Wednesday, November 20, 2019

New Holman Hotel at the Historic Landmarks Commission

The proposal for the Holman Riverfront Park Hotel - or the New Holman, as I think I will call it here - is at the Historic Landmarks Commission on Thursday the 21st.

Previously on the Koz Apartments/Nishioka Building at 260 State, I had thought there would be a separate review at the Planning Commission, but it turns out the review at the HLC is the only layer of review. Consequently, though, the Staff Report and level of analysis seems thinner than a corresponding site plan and design review rising up through the Planning Commission.

I am ambivalent about this. This is a big and important project for downtown, and the architecture isn't very exciting, and it seems like we could do better.

On the other hand, this site has been vacant or underutilized for so long that we should just be happy something that isn't awful is going in.  Asking for "exciting" architecture might not be helpful. We just simply need a quantity of "ordinary" building downtown. Many of the buildings we celebrate now in the Historic District were never "exciting" in style. They were ordinary and we value them still. And maybe we don't need so much regulatory review anyway. (It will be interesting to learn if there is any substantive criticism of the review at the HLC.)

Finally, this corner on Ferry and Commercial (and we have to remember that Ferry is part of the OR-22 couplet in downtown) is just simply more autoist than even just State and Commercial on the other side of the very same block. State Street is walkable in a way Ferry is no longer, and it's not clear that it's at all plausible to suggest a better project is realistic here. Kitty corner from the Conference Center another hotel makes sense, and maybe we should just be glad to have something instead of the empty lot or dead old parking structure.

Evolution of the building facade, late 2018 and late 2019
Here's a comparison of the concept at the application to demolish the Marion Car Park, and the current iteration. In the new iteration, I like the street level better, like not having that big glazed corner element extending to the roof cornice, and like the mid-facade demise lines (yes, that word!). It seems like a modest improvement that shifts the basic vocabulary a little from suburban office to streetcar-era downtown. The Staff Report calls it a "contemporary, post-modern commercial style," but thankfully it lacks the frippery of many postmodern exemplars.

A hotel needs parking and the disposition of it is a central element.  A very small amount of parking is on the first floor. The rest of the first floor is lobby, a restaurant, and meeting rooms. Since Ferry Street is a little hostile to walking meeting rooms front that. A restaurant fronts Commercial and that is a genial thing. The sidewalk environment seems appropriate.

Ground floor shows a restaurant and parking lot off the alley
Staff suggests this meets code, which says
Parking within a building on the ground floor shall only be allowed behind secondary façades. Commercial storefronts or office uses shall be provided between any ground floor parking area and the primary façades fronting the public street. Parking is prohibited between the building and the street
The entire second floor is a hidden parking garage, and about half of the third floor is parking. Rooms start on this third floor, and fill the floor plan on the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh floors. The seventh also has a rooftop lounge and deck.

The third floor (here) is about half parking,
with rooms on the perimeter;
the entire second floor (not shown here) is parking
The architectural materials have some views of the building in context on Commercial and Ferry Streets, and the pictures show the voids left by surface parking lots, and also show along the north side of Ferry Street how dull is the architecture. The pictures, with all the voids and the dullness on Ferry Street, don't flatter downtown generally. The hotel will be big, but it will be great to fill in the urban fabric.

Apart from that, Scott's will be sandwiched. And if the two projects are successful, then Scott's may wish to redevelop their own parcel eventually. That's the kind of problem you like to have, however.

Scott's will be overshadowed a little
On FB, one person argued a year ago that we should consider "biophilic" design elements. Unfortunately, draping a wall system in greenery is not likely to fit in the Historic District and its requirements for compatible design and materials. (Also on the HLC agenda is a proposal for new landscaping at the Harding House by Bush Park. Neighborhood preservationists are questioning recessed sidewalk lighting as non-historical. So just imagine the reaction to building greenery.)

Interest in biophilic design from late last year
So, again, it will be interesting to learn if there is any substantive criticism of the project. On balance, from here it seems very reasonable. (Quite apart from the whole Opportunity Zone issue, to be sure. Brief notes here and here on that.)

This block face on Commercial between State and Ferry will undergo a great change, and there are other projects in the city. The moment is actually a little exciting in the history of the city.

Last week the crane went up
Consider that it is possible that all of these projects will be in actual construction and overlap in downtown:
  • New Police Station
  • UGM Shelter
  • New YMCA
  • Nishioka Building
  • New Holman Hotel
  • MAPS credit union
  • A new Hospital tower (see comment)
This is a wave of building that might be historically significant and something to be mentioned in 50 or 100 years when new generations look back.

The HLC meets at 5:30pm on Thursday the 21st in Council Chambers at City Hall.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, this site has been vacant or underutilized for so long that we should just be happy something that isn't awful is going in. Asking for "exciting" architecture might not be helpful. We just simply need a quantity of "ordinary" building downtown. Many of the buildings we celebrate now in the Historic District were never "exciting" in style. They were ordinary and we value them still.

I think this is what architects might call a "fabric" building. Part of the urban fabric, not a standout. I'll take a seven story fabric building over a derelict parking structure (or any parking) any day of the week.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The HLC has already published its decision for approval, and they did not add any additional conditions. Hopefully they can break ground soon!

Aron said...

You could add to your list of concurrent projects: A new patient care tower at Salem Hospital which will be breaking ground in early 2020.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I key off the Hearing Notices, and if a project this big doesn't generate a site/plan review, or if the hearing date has not been set, then it's not really on the radar. Thanks for noting it.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

From the December 5th City Manager's Update:

"The developer of the Hollman [sic] Riverfront Hotel that will be at 195-197 Commercial St SE (the site of the demolished Marion Parkade) praised staff for their assistance. After the Historic Landmark Commission approved the design, the applicant said Kimberli Fitzgerald and Bryce Bishop were some of the best staff he has ever worked with and that he appreciated that they “held our feet to the fire” on the design because it resulted in a better building. He also thanked Sheri Wahrgren and Urban Development staff for all their hard work to get the project this far.The design was in an information report that City Council considered on December 2. The hotel is a big, exciting milestone for the downtown and the city."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

From the January 15th, 2021 City Manager's Update:

"The Holman Riverfront Park Hotel is moving forward with submitting an Urban Renewal grant request and plans to break ground this spring....The developer is considering requesting a URA grant exception for up to $749,999 in February or March."