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Apple cans plans for Portland retail store

post #1 of 25
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For the second time in less than a year, Apple Computer has canceled plans for a new retail store after opposition from a local landmarks preservation group.

According to a report in Daily Journal of Commerce (summarized at ifoAppleStore), Apple has decided not to pursue a new retail store at 437 N.W. 23rd Ave. in downtown Portland, Ore. after the city's landmarks commission gave the company the runaround on its design proposals.

Apple's original plans called for the existing two-story building to be razed and replaced by a double-height, single-story Apple retail store that would be adorned with glass, stainless steel and a back-lit Apple logo.

The iPod maker and its development partner Holst Architecture presented their design to the citys Historic Landmarks Commission in early February, but were met with considerable opposition.

Specifically, the commission took issues with Apple's "articulation of [...] materials" and said that "less or no stainless steel/metal cladding would be more appropriate."

Apple and Holst returned before the commission in mid-June with a revised store design that replaced the stainless steel with limestone and more windows. However, the two-hour hearing ended without a vote and with the a commission chairmen calling the updated design "franchise architecture."

In a similar situation, Apple last September abandoned plans for a two-story retail store in Manhattan's Flatiron district after the Community Board for the Ladies Miles Historic District and the citys Landmarks Preservation Commission took issue with the proposed all-glass storefront.

Apple, which currently operates two flagship retail stores in Manhattan, eventually pressed forward with plans for a third store on the island, signing a new lease opposite the Empire State Building at 21 W. 34th Street.
post #2 of 25
They don't want one, don't give them one.
post #3 of 25
I served on two commissions here in Austin, the music and downtown groups. I often say that although I have a degree in Government, I never understood a thing about it until I sat on those commissions. It seems like on any commission there is an 80/20 ratio of rational minded people and those on a mission who ignore all facts and realities. On top of that, the only people who show up to participate are usually the kooks. Trying to have any rational discussions proved to be almost impossible. Its amazing anything ever gets done.

I can only imagine the groups Apple is having to deal with. Of all the companies in the world, Apple has the most taste. If they can't get something by these people, no one can. The franchise architecture quote gives it away. Although I can understand the concern, it seems snooty and dismissive at the same time.
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post #4 of 25
This is actually an excellent example of irrational and irresponsible behavior. Before the steel-limestone alteration, presumably the design was identical; if it is franchise architecture, then it was before the change, and should have been noted. There is only one rational conclusionthe commission is dicking Apple around. Either they are intent only on coming up with any possible excuse to exclude them (for what ever reason, be it personal or political), or they are playing a game to see how many times they can get Apple to redesign, and resubmit.

Either way, Apple's only choice was to walk away and never return to Portland, Oregon. It also sets a bad precedent for other business thinking about Portland, that no doubt will see the outcome. The commission should have given Apple an explicit and truthful response if it wants to be taken seriously by the business community.
post #5 of 25
We have the same problem here in NYC. My wife sits on a Community board, here in Queens County. Usually the decisions are rational, and sometimes are subject to pressure from various groups. The groups with the most influence are the politicians who nominate the board members, and the unions, who pressure the politicians.

We had a good example of that a few years ago. The was a man in this city a couple of generations ago who was well known for his negotiations with and for the city unions, and others. We have a road called 69th Avenue. The unions wanted to change the name to Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Avenue. Those who live throughout the length of the Avenue were strongly opposed to that for obvious reasons.

But, under the influence of the unions the politicians pressured those members whose nominations they were responsible for, and both the union and the politicians showed up the night of the vote.

You can guess how that went.

But I do think that Apple should be less inclined towards their own design motif when opposition is strong. People won't care. They just want to go to the store.
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
But I do think that Apple should be less inclined towards their own design motif when opposition is strong. People won't care. They just want to go to the store.

True enough, but from the information we have Portland didn't communicate that need until after the first redesign. They might have gotten a different response from Apple had their message been consistent.
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by ChevalierMalFet
True enough, but from the information we have Portland didn't communicate that need until after the first redesign. They might have gotten a different response from Apple had their message been consistent.

Apple could have asked if there was any constraint on a design before they presented one. They could have found out that stainless steel was not acceptable from the beginning, and saved themselves one confrontational meeting. The second meeting could therefor have been the first, with the closer design. Then, a second meeting could have resolved the issues.

The way they did it, there was suspicion from the beginning. If Apple had asked, the board would have felt more positive about Apple's attitude, and would have been more inclined to give them more leeway.

