Is Portland Store Cancelled?

July 6, 2006

For the second time in nine months Apple may have cancelled plans for a new store after Portland (Ore.) officials criticized the store’s proposed architecture, according to local developer Randy Rapaport in an interview in the Daily Journal of Commerce. He told the publication that Apple is “walking away” from plans for a store at 437 N.W. 23rd Ave. in that city, a neighborhood listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In the interview, Rapaport took the opportunity to criticize the city’s architectural approval process and explain his development philosophy.

In the interview, Rapaport used Apple’s Portland store plans as an example of how the city’s zoning approval process works–or doesn’t work–and as a prelude to his recommendations for improving the process. He noted the hearings that have been held on Apple’s proposed design by the Historic Landmarks Commission, including the last one where Apple proposed several changes. “After that meeting, Apple is walking away. We have no expectations of getting a stand-alone store again,” Rapaport said. “Oregon, but Portland in particular, has a reputation as being unfriendly to business. I guess Steve Jobs learned that last week. This citizen group schooled Steve Jobs.”

Rapaport is on the front edge of several development projects, ironically using Holst Architecture, considered one of the city’s best firms, and the same one being used by Apple for the 23rd Street store. He moved to Portland in 1996 and began his development career by buying up homes, fixing them up and reselling them. He then moved on to opening a coffee shop that became a new neighborhood anchor, lofts and retail spaces, using green technology along the way to add spice to the sites.

Rapaport has no direct connection to Apple’s store project, and didn’t tell the interviewer how he knew that Apple had cancelled its plans. According to the agenda for the Historic Landmarks Commission, Apple is still scheduled to appear at a hearing on Monday, July 10th to discuss it proposed design. However, the agenda notes, “Jay Winfrey, Holst Architecture ? may withdraw the application.”

Rapaport’s remarks touch on the on-going tension among the city’s business community, developers and those trying to preserve Portland’s architecture. Like many other cities, there are those in Portland who feel architectural preservation chases away new businesses, and others who feel the city’s architectural character is being demolished–literally–by modern building designs. The debate even spills over into the political arena, with allegations that Portland isn’t business friendly, an allegation that makes Portland’s city council members bristle.

Apple and Holst Architecture presented their original design to the Commission in early February, but their proposal was met with pointed criticism. A second design presented to the commission in mid-June was similarly received.

Apple made several changes to its original design: they recessed the front door, added windows to the side of the store, changed the façade from stainless steel to stone, and added a clerestory above the storefront. The changes are unusually accommodative for Apple, although not unique for the company’s street-level stores.

Apple abandoned plans for a Flatiron district (NYC) store last September after the Community Board for the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, and the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission criticized the all-glass storefront. Apple is also pursuing design approval of a store on Boylston Street in Boston, using a very similar, all-glass storefront. Check this local blog for background and feedback on the proposed Portland store.

In his interview, Rapaport recommended the mayor should “reformulate” the Historic Landmarks Commission to include professors of urban studies, professors of architecture, and “the finest architects in the region.” The mayor should also, “call Steve Jobs on the phone–I can get him the number. And ask him to reconsider the store right there on that site. That’s what should happen.”

[The original article here about Rapaport’s interview failed to take into account his lack of direct knowledge of Apple’s store project, and his opinions about the Historic Landmarks Commission. The story also did not include the preservationist vs. business background information.]

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