Saturday, April 10, 2021

A Star Coming to Broadway?


N.E. 33rd and Broadway

At long last, renovation has started on 105-year old retail and manufacturing building in Northeast Portland, best known to the current generation as the former Gordon’s Fireplace Shop.

Will the project become a hit on Broadway (3300 N.E. Broadway, that is)?

InterUrban Development, a Seattle-based firm with a history of working on historic buildings, hopes so.  Their plan calls for 8,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor with offices on two floors above.

The building has been vacant since the last tenant, Gordon’s Fireplace Shop, announced its closure and final sale in 2016.  Since then,   Gordon Malafouris, the store owner, had been at the Broadway location since 1990, after having operated several other outlets since 1960.  In addition to fireplace accoutrements, the well-known store included an eclectic mix of interior home products, including grandfather clocks and light fixtures.

As our two contemporary images indicate, the building has suffered extensively from vandalism and graffiti while planning has been proceeding.  The work will include earthquake bracing in addition to restoring the original facades.  Although clearly intended as an industrial building, it contains interest decorative brickwork atop the eight pilasters spaced along the primary frontage.

Southern Exposure

The building’s three stories have 18-foot ceilings, and expansive windows on the southern exposure that provide for extensive interior natural light.   Some of those windows on the ground floor were replaced with walls years ago.  An architect’s rendering (below) suggests the possibility of a penthouse being added, but recent word says it probably will be a roof-top deck, instead.

Why should we care about this project? First, the design and materials add texture to the neighborhood that likely could not be reproduced.  Second, it gives us a historical sense that life DID occur before us, and that we are just another step in history.  Third, the building provides a definite "sense of place" that separates N.E. 33rd and Broadway from anywhere else in town. 

Oregon Home Builders Inc. erected the structure in 1916 when the home-building market had been booming in the comparatively recent nearby high-end Alameda, Irvington and Laurelhurst neighborhoods.  The building also has been known for years as the “aircraft factory” because it was used for construction of wood-and-canvas airplane wings and pontoons used by World War I aircraft.

Oddly, Oregon Home Builders went bankrupt soon after the war.  The building housed a furniture store for many years before Gordon’s moved in.  The upper floors have been used mostly as warehouse space.

InterUrban Development operates in Seattle, Portland and Spokane.  Its major Portland projects include renovation of the former YMCA building near Duniway Park into the corporate office of the Under Armour sports apparel firm, and creation of the Pine Street Market in an 1886 building downtown.  (Old-timers will remember that building as home of the original Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant from 1969 to 1984.)  

A successful project would add new life to a stretch of Northeast Broadway that has seen turnover among tenants in recent years and a long-vacant fast-food property looking for a buyer.  The pandemic may well have an impact on demand for office space if employers retain the concept of more employees working from home.

Penthouse doubtful (InterUrban Development) 

One must hope, however, that the pandemic is long gone once this building is ready for new life.


  1. Current plans do not show a penthouse

  2. I wish them well, but the traffic pattern and limited parking are problems to be overcome here.

  3. Exciting news! How were you able to confirm the renovation work as being underway?

  4. thanks for writing this blog! it's delightful!

  5. thanks for writing this blog! it's delightful!

  6. Great work here, Fred, and thank you for this blog. It's wonderful!

  7. I do see parking as a problem overcome easily by creating an indoor/outdoor food pod being pedestrian friendly