During the great recession of 2008, many construction projects nationwide halted. New project proposals slowed to a rate that has not been seen in recent memory. Property values fell nationwide, but some interesting trends were associated with those changes. More Americans are starting to value walkable, close-in neighborhoods, like Eliot, over more car-dependent areas. And these preferences are not just with their hearts but also with their dollars. This was a trend that has been going on in Portland for quite a while, but it is having some real results on the ground in Eliot in the ‘10s.
Over the past twenty years, Eliot has become an area where people like myself are buying property and moving in to enjoy a high quality of life. Recently, we have hit a tipping point, and developers are noticing that the demand for close-in housing is exceeding the supply. Plans are surfacing to create more housing units. With our great walk- and bike-ability, easy access to transit and the freeway network, Eliot and inner Northeast Portland are prime targets for new buildings.
The MLK corridor has recently seen the first construction during my five years of living in Eliot with two five-story buildings going up on opposite sides of the boulevard from each other, along with two smaller, two-story apartment buildings on the west side. Another proposal for an 11-unit micro-apartment building at 436 N.E. Ivy Street has recently surfaced.
The Williams corridor has seen even more proposals and construction. With New Seasons just opening, a number of other developers are ready to spring into action with proposals for five 4-8 story buildings on the adjacent blocks. Some of the buildings are being proposed between Vancouver and Williams, giving a buffer to neighboring properties. The two big proposals in Eliot include underground parking: the Bakery block site at 115 N. Cook and the Backbridge Lofts at 2 NE Fremont street.
The Backbridge Lofts proposal garnered the most attention in recent months with a zone change hearing that was at City Council being a point of contention. The developer, Ben Kaiser, has come to the Eliot Land Use Committee a number of times regarding this property over the past five years. This time, he appears much closer to constructing a building on the property. Armed with a condition-laden zone change to RX, he can build a building up to 85 feet high on the northwest portion of the site and is working with a Floor Area Ratio of 4.3 to 1 so he could build a 4-story building on the entire site or build a taller one a piece of the property.
A large group of nearby neighbors and Eliot Land Use members is working with Ben to create a project that will be profitable for him while fitting in nicely with the neighborhood and not impeding too much on the nearby houses.