
View Larger Map
That sent out a signal to the Ry Koteens of the world that Irvington, like all of Portland's neighborhoods really, is now up for sale. And so no surprise, here he is. It will be interesting to see where this land use dispute ends up, but then there will be the one after that, and the one after that. And after a while, maybe it won't be so interesting any more, because Portland's older neighborhoods will no longer be all that special. Go by streetcar! I hope not.