By FRED LEESON
This month marks the anniversary of Building on History. The blog began with the goal of encouraging interest in protecting Portland’s wonderful collection of vintage buildings and their role in our history and unique sense of place.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the most-read articles have been about buildings that are well recognized. The most popular one so far has been about the obvious decline of the Lloyd Center. Other most-read articles were about the restoration of important neighborhood buildings such as the former Phoenix Pharmacy, conversion of the Metropolitan Community Church into a brewpub and restoration of the former Gordon’s Fireplace building. Perhaps the latter three projects will encourage other businesses to see value and bottom-line benefits to saving architecturally-worthy buildings.
The year also included important plans for renovating the old Troy Laundry and the former Multnomah County Courthouse. One hopes that the impressive preservation schemes can be carried out. The same goes for the proposed expansion of the Anna Mann House property into a low-income housing project, expected to begin later this year.
MORRIS MARKS HOUSE: Restoration of this Italianate wooden house from the 1800s that was moved to a new site has been completed and sold to a group of lawyers as an office. This is a successful adaptation to a new use, and should preserve this elegant structure for many years ahead.
CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY CAMPUS: Vacant since its sudden closure last year, this Northeast Portland small-college campus ostensibly will be put up for auction in June. However, since it is a considerable asset tied up in financial litigation over the college’s demise, it is unclear whether anyone will risk bidding on it. Change to some other use other than as a campus would require a zoning change by the Portland City Council in a neighborhood that otherwise is strictly residential.
HOTEL GRAND STARK: Renovation of the four-story former Schleiffer Furniture store on Southeast Grand Avenue has been completed. The hotel is advertising for its first visitors as of May 1.
U.S. CUSTOM HOUSE: Our article questioning whether this grand early-20thCentury building could survive as a WeWork site given the problems raised by the pandemic and by WeWork’s own financial troubles may have proved sadly prescient. The company has since said it will close either the Custom House or the Pioneer Place location as offices for small businesses and solo business practitioners. One or the other will need to look for new tenancy.
HENRY BUILDING: An excellent restoration of this six-story, quarter-block downtown building has been completed, and low-income tenants are moving in. Great work by the skilled preservation team and by the owner, Central City Concern.