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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Latest condo fizzle: 38th and Belmont

The folks who built this monstrosity, where the old Fou Lee Market was, now appear to be finding that not too many buyers want to pay $300 to $350 a square foot to live in it -- even with the eco-roof. After many months of hard marketing, the fairly desperate sales pitch now includes all manner of incentives, including 100% financing with no mortgage insurance. That doesn't sound like a success story in the making.

The developers (or whoever's running the deal now) say they've sold 11 units, with "only" 15 left to go. As Granny Bogdanski used to say, "God don't punish with a stick."

Can we stop destroying the nice old neighborhoods of Portland now?

Comments (30)

Jack, have you ever had any response to the the few blog inquiries about how these infill projects can cantilever out over the sidewalk beyond the front property lines?

Besides not even fitting into the scale of their neighborhoods, they have the audacity to infringe into public owned space and reduce the scale of our already limited street scape. You or I with our homes couldn't even think about building even beyond the required setbacks along our side and rear property lines, let alone along our streets. What gives?

But Lee, they're "transit oriented" so they can do whatever they want.

The one across the street from the Vern appears to be stalled.
No one wants to live in these, fools want YOU to live in these.

11 out of 15 sold - Actually, that's not bad. As far as inducements, that's pretty standard what they are offering to get condo property moved.

Sorry, re-read that its 11 out of 26 sold. Still not bad.

Steve: Wait until those 11 buyers discover they are responsible for homeowner's association bills for the entire complex. And that those homeowner's fees are way higher than the phony estimates given to them by the dvelopers.

Bleckk. Looks like some of the 'transit-oriented' crap they threw together out in Hillsboro at a fraction of the cost. I noticed out there that some of the intended retail spots on the bottom have sheets over the windows and they are serving as makeshift living units. As if Hillsboro could get any more depressing...

Since that building project is along my route to work, I watched much of the "progress" as it was under construction.

I found it interesting that the builders left one bit of wall (in the SW corner of the project) standing.

All I could guess was, by leaving that bit of wall, they were gaining some code compromise or benefit. God, don't tell me that they were able to plead "green" by keeping one corner of concrete wall intact!!!

There had to be some inane code benefit from keeping that bit of concrete. Who knows?

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit when that photo popped up.
What a hideous mess of an excuse for architecture.

I can't wait until they finish turning Portland into Los Angeles.

But wait!

There's more!

They've got the signs up, but they have not yet started to create yet another architectual abortion at SE 38th & Division.

Just you wait...these people can screw up a good thing without even breaking sweat.

I'm not surprised at all the developer bashing here, and much of it is deserved.

I agree that those condo-bunkers on Belmont (and many others) are ugly. Folks need to know that this is exactly the type of development that the COP practically legislates in their land use process and zoning code. Sure, blame the developer if you want, but those guys move like bees to honey. When interest rates are low, buyers are plenty, and the COP encourages such density...it should be no surprise to see monstrosities like this pop up in old bulgalow-laiden neighborhoods.

There have been some neat projects out there, though. I noticed that in the Alberta neighborhood, someone has managed to take the old Arthur Cole ugly box warehouse, and is in the process of converting it to live/work units.

Here is the web site I found:


No change in height, just good old adaptive re-use for renters that looks to be very compatible with Alberta. No condo bunkers there.

This type of development is assumed by Metro to occur at an astounding pace over the next several years. If you read Metro's Residential Urban Growth Report (available on their web site), it clearly outlines that they are assuming 71,000 "subsidized refill" units over the next twenty years, with per unit subsidies from urban renewal districts ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 per unit. Adds up to over $3 billion in subsidy to developers to encourage this type of development. You would think someone would take interest in this.

"Wait until those 11 buyers discover they are responsible for homeowner's association bills for the entire complex."

Technically, the developer (or whoever is on the hook for the loan) is responsible for HOAs on unsold units from the time of the first sale.

Not that it makes a lot of diff if the developer goes under.

The issue here isn't condo's, nor infill nor growth nor density. The issue is design. No way such a design should be approved in that neighborhood. Someone above also makes a great point about the property apparently having "air rights" over the sidewalk.

Seattle has done a much better job of regulating design on new condo buildings. Look to their process for assistance, clearly you need it. This building, in a residential neighborhood, is a total disgrace and a massive failure on the part of the design oversight committee.

Itis entirely possible to make dense, new, affordable buildings in a way that doesn't look like total sh** and kill the street life on the corner where it is built.

The street-level retail spaces are terrible, like air-holes cut into a brick wall.

I'm kinda curious. Where's the parking for these units situated? Or aren't they required to provide any?

Re. condos: I have never understood why anybody would want to pay full price for a home and then continue to rent it month to month which is about what condo fees amount to.

I assume most condo fees don't cover property taxes, or include water, gas, electric or any other amenity and there are certainly no grounds or landscaping to maintain here.

