Last weekend I was walking downtown along 10th Avenue, on my way to Powells Books, when I noticed that one of my very favorite buildings in Portland is for sale. The realtor calls it simply the “415 building”, after its street address. I usually call it something more descriptive like the “colored checkerboard”, for its wonderful if decaying façade.
Although its entrance is on 10th, the 415 also fronts 11th Avenue in back, right across from the Mark Spencer Hotel and the Telegram building. It has about 32 parking spaces in back, Colliers (the realtor) tells me, to go with about 20,000 square feet of space (on a 10,000 square foot floor plate), three stories and a 9:1 floor area ratio.
In the past, this building has served as office space, but it could also make a good two-story retail space. The second story lacks natural light, but the proper renovation could change that (or, given the right program, especially retail, could make that irrelevant with a more theatrical setting.) The third floor could easily be converted to condos, the location of which ought to make them very appealing. This block has been somewhat dead for the past few years, but that is changing quickly with the addition of Living Room Theaters across the street and the Ace Hotel around the corner. The building is also, as I mentioned, just two blocks from Powell’s and the Brewery Blocks.
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know I’ve written about this building a couple of times before. I keep doing so because it stays vacant and I worry somebody will demolish it. But the building is really unique and, after the proper renovation, could be a dazzling piece of midcentury modern architecture. A novelist in London even bought a photo of mine of the building (shown here) without even having ever set foot in Portland, much less the Checkerboard itself.
According to realtor Daren Duke of Colliers (no relation to Bo, Luke or David), it was built in 1960 by Paul Gold. “I get a call from an architecture student every six months or so asking about the building,” he said.
Clearly, this building needs work. It’s basically just an empty shell with a really cool façade. It’s basically column-free on the inside, meaning it might need some seismic upgrading, but that also means there’s a lot of wide-open space. Developers have asked about the building, but nobody wants to take on its purchase and renovation without a tenant. However, there are any number of retailers or creative companies that ought to be eying this kind of unique space…and one with its own parking!
It feels a little weird to be offering such blatant advocacy on behalf of a for-sale project. But if there’s anything architectural tragedies like the pending demolition of the Rosefriend Apartments (courtesy of First Christian Church and Opus Northwest) teach us, it’s that you’ve got to think about preservation long before the destructive sins begin to gestate. Would somebody please purchase and preserve this little gem? For those interested, Darren can be reached at 503-499-0056.
UPDATE, 5-7-07: One thing I didn't mention originally but wanted to emphasize is that the 415 building is part of the Portland Development Commission's South Park Blocks Urban Renewal Area. That means there are potentially funds available to help upgrade the facility either seismically, cosmetically or otherwise.