Since writing posts on June 19 and 22 about the Rosefriend Apartments, the beautiful brick building on Broadway that’s slated to be demolished by the First Christian Church, Portland Architecture has received numerous emails about the project.
Some have argued that we should forget the Rosefriend, because short of the owner changing its mind, there’s little that can be done before the wrecking ball moves in. Instead, many feel, it’s important to use the Rosefriend’s fate as a wake-up call to affect the system. Among the suggestions are waiting periods before buildings more than 50 years old can be destroyed, and a survey of other historic downtown buildings that may be targeted for destruction.
At the same time, many have emailed to say that so long as the Rosefriend Apartments stands, supporters of its preservation should not give up the fight. Whether it’s picket signs outside, letters and emails to First Christian’s leadership and/or congregation, many aren’t willing to give up until the demolition crew carries out its task.
Either way, I don’t see the harm in some brainstorming.
If you’re one of those who wants to keep trying to save the Rosefriend itself, I think the question becomes this: What can be offered as an alternative? The impetus for the entire project—the half block tower, the leveling of the Rosefriend—is parking. The church wants affordable, reliable parking for its congregation. Who out there reading this can offer a different solution?
Just as an example, I know that the Goodman family owns numerous parking facilities in the downtown area within walking distance of the church. Can they or another parking business offer the church some slots on Sunday mornings? There are also two surface parking lots within a block of the church on Broadway, the first where the former Chevron station was, the other across from Higgins beside the University Club.
As part of a scenario to locate parking somewhere else, I think the church could still build a quarter-block tower on the site of the church annex building. This would create some capital that would allow the church to secure parking elsewhere.
Along with parking, the church needs a long-term source of revenue. But I think they're destroying a big revenue source they already have: the Rosefriend itself. Why not renovate the building and turn it into condos? I know there are some who have joined in the groundswell of support for the Rosefriend's saving based on the fact that that they affordable housing, and I agree that it's vital we maintain an adequate level of affordable housing in the city. But it's the architecture of the Rosefriend that is one-of-a-kind. Technically affordable housing could happen on another block. If the only way to save the Rosefriend is to turn it into half-million-dollar residential units, I say that's better than letting the building be destroyed.
So picture if you will: the Rosefriend Condominiums. The church spends part of the money they were going to spend on the Ladd Tower on renovating the Rosefriend, and makes a handsome profit on their new condos, situated right on Broadway just a couple blocks from the Schnitzer concert hall, PCPA, and the Portland Art Museum, with the North Park Blocks as your backyard. If people will pay many hundreds of thousands or even millions to live in a mildly pleasant new building in a Pearl District neighborhood still in its infancy, why wound't they pay even more to live here?
At the same time, the project could include demolition of the ugly church annex building and turn that into a quarter-blog sized tower. And you could possibly still fit parking underneath. Most underground garages have long ramps and tons of spaces, but increasingly options exist for more compact ones, either with a lift system, a winding ramp, or just fewer spaces. Admittedly it'd cost more, but they'd be gaining all the presumed profits from the Rosefriend Condominiums, as well as from the units in the quarter-block tower. Currently the Ladd Tower, which is proposed for this site, has a base with a neo-historic style, designed that way by Ankrom Moisan at the request of co-developer John Carroll.
If, however, you believe it’s time to let the Rosefriend die its prescribed death and instead move on to using this tragedy to impact system changes, what shall they be? What are some concrete steps (pardon the pun) that we can take to make sure the next Rosefriend isn’t so shamefully destroyed?
Either way, I think this is a conversation that needs to continue.