Apple's stores are not monuments that must have their vision maintained. Look at the problems they are having developing the downtown World Trade Center here in NYC. This is small beans. Apple should do whatever the historical commission wants. Just make it look nice. This is nonsense.
post #8 of 25
There are already 3 Apple stores in the Portland area. The area in question on NW 23rd is a very dense neighborhood with a lot of history, and it would be quite radical to tear down an existing building and replace it with something that looks completely different. I wasn't at the hearings, and who knows what really happened. I do know the area well, though, and it would seem that Apple could have simply refurbished the existing building and otherwise been able to do whatever they want. Apple's proposals would have probably pissed off a lot of people who live in that neighborhood.
post #9 of 25
As someone who lives here, perhaps I can shed some perspective on this matter.

Portland is a gorgeous city full of elaborate Mason-built buildings...Italianate & Victorian-style homes...many trees & even more gardens..and a lot of history.

Here, in Portland, things change slowly..and carefully...The majority of the people who live here do *not* want homogenization of their urban, garden-like landscape into some crappy strip-mall-esque facade which so plagues much of America.

If the Historic Landmarks Commission is involved in the matter, then it means Apple wants to alter some historical building beyond recognition. That's simply not allowed.

It all boils down to something much like this


edit: Frankly, the use of the steel, etc. along with the glowing Apple logo would have looked ass-ugly & gaudy in contrast to the other businesses in the area.

Perhaps Apple should look into Bridgeport Village instead.
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post #10 of 25
Of course, in Apple's defense, the building that is there now, isn't historical in any way, and was either built, or had major alterations, that put it well out of the historical perspective that we are talking about here. That wasn't stopped before. The question is whether Apple's revised plans are better than the older building, or worse.
post #11 of 25
Hmm. I just looked up when the building was built...1982.

I guess the commission thought it just wouldn't look right?
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post #12 of 25
I live in Portland. We already have two Apple stores here--one just a minute or two from the one proposed. Apple rolled in and dissed two or three long-standing, successful local Apple-only retailers. Two of them went out of business.

The proposed site is in Portland's most upscale shopping district. Yuppie. SUV. Two Starbucks. Et cetera. Few can afford to own a home or shop there.

Government design processes are flawed, but complaining that Apple can't airlift in their own postmodern box without any serious consideration of the site, the context, or the people's will and sensibilities is ludicrous.

In Portland, there's serious effort to tell global chain stores that this stuff matters. It's not just about historic preservation--it's about a way of life, and much more.

You don't think this stuff matters? Wow.
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
Apple could have asked if there was any constraint on a design before they presented one. They could have found out that stainless steel was not acceptable from the beginning, and saved themselves one confrontational meeting. The second meeting could therefor have been the first, with the closer design. Then, a second meeting could have resolved the issues.

The way they did it, there was suspicion from the beginning. If Apple had asked, the board would have felt more positive about Apple's attitude, and would have been more inclined to give them more leeway.

Agreed, nonetheless their initial response was incomplete, so in my mind both are at fault. If there were no cases of Apple altering their designs and facades for similar requests, however, and be a bit less sympathetic to their argument (though no more to Portland's, and it's not as if I don't agree to their high standard, it's just my initial response to the way it was presented).
post #14 of 25
Go Rose City..!

Honestly, why bother with Portand's downtown? Just one mile north is a popular mall, not to mention other nearby malls in Beaverton, Lake Oswego, etc. Just put in several smaller Mall stores and target their core iPod shoppers where they live.
post #15 of 25
Customer perception. Having a store on the local "Newbury Street" or whatever creates a certain customer perception of the brand, which Apple is going for.

Regarding the Apple resellers; I've known some and had good relationships with some and not so good with others. I think Apple handled the situation very poorly, but in the end they gave them a non-verbal vote of no confidence in their ability to sell the brand, which inevitably is their right. They just took the chicken-shit route to get there.
post #16 of 25
I think Apple should develop second and third tier store designs for when the "big stainless steel box" look doesn't work. Some way of incorporating the brand into existing architectural settings (have they already done this in some locations? Can't remember at the moment).

The absolute insistence on a single, unified "look" for everything Apple is one of those Steve "obsessive compulsive" Jobs things that I think sometimes gets in the way of simple functionality.

Would it be so horrible if some of the Apple stores were in renovated buildings that preserved the architectural style of the original? I personally would find that a refreshing change of pace from the clinical look.
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post #17 of 25
This is a case of some nobody who got on some commission and thinks he has some power going overboard. What he really wanted was to be able say "See that beautiful new building, I convinced Apple to go that direction."

Instead he alienated a major company that would have been good for businesses in that area. So now he will say "Apple wanted to build another generic store, but I stood up to them and protected the architectural and historic integrity of this town."
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
I think Apple should develop second and third tier store designs for when the "big stainless steel box" look doesn't work. Some way of incorporating the brand into existing architectural settings (have they already done this in some locations? Can't remember at the moment).

SoHo is one.
post #19 of 25
JM is right, the SoHo Apple Store is a great example of fitting in a modern flair to an existing building to preserve the asthetic of the neighborhood. I feel Apple should be able to work with the idea of modifying their designs.

