Development Review Commission rejects proposed events center
The company behind a planned mixed-use events center at Third Street and B Avenue in Lake Oswego says it intends to appeal its case to the City Council after the Development Review Commission voted 3-2 in March to deny the project application.
The proposed 47,290-square-foot building is a private development project undertaken by 10 Branch, a local company run by the Haladay family. The center is envisioned as a four-story, mixed-use structure with a market on the ground floor, second- and third-floor office space, and an events center on the top floor with a large open-air deck on the south side.
Most of the DRC's concerns related to the building's structural features, such as the proposed height, roof shape and architectural style, as well as parking for the center. But Miles Haladay, 10 Branch's managing partner, said that "from my perspective, the thing to point out is no one officially opposed the project during the (DRC) meeting."
"The neighborhood supported it and the planners office put a recommendation in for approval," Haladay told The Review. "So we'll be appealing it, and hopefully the council will have a different view."
If approved by the City Council, the development would feature underground parking, with additional parking along Third Street and a parking lot at the north end of the site. Early conceptual designs had also included a small group of apartment buildings at the north end, but those plans were dropped from the final application.
Some of the office space would serve as the headquarters for 10 Branch, but company officials have said that the biggest goal for the project is the creation of the events center. Lake Oswego currently lacks a venue of comparable size, they said, and local groups are often forced to travel to Portland to host large meetings and conferences.
"We want people to be able to stay in Lake Oswego to host some of these things," 10 Branch member Sonal Haladay told The Review last year.
Large-scale development projects have sometimes faced a chilly public reception in Lake Oswego; the recently-completed Windward development, for example, went through a lengthy court battle before the project broke ground.
But the Haladays' project has been largely free from controversy, a fact Miles Haladay attributes to his own residency in the First Addition neighborhood and 10 Branch's efforts to reach out to neighbors about the project and incorporate feedback in the design.
"The neighborhood supported it," he said last week, "which is dramatically different from what we saw at The Windward, and that's because we've been working with the neighborhood for two years to make the project work."
The DRC's public hearing in March featured testimony from only four residents, including First Addition Neighborhood Association board members Carole Ockert and Jim Bolland, both of whom said they supported the project.
One person offered mixed feedback: Matt Grady of Gramor Development, who said he was there to represent properties on the opposite side of B Avenue. He voiced objections to both the design style and the parking plan, arguing that nearby businesses would be negatively impacted if event center visitors decided to start using nearby parking lots as overflow space.
According to a City staff report, the first DRC objection was to the Haladays' proposed parking plan, which would utilize a shared parking arrangement so that multiple businesses could use the same spaces at different times. The events center, for example, could be restricted to evening and weekend hours when office parking spaces would be empty.
Staff calculated that under the City's rules, the building would need 170 parking spaces to serve all of its functions. The proposed design has fewer than that, but the Haladays contended that the shared parking plan could make up the difference. The commissioners disagreed, arguing that the plan was "neither practical nor functionally enforceable."
"In pretty much every project I've been involved in, the first thing you do is make sure you have enough parking spaces," Commissioner Kirk Smith said during deliberations. "Everybody gets along a lot better when everybody has a sufficient amount of parking."
The second objection was that the building's design does not conform to the "Oregon Rustic" architectural style, one of the three styles allowed in downtown Lake Oswego. The project application asked the DRC to grant several exceptions to Lake Oswego's usual design rules for the area, including a flat roof, reduced storefront glazing, reduced distance between the ground and the lowest windows and awnings over the windows and doors.
Although developers are allowed to offer modern interpretations of the approved styles, the staff report stated that the commissioners only saw one aspect of "Oregon Rustic" in the design: the stone base of the building.
"It's got some nice materials used, but I find it hard to classify this building as Oregon Rustic," Commissioner Paden Prichard said.
The third and fourth objections were about the building's height and roof. The proposed design didn't exceed the downtown area's 60-foot height limit, but it did feature a flat roof in order to fit the events center on the upper floor.
Normal design guidelines for downtown Lake Oswego call for pitched roofs on structures taller than 41 feet, and the commission felt that allowing an exception would set a bad precedent.
"I just don't like the flat roof," Commissioner Nick Shur said during deliberations. "(Pitched roofs) are a major aspect of the Lake Oswego style, and I just don't think it complies."
The commissioners did appear to be conflicted about the project — most of them expressed support for at least some aspects of the events center, and Smith at one point said that he didn't object to the flat roof, just the low number of parking spaces.
Commission Chair David Poulsen also pushed back against his colleagues' concerns about setting a precedent, arguing that the proposed building would be too unique to be cited as an example by future developers.
"I don't think we'll see (an events center proposal) again," he said. "In this case, it's such a unique use that we're trying to accommodate that uniqueness and have that as a valuable thing that's introduced into the community."
City staff had recommended approval with certain conditions in order to address some of the concerns, but a majority of the DRC commissioners didn't think the City could realistically enforce the conditions that would be required, and so opted
to deny the application outright instead.
Haladay said he expected to file his appeal as soon as this week. That will trigger a hearing before the City Council, although only people who testified during the DRC hearing will be able to testify during the appeal.