Thursday, January 12, 2023

Good News on N. Interstate Avenue


The "new" Palms sign (Ankrom Moisan Architects)

There is good news on N. Interstate Avenue: The sign…will be fine.

 After being removed later this year, the 50-plus foot tall iconic neon sign that formerly attracted visitors to The Palms Motor Hotel will return in in 2025 with the same type fonts and same colors of neon and paint.  Only the words “Motor Hotel” will be changed to “Luxe Lofts.”

 The sign will be moved a few dozen feet farther south on the 3800 block to make it more visible to motorists and light rail transit riders using the busy Interstate Avenue corridor.  Instead of advertising a motel, it will be heralding a 155-unit, seven-story apartment building that will replace the motel.

 Dirgesh Patel, the motel owner who has lived on the block for 25 years, told the Overlook Neighborhood Association on Jan. 9 that the sign is beloved by his family (his parents bought the motel in 1998) and by countless others.  “People from all over the world came and loved that sign,” he said.

The sign is an excellent example of how a well-designed artifact can become a vital part of the urban fabric, even if its basic role isn't terribly important.

 Architects for the Portland firm of Ankrom Moisan realized the sign’s significance from the outset. “That’s a cool sign.  We could really work with that,” said Jason Roberts.

 When reinstalled, the sign will stand on a six-foot pedestal to protect pedestrians and to prevent harm to the neon.  It will sit near a 17- by- 35-foot courtyard recessed into the building’s façade.

As it looks today...

Neon enthusiasts were concerned when they first heard of plans to redevelop the motel site.  Kate Widdows, a designer and neon sign enthusiast, helped spur interest in The Palms situation, though in the end the sign evidently spoke for itself.

 “So far, you guys are totally on the right track,” she told the Ankrom Moisan team.  “We are thankful for that.”  She also added noted that a small element of the sign advertising “Free TV” will not be included as part of the sign’s restoration.  She suggested that it be saved as a stand-alone work of art.  “It’s beautiful.  It’s a part of history,” she said.  “It would be really cool in the lobby.”

People who would \like to comment on the sign's restoration play can send an email to

 Although the over-sized Palms sign would not be allowed under Portland’s current sign code, there is an exception for a few notable neon signs along Interstate Avenue.  The city’s current historic resources code could allow the sign to become a designated landmark, independent of the rest of the property.

Patel said he was not aware of historic designation possibilities, but that he was interested in learning about them.  He also said he planned to live in the new apartments when they are finished, supposedly by mid-2025.

 ---Fred Leeson

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