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Friday, July 20, 2012, 10:42 am PT (01:42 pm ET)

Portland Design Commission approves new Pioneer Place Apple Store plan

Portland, Oregon's Design Commission has voted 5-1 to approve plans for large glass Apple retail store planned to replace the shuttered Saks Fifth Avenue location at Pioneer Square.

Strike one

According to coverage of the situation by Apple Retail watchdog IFOAppleStore, the commission, a panel of citizens charged with "leadership and expertise on urban design and architecture and on maintaining and enhancing Portland’s historical and architectural heritage," previously derailed plans for an Apple Store in 2006, which had been planned for the Northwest District, about a mile from the company's existing downtown store in the basement of the Pioneer Place mall.

After the commission complained at length about everything from the proposed building materials to plans for parking and recommended that the company build a two story building instead of the single story structure its architects has designed, Apple pulled the plug on its expansion plans for downtown Portland.

A second try

However, after outgrowing its existing, relatively small Pioneer Place location, Apple returned to Portland with plans to demolish a vacant two story building occupied by one of the former anchor tenants of the same downtown shopping center and to replace it with a 165 foot (50 meters) long glass structure, which would be above ground and therefore far more visible (as well as much larger).

The new site is also adjacent to Portland's MAX light rail system, which brings commuters, shoppers and tourists through the city from the suburbs of Beaverton to the west and Gresham to the east. If the store's plans proceed as expected, Apple will gain tremendous visibility at the new location (depicted as it currently appears in a photo by IFOAppleStore writer Gary Allen appearing on Flickr.)

The plans also call for demolishing a overhead walkway that connected the former store to the rest of the complex, an aspect that the commission favored during discussion of the project back in March. The graphic below, from Portland's Oregonian newspaper, depicts how the new glass store will replace the larger stone structure and metal skyway currently in place.



The paper noted that "Many Apple lovers had worried local criticism could derail such a project as it did a proposed Apple location on Northwest 23rd Avenue in 2006."

While commission members expressed other reservations and concerns about Apple's latest plans, only one member voted against the plan, sending it forward for approval from other city agencies. Construction is expected to begin next year.