If they embraced historic architecture, just think of all the incredible buildings that would be open to their purchase and renovation. They could get into highly protected spots and the resulting designs might be more appropriate. Maybe better image/class than what the current designs would provide in certain cities/subcultures?
post #20 of 25
Apple has a store in Pioneer Place in downtown Portland
A store in Washington Sq
And in Bridgeport Village
Apple just wants a larger store in the downtown area
They are looking in the Yuppie 23rd ave area and the Yuppie Pearl Distric

Virgil
post #21 of 25
I'd say Apple went about things in the wrong way. It doesn't sound like they had a Portland-based architect on board who would help them design a facade that would be acceptable to the city.

I've had problems in the past in trying to work in Portland on design projects. It is hard, especially for outsiders. The priorities are a little different.
post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by Johnny Mozzarella
This is a case of some nobody who got on some commission and thinks he has some power going overboard. What he really wanted was to be able say "See that beautiful new building, I convinced Apple to go that direction."

Instead he alienated a major company that would have been good for businesses in that area. So now he will say "Apple wanted to build another generic store, but I stood up to them and protected the architectural and historic integrity of this town."

That's a simplistic vision. These commisions don't work that way. One duty they have is to encourage development in all areas. If one member acted as you say, the rest of the board menbers would put hin in his place. If (s)he was constantly on the outs, the board would not see that member for long.There are either votes, or a consensus.
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by user23
Hmm. I just looked up when the building was built...1982.

I guess the commission thought it just wouldn't look right?

Thanks for the map link, user23! I used to live 3 blocks from there on 21st and Everett, but all of the Californians looking for something that reminded them of a quaint San Fran neighborhood, priced me out. It is kind of a place for transplants to acclimate to Pdx.

As a native of Stumptown, there is definitely the strong provincial, slightly xenophobic strain in many political discussions that surround Portland's number one indoor sport - city planning - but I think Apple might have played their hand wrong. All of the other Apple stores are in relatively new buildings in relatively new areas and basically stuck in malls ... trendy malls, but still malls. When they tried to move into an established neighborhood with a history of strong personalities, they needed to act differently. You only need to make a couple of people in Portland angry to torpedo ANY project from getting through - yeah it's small town thinking, but so what! If you don't want small town, go to Seattle or Denver.

I didn't attend the meetings and I don't know what commissioners said what, but the 23rd (Trendy-Third for those who don't like it) Street area was a rundown place not long ago and was rejuvenated by the vision of basically one guy. It has always been a difficult place to change.

An Apple store there could have been similar to the one that was one of the first in Palo Alto that I saw years ago. I don't know why Apple couldn't have done the same thing. Just like the person above suggested in SoHo, Apple also has kept the original facades on buildings in London and other places. I kind of hope Apple tries again in a few years, it would be a great location.

Anyway there are plenty of Apple stores here now, they are all busy and except for some resellers that have gone out of business the Mac market here is strong enough to keep several great resellers in business. There is a thriving community of patrons who spend time and money in the resellers and go to Apple for the Genius bars and gift card shopping.

P.S. As a native I'm afraid I must ask people not to move here. Civic planning, never using umbrellas, making fun of Californians while secretly envying them, home-brewing, awkwardly balancing blue-state and red-state tendencies, fishing in 38-degree drizzle, not using your horn because it is impolite and discouraging immigration are the Eight Pillars of Oregonianism.
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post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by ChevalierMalFet
Either they are intent only on coming up with any possible excuse to exclude them (for what ever reason, be it personal or political), or they are playing a game to see how many times they can get Apple to redesign, and resubmit.

Or they want something from Apple, for the government, for the people, or for themselves.

This is what you do when you want a backchannel conversation that goes like, "look, what's it going to take to get this store built?" That can be soccer fields for the kiddies or some unmarked random bills for the freezer.

I assume Apple has a fixed budget to screw around with any particular planning board and this one went over the alloted budget.

Oh, well, one fewer yuppie enclave to be seen in.
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by Johnny Mozzarella
This is a case of some nobody who got on some commission and thinks he has some power going overboard. What he really wanted was to be able say "See that beautiful new building, I convinced Apple to go that direction."

Instead he alienated a major company that would have been good for businesses in that area. So now he will say "Apple wanted to build another generic store, but I stood up to them and protected the architectural and historic integrity of this town."

Uh, no. Apple already has *three* stores in the local area.

Since Apple moved in and basically drove three long-time (10+ year) Apple-only retailers out of business, why not rain some criticism on them?

Portland doesn't need another Apple store, for goodness' sake. This was just Apple trying to bully its way into a yuppie enclave with a postmodern crapbox, i'm sad to say.
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