Saturday, August 14, 2021

Gone...and Going?


Fire Station No. 2 recently 

It’s increasingly common these days for people to wonder whether Portland will ever return to “normal” as we remembered it before the pandemic and the surge of homeless camp that  dot many major streets.  Trash abounds and many stores downtown and in neighborhood commercial centers are vacant.

 Almost all of retail spaces on the ground floors of the city’s many new apartment buildings also sit vacant.

Regrettably, the short answer the question above is “no.” A couple notable examples in the past week:

1) Prosper Portland, the city government’s development agency, quickly demolished the historic clinker-brick former fire station erected in 1913 near the west end of the Steel Bridge, without bothering to provide advance public notice.

Yes, one could find the demolition permit issued June 7 if one had the inclination and savvy to scrounge on the Internet.    But the agency’s PR staff never bothered to mention it. Understandably so, since the agency no doubt wanted to avoid public hand-wringing in advance.

Fire Station No. 2 now (Scott Allen Tice photo)

 Ironically, the station sat across Glisan Street  from the historic Yamaguchi Hotel/Blanchet House building, which Prosper Portland could have bought for $1 and perhaps saved…but didn’t.  We have written recently about the likelihood of its demolition in coming months.

 The old fire station was one of several designs created by Lee Gray Holden, one of the Fire Bureau's greatest leaders, about whom we have written in the past.  The “good” news is that a very similar Holden station in Northwest Portland has been elegantly restored into a private residence, so some of Holden’s good work survives.

All done?

2) What has appeared for many months to be the long, slow death of the Lloyd Center shopping mall in Northeast Portland accelerated last week, when a significant fire evidently destroyed an electrical station somewhere in the basement, forcing closure of the entire mall.

A week later, the mall remained closed.  Five days after the fire, a representative of the Dallas, Texas, owners said the damage was being "assessed" and that the mall would reopen.  However, no prospective date was offered.  The owners contended earlier this year that they planned to reconstitute the mall as a shopping destination.

  However, vacancies have grown, and the fire-related shut-down, for however long it lasts, will not help.  Some of the remaining retail tenants were reassessing whether to stay at Lloyd Center even before the fire.  

Meanwhile, one potential option for the center’s big footprint has disappeared.  There was talk that the space might become a major league baseball park if Portland could attract the Oakland A’s franchise.  While the fate of the A’s in Oakland remains undetermined, Portland is no longer mentioned as a potential site.   The best gamble for a new home, so to speak, is Las Vegas.

The center covers 18 square blocks in Northeast Portland.  The site conceivably could become available for high-rise offices, condos or apartments if the mall were to be demolished.  In any event, it is difficult to see the mall returning to its few decades of glory after it opened in 1960. 

Cities are evolving, changing organisms.  Those of us who want to protect the best of the past often are viewed as enemies of progress.  But here is another question:  Will the “new” Portland be better than the old one?

-----Fred Leeson

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  1. I think the mall could be repurposed to be a mix of housing, food courts, and offices. It has massive amounts of parking and is centrally located.

  2. Agree. It could be housing for seniors..full ADA accessibility. Plus shops, medical offices, meeting rooms. Public would be welcome at the shops and eateries.

  3. Wasn't there a major fire inside that fire station a few years ago? Not saying it couldn't have been saved but what was the condition of that building?

    1. Actually, there were two fires there in 2017. One in September and another on Thanksgiving night. Started by squatters.

  4. The former main post office warehouse was right across the street next to the tall building, I watched them film the Hunted with Tommy Lee Jones from our dock.

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