First phase of development places 31 townhomes off a private drive connecting to Northeast Fifth Street.

CONTRIBUTED DRAWING - A rough drawing submitted to the Gresham Design Commission shows the plan for three-story townhomes in the Ironcrest Estate development.

Gresham's housing board blasted a residential developer for tucking a required open space into a corner — then approved the project unanimously.

The stamp of approval means Portland-based Skyland Development can fill in its gated community known as Ironcrest Estates with another 31 townhomes.

The first phase of development placed 31 townhomes off a private drive connecting to Northeast Fifth Street. The overall project is between Northeast Cleveland and Liberty avenues.

But since construction wrapped in 2006, Gresham's city code morphed, requiring home builders to add open areas in high-density developments.

With the property lines already set in city records, developer Hermann Colas opted to site approximately 2,000 square feet of shared outdoor space well off the main drag.

Instead, the playground is surrounded by the back end of units, a pump house and the fence that delineates another development, Cleveland Station apartments.

"I think open space is a very critical part of any development," noted Commissioner Mike McKeel at a Design Commission meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15. "It just isn't working here for me."

"The open space feels like an afterthought," agreed Commissioner Camilla Cok. "I would have liked to see something a little more creative and more thoughtful."

Playing defense, planner Jesse Winterowd told the commission that neighbors had asked for more parking, not open space.

FILE PHOTO - Ironcrest Estates was attracting its first buyers in 2006.

Each residence comes with a garage and driveway, but the combined 62 homes will share just seven visitor parking stalls.

Winterowd explained that adding more spaces "wasn't on the table," though they would like an exemption from building the common area.

"We didn't necessarily want to provide a gathering space kind of in the back," he said. "I think normally we would design an open space area in the middle... of the subdivision, so that it would get more interest and eyes in the community."

Blueprints for the new units show a garage and bonus room on the ground level, a kitchen and "Great Room" for living and dining on the second floor , plus two or three bedrooms on the top floor.

An Outlook article in July 2006 reported the first 31 townhomes ranged in size from 1,515 to 1,990 square feet and cost between $248,000 to $300,000.

"The land that Ironcrest is now being built upon sat there virtually untouched for over nine years," Colas, the developer, told the The Outlook at the time. "I saw more than just a piece of land. I saw an opportunity to make what once was undesirable and turn it into a place where people would want to live."

Despite the build's close proximity to the Cleveland Avenue MAX light-rail station, guest parking woes have continued to trouble community members. Residents have grown accustomed to parking on the grassy undeveloped lots, though that won't be an option for long.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Ironcrest Estates on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

"That doesn't let grandma stop by on Saturday, with 60 families vying for seven spaces," commented Susan Slauson, a resident and secretary for the local homeowners association.

Gresham's appointed Design Commission ultimately allowed the project to steam ahead rather than sending the architects back to the drawing board. The area has already been officially mapped with individual lots that will be purchased by future occupants of the townhomes, they noted.

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