Please don't bash this architecture, or they'll just go back to putting up tangled warrens of wannabe po-mo faux timber frame townhouses that are mostly vinyl but "evoke" quality materials and construction. I'd rather look at ten blocks of that thing than another one of those faux arts and crafts row house vertical tenements.

Last time ia went by there the ground floor retail spaces were empty.

This is not far from my neighborhood. I've driven by that property a million times, and I gotta tell ya - despite all the criticism here - it's better than the crap it replaced.

This project was developed, as I understand it, by the woman who owned both Fou Lee store and the adjacent mini-strip mall that held about a half-dozen small businesses. She chose to knock it all down to cash in on the hot condo market. Yes, design is a critical issue but even better design--comparable to the structures around Belmont and 34th--would not have necessarily resulted in better sales at this time.

Technically, the developer (or whoever is on the hook for the loan) is responsible for HOAs on unsold units from the time of the first sale.

True, except that ORS 100 allows a huge loophole: The developer can defer payment for a year, or until the unit sells, whichever comes first.

Not that it makes a lot of diff if the developer goes under.

Someone still owns the unit, and that responsibility would then transfer to them. At least from that point forward.

I have never understood why anybody would want to pay full price for a home and then continue to rent it month to month which is about what condo fees amount to.

This statement is misleading. I'm president of our association (two units only), and our association fees cover insurance, state registration, repairs to the common elements, and reserve for longer term maintenance items like roof, painting, etc. There are no property taxes for the association because each unit pays taxes on their own unit, plus their share of the common elements. We have no overhead; the it's done entirely with volunteers.

So in essence our fees pay only for items that most homeowners would have to cover anyway, through direct outlay. We try to calculate it so that there's never a special assessment needed, and look upon our reserve as an enforced savings plan.

We do get a tax break on reserve earnings of the association - it's taxed at the bottom corporate rate, as opposed to individual rates, which I presume are higher for both owners. But I'm being careful with this part because I know Prof. B is watching and he's caught me being wrong before on taxation matters.

it's better than the crap it replaced

That ain't saying much. The old property was awful. But it could have been rehabbed, or replaced with real houses, or replaced with nice retail. Instead, a waaayy overpriced condo bunker that not only has no setoff, but protrudes over the sidewalk. A well deserved bust.

Interesting John.

How about this twist?

I have never understood why anybody would want to pay full price for a home and then continue to rent it month to month which IS what property taxes amount to.

"but protrudes over the sidewalk..."

Since when did this become so awful? SE Portland is full of buildings that "arcade" over sidewalks...
It is a nice design element that prevents overly boxy things from happening....

What, now every pedestrian needs protected "air rights" over the sidewalks...? Come on, Jack.

I can understand your disdain toward infill development, certainly...but this building is far better than others I've seen....

The Uniform Building Code allows buildings to overhang adjacent public streets if the underside of the overhang is at least a certain height above the street. The City of Portland requires those who want to build over the street to obtain a permit to do so.

this building is far better than others I've seen

I love this standard of excellence. It's become a Portland mantra.

No one should be allowed to build above the public right-of-way. Or run an aerial tram over it, for that matter. Light and air matter, particularly in a place like Portland, where things are gloomy for too much of the year.

This thing is an ugly symbol of greed. They ought to knock it down.

From what I understood talking to the owner of the Phu Hoa (which replaced the Fou Lee a few years before the condo development started up), the original plan was to open the market back up in the downstairs retail spaces (which, to answer one of the queries above, are in the Belmont side of the building, in front of the parking garage). They'd tried opening a noodle shop to supplement the market's income, but that closed after only a short time. No idea if she's still involved in the property.

The wall from the old store (which was an empty maritime union hall when I first moved into a house half a block from the condo) was probably left up so the project could be classified as a renovation rather than new construction.

I don't know what happened, but I suspect that like a lot of other development plans over the past few years, various financial difficulties put a wrench into things. Construction on the project seemed to stop completely at least a couple of times.

I guess I don't see it as such an eyesore as some do, but then again, I only walk past the thing several times a week.

I do miss the Phu Hoa, though. It was a nice improvement over the Fou Lee.

Construction stalled here for the same reason as many development projects around town: the original general contractor was Gray Purcell. Gray Purcell was allegedly robbing Peter on one job to pay Paul on another until things finally caught up with them.

Well, I'm disposed to favor infill wherever possible but I would pull the license of whichever faux artiste grafted those insane cagelike grates as "ornaments" across the poorly scaled windows.

Go to Georgetown or parts of Baltimore (or London, for that matter) and look at how much beauty is possible on very narrow lots if the architects can be fired and replaced with a team of human beings who care about how their structures will affect the neighborhood in which they are placed.

These buildings are the architectural equivalent of Congressman Joe Wilson of S. Carolina -- aggressive and obnoxiously wrong and loud about it.

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