Young men take in view of Fremont Bridge from The Fields Park.  INSET: General shape of a 17-story residential building awaiting approval.

Young men take in view of Fremont Bridge from The Fields Park. INSET: General shape of a 17-story residential building awaiting approval.

Allan Classen
Editor & Publisher

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From The Fields Park, the public has a panoramic view of the graceful Fremont Bridge angling over the Willamette River. But not for long.

That view would be largely blocked by a proposed 17-story residential tower, and little can be done to stop it or reduce its size.

We’re harming the city by destroying these views,” Pearl District Neighborhood Association President Stan Penkin said. “I don’t like it.”

But Penkin conceded that fighting the project would be futile.

Pearl resident John Hollister testified at City Council last month asking that the Central City 2035 Plan be amended to protect this view, but even had council taken his advice, it would have been too late to limit the development application, which was filed and is vested under existing codes.

The project by Texas-based Lincoln Property Co. is subject to design review, a process intended to ensure that new structures are compatible with their surroundings. But even design review rarely diminishes a building’s size, and a 308,000-square-foot building is hard to slip into the background.

The PDNA Planning and Transportation Committee voted to go along with the general scheme, supporting code adjustments intended to make it as unobtrusive as possible.

BEST SCENARIO: Much of the building’s mass is shifted westward in the latest design, allowing part of the bridge to be seen from the southwest.

BEST SCENARIO: Much of the building’s mass is shifted westward in the latest design, allowing part of the bridge to be seen from the southwest.

WORST SCENARIO: Without code adjustments, the building could completely hide the arch of the Fremont Bridge from Northwest 11th Avenue at the edge of The Fields Park.

WORST SCENARIO: Without code adjustments, the building could completely hide the arch of the Fremont Bridge from Northwest 11th Avenue at the edge of The Fields Park.

Former committee co-chair Patricia Gardner said, “I’m not going to focus on larger issues but rather just see if we can make the building better.”

The committee praised Tim Wybenga of YBA Architects for configuring the structure in a way that allows part of the bridge’s arch to be seen.

One of the few members of the committee to vote against accommodation was Bruce Levy.

We should all appreciate the importance of maintaining as much of a view as possible of the iconic bridge,” he told the Examiner later. “It provides orientation for folks in and around the park area among a sea of high-rises surrounding The Fields and truly makes that park feel like the special place it is.”

If eleventh-hour protests were doomed, there was a time when the view might have been protected. Gardner said that window of opportunity passed while the long-delayed Centennial Mills redevelopment was under discussion. A pedestrian bridge connecting Fields Park and Centennial Mills had been proposed, but because community members and city planners didn’t want to define the view corridor while that project was in limbo, view protections were never formalized.

The view of the Fremont Bridge looking north from 12th Avenue is protected by city code. Bureau of Planning & Sustainability favor this view corridor because it does not restrict building heights.

The view of the Fremont Bridge looking north from 12th Avenue is protected by city code. Bureau of Planning & Sustainability favor this view corridor because it does not restrict building heights.

The Fremont Apartments project would occupy what today is a surface parking lot serving the adjacent office building.

The Fremont Apartments project would occupy what today is a surface parking lot serving the adjacent office building.

That’s why there’s no view corridor to the [Fremont] Bridge,” Gardner said.

Bureau of Planning & Sustainability planners considered protecting several views of the Fremont Bridge in the CC2035 plan but decided against measures that would limit building heights, according to BPS spokesperson Eden Dabbs.

Staff determined that the economic impacts of limiting building heights to protect this view outweigh the benefits,” Dabbs wrote in an email to the Examiner.

A currently protected view of the bridge looking north along Northwest 12th Avenue includes a slice of the bridge, and city staff supports maintaining that view corridor.