After reading in this morning's paper that demolition on the Rosefriend Apartments was about to begin, I drove downtown around 10:30 - and I was just in time. The arm of a giant crane, with two grabbing hooks on the end like some prosthetic limb from a horror movie, was lurching toward the decorative top of the building.
The Rosefriend, as regular readers here know, is the victim of a plan hatched by First Christian Church, which owns the block, and their developer partner, Opus Northwest, to build a half-block tower here. The original impetus for the project was underground parking for its members. Churches in the downtown area face difficult challenges, but it's ironic in such a pedestrian, bike and transit friendly city that a religious institution of all people is not only destroying a beautiful historic brick apartment building right on Broadway, but is doing it (to borrow from the Tonkin car dealer headline) for the love of cars.
And yes, the other part of this story is the Ladd Carriage House, which is being saved thanks to laudable efforts by the Friends of the Ladd Carriage House (led by Paul Falsetto of Carleton/Hart Architecture) as well as onetime Ladd Tower co-developer John Carroll. As reported in today's Oregonian, the house will be moved this Saturday for a few months but was saved from demolition, which was the church's original plan.
The only problem, as I see it (and others certainly may disagree), is that the preservationists turned a blind eye to the Rosefriend to save the Ladd Carriage House. And I don't buy the argument that the Rosefriend was gutted on the inside already as justification, as one person was quoted as saying in today's paper. Call me shallow, but I think the exterior facade is still pretty important. In fact, I wouldn't have cared if they made it a crack house on the inside - at least the beautiful old building the I've enjoyed throughout my years in Portland would still be there.
A crowd of people gathered in front of the Oregonian building, as I did this morning, to watch the spectacle of concrete, brick, glass and metal being torn from the facade and dropped onto the ground. A few times, so much dust was kicked up that we all got covered with it across the street. Meanwhile, in between they've kept one lane of the street open, and a slow crawl of cars is constantly going by (kind of like in Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend for you fellow film geeks reading this). I asked one of the sidewalk monitors for Opus why they hadn't closed the street for the day, and he said, "The City wouldn't let us."
In the days ahead, I'd like to encourage anyone else who was a friend of the Rosefriend to go and take some pictures of the demolition while it's in progress. If we have to lose the building, I think we should at least have proper documentation of its death. If you do, I'd love to have a copy.
I bear no ill will towards the Ladd Tower project itself or Ankrom Moisan, the firm designing it. But one shirtless man on the street I talked to had this to say: "I can guarantee you whatever replaces this one won't have the same kind of integrity. And I say that knowing nothing about what they're gonna build here. It doesn't matter."