The Portland Mercury is reporting that the Portland Storage sign, which commuters pass every time they cross the Morrison Bridge, has been sold to Clear Channel.
"According to two people who rent space in the building, the sign will be painted over and Clear Channel will use it as a giant billboard," the Mercury's Sarah Mirk reports. "I suppose that it is already a giant billboard right now, but it's a pleasing billboard. It's simple. It references the industrial uses of SE Portland. It's just plain better looking than a Burger King or Pruis ad."
Perhaps it's arguable that if Portland is willing to take extra steps to protect other signs, such as the "Made In Oregon" neon sign atop the University of Oregon's White Stag building, perhaps an effort could be made to save this one too. Granted, it's not neon. And as Mirk notes, it's a rather unremarkable painted sign. But in this case, that's perhaps what makes it special: simple block letters that feel less like an advertisement than a declaration of place (despite the "Storage Co." part of the sign).
What's more, I agree with Mirk that the sign is a de facto symbol of the Central Eastside, one of the unofficial industrial markers of the district. I even included the sign in a short film portraying this neighborhood, Portland Project #1 (you can see it at the 35-second mark):
Commissioner Randy Leonard was instrumental in pushing through a solution to save the Made In Oregon sign and prevent it from being changed to "University of Oregon". He also worked overtime to get a neon rose placed atop the historic Portland Oregon Visitors Center when it became home to the Rose Festival Foundation. How about one more round on behalf of signage, Commissioner?
It's easy to vilify Clear Channel, a mammoth corporation that makes its money with a host of crass, ginormous billboards and lowest-common-denominator radio stations. But the company isn't doing anything wrong here. It takes the owners of the building to make the original Portland Storage Co sign go away. Clear Channel is merely the enabler here - the provider of the crack to the building's pipe, you might say. It's all simple business. I'll bet the owners of this building aren't rolling in extra cash, and the idea of getting ad revenue for an innocuous advertisement on the side of the building isn't necessarily a sellout. Besides, can we really expect to save every old mural and sign?
After all, one has to give credence to skeptics like one Mercury story commenter who said simply, "A sign is gonna be a different sign? Oh, the humanity!"
But one other commenter put things succinctly: "You have to take a hard line stance on these kind of changes to our city scape. Go to any other large city in the US: they're saturated with marketing. I'd prefer it if our city keeps a low amount of billboards and other signage."
All that said, I hate to see this happen, and I'm quite confident that Sarah Mirk and I are not the only ones. Anybody reading this have any other ideas about how to save the sign?