The 35-story Moyer Tower, Factsheet
Thirty-five stories on a 3-story block in an 8-story neighborhood? How can this be? Welcome to bogus bulk and the magic called "FAR."
the 35-story Moyer Tower
Location: The "Zell Block," bounded by SW Park, Morrison, Ninth, and Yamhill, across from Nordstrom.
Landmark: The Virginia Cafe (since 1922).
Size: 35 stories, 410 feet, 525,000 square feet. If built, it would be among the tallest and largest in the city (more massive than Fox Tower), three levels of underground parking. Cost: $150 million. Use: High-end office space, 85 upscale condos, high-end chain retailers on three levels.
Developer: Tom Moyer (TMT Development, 241-1111). His other midtown projects include Fox Tower, 1000 Broadway ("Ban Roll-On"), and Tom Moyer Park and Garage under construction at Park Block 5. Moyer and friends own many fine old buildings all over the Park-Avenue area, most of which sit vacant or sparsely occupied, unrenovated, even derelict, apparently awaiting destruction. Moyer has not disclosed his plans to the public. He owns the Eaton at 822 SW 9th and 800 SW Alder (most of the block of the Morrison Park Apartments).
When: Moyer blandly announced (January 19, 2007) his acquisition of, and his intention to demolish the Zell block "in the fall." The proposed project would take many years and overlap with the transit-mall and other noisy, dirty, disruptive projects. Downtown is already a construction-sacrifice zone, residents and other users be damned. Downtown "planning" is the work of developers and bureaucrats from the suburbs.
Already to the Design Commission! The project proposal has skipped over the Planning Commission and has been rushed into a perfunctory, almost secret secondary process before a technical panel called the Design Commission. Essentially a platform for Moyer's architects, the Design Commission does not even notify an impacted neighborhood of its "hearings," and it meets in the afternoon, when the employed public is at work. The Commissioners conduct a cozy, intimate, barely audible technical conversation with architects and staff. Any member of the public who might still remain to the end of this tediousness is allowed only three minutes to make his comment. Theoretically the Commission could order a land-use review, but it will not even consider the suggestion. The panel meets on third Thursdays at 1:30 PM at 1900 SW Fourth, Room 2500A. If a vocal public were to show up there in numbers at the next session on June 21, these bureaucrats would not know what to do.
Bogus bulk. Thirty-five stories on a three-story block in an eight-story neighborhood. How could this be? The maximum height for the neighborhood is really eight stories. Add one story to the Morrison Park Apartments, and that is the allowed bulk. Anything larger would require a drastic zoning variance and a public land-use review. But welcome to that esoteric game called FAR. (floor-area-ratio). Moyer has "transferred" air-space from his Park Block 5, the surface part of which he is donating (disingenuously) to the city for a "public" park. It is inconceivable that a structure of the bulk transferred could be built on that site anyway. (As planning for "the park" proceeds, it is becoming more a setting for an upscale commercial restaurant, which will cover a third of its area.) The FAR stratagem is similar to the trading of emission credits by industrial polluters. It is dishonest right on the face of it, should not be honored for this project or any other, and the entire scam should be stricken from the 1988 city ordinance called Central City Plan. Fight bogus bulk!
Retail? That developer's dream called FAR allows for all sorts of ways for developers to circumvent zoning and to expand the bulk of a project -- by transferring air space, but also by getting bulk bonuses for putting in residential, retail, bike storage, or even a movie theater. (Moyer does all of these for his projects and may have written the provisions himself). Moyer Tower adds FAR bulk for hundred's of thousands of square feet of theoretical retail stores, which the city could not conceivably sustain. Did Moyer and his FAR-scheming architects bother to notice that a block to the west stands a completely barren retail mall once known as The Galleria?
The Area Plan: The green park-block plan has been canceled. Developers armed with FAR have targeted for high rise and retail a "business improvement" area bounded by SW Third and Tenth, from Salmon to Washington and they want to extend it to Second and Twelfth. Envisioned for the area is a bit of Manhattan with a touch of Disneyland: high-rise office towers and, at street level, a shopping utopia with corporate retailers made secure by rigorous policing and video surveillance, a safe, well-dressed setting, "competitive," says the Cement-Mixer Tribune, "with theme-park shopping malls like Bridgeport Village and The Streets of Tanasbourne." Do you support this vision?
Public shut out. There is no provision for real public input in the official process. As with the FAR game, all the rules for the process have been written by the developers for the developers. You get to have significant input only if you are the Portland Business Alliance, Planning, a few other developer-friendly city bureaucracies, or the Portland Development Commission. The City turns its back on a general public livid over development.
Despite Moyer Tower's gross impacts and its dubious FAR stratagems, the City has not considered Moyer Tower worthy of any public review that would address the fundamental issue -- does such a structure belong there in the first place? Issues of necessity, utility, functionality, compatibility, appropriateness, and environmental impacts are made irrelevant, and there is no venue for an outraged public to assert its concerns.
Fourteen levels of subterranean parking would be the total if a Moyer Tower were to add three more to the five levels already under Moyer's Fox Tower and to the six levels Moyer has under construction at Park Block 5. All fourteen levels, thousands of vehicles, would interconnect and exit onto a narrow, busy SW Taylor at Park, an unregulated intersection, congested with traffic, and a huge pedestrian hazard.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association has showed no opposition to Moyer Tower, has not asked for a land-use review, and is unreceptive so far to the suggestion. DNA is letting itself be used as a promotional platform for Moyer's architects. Developer-friendly DNA has helped to induce indifference in the public and too few attend DNA's meetings (held on second Mondays at 6:30 PM at Eliot Tower at SW Tenth and Jefferson). The developers have written the law so that only an officially designated neighborhood association like DNA can bring an appeal to the City Council without paying a fee for the privilege of $10,000.
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