« Carol Coletta on the metrics and momentum of urban place-making | Main | The Architect's Questionnaire: Suzanne Blair »

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c86d053ef017d3d3692e0970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "What's the right thing to do?" Remembering developer, historic preservationist Art DeMuro:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jeff Joslin

Another aspect about Art and his temperament that might surprise some was that he was publicly modest, not prone to – or necessarily comfortable in – the public light. This makes his more public statements, roles, and contributions all the more remarkable, and further telling of his passion and commitment to best-serving Portland preservation.

The process of recruiting him to the Landmarks Commission occurred over several years. He continued to decline, and I continued to pursue. He entirely supported the Commission’s purpose and efforts, held himself to the highest standard, but could not picture himself imposing on others about how they should manage their professional activities.

We would have lunch twice a year to discuss the prospect and related matters. It would always be at Huber’s, his downtown favorite (and the only locally designated interior in the City). Ultimately he determined he might have something to contribute, acceded to apply and be recommended, and was appointed by Mayor Katz.

As a Commissioner, he was even-tempered, clear, and unassailable given his history of putting his own money where his mouth was. He gave perfect voice to the economics of preservation, which was invaluable in an environment where the market-challenged cost of such activities was often asserted as a basis for compromising preservation strategies. Not on Art’s watch. There was one project in particular where a four story addition was proposed to a four-story base historic resource, claiming the two-stories would not pencil, given the cost of the base building. Art simply declared that they then were considering paying too much for the building. The building eventually came back in with a two-story addition, and no such argument was ever made again for other such future projects.

This application of his developer voice was particularly true in discussions regarding the Skidmore Old Town district zoning regulations and design guidelines.

By this time Art had become Chair of the Commission (and our Huber’s lunches were more frequent, fortunately for me). As Chair, Art became much more assertive, fully demonstrating the same clarity he’d exhibited his years occupying other seats, but with more passion, dedication, and commitment. No Chair of either the Design or Landmarks Commission, demanded – and received – as much time with respective Mayors as Art.

This passion-driven effectiveness took full effect in the Skidmore discussion. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear on the process and the Commission by various property owners and developers to allow augmented heights for infill development in this fragmented but singularly significant district. They made an economic case, claiming that the burden of restorative costs for the landmark structures was constraining the district, and that only be allowing greater heights could the new development bear the additional carrying cost of preserving the contributing structure.

Contrary to his even-tempered nature, Art took aggressive exception to this argument, believing it to be fundamentally wrong on both economic and preservation basis’. More so, he maintained that allowing such heights would have a stultifying effect just as the district was gaining traction: the recalibration of land values following the increase in floor area limits would take years, bringing the district to a grinding halt. Even following, such land values – in Art’s view – would continue to further impede historic redevelopment.

There were concerns about the potential impacts of these heights strongly expressed by others (such as Bosco Milligan), but I believe it was Art’s intervention that brought that process to a halt. Preservation-minded folks can discuss all day whether height alone diminishes the integrity of a district. In my view, it was largely the simple, brilliant, assertive, preservation-based, but economics-driven argument of Art’s that brought the project to a standstill. It chilled the primary basis for the height argument, and coming forcefully from the single most credible and powerful source. It remains to be seen whether, and how, that effort will move forward. If so, I’ve no doubt Art’s presence will be formidable, even in his absence.

I’ll finish with a portion of my “testimony” at Art’s final Landmarks Commission hearing, where the Commission designated Art himself as a Historic Landmark.

"He redefined the role of Landmarks Chair, took it to new heights, and used it to great and hugely contributory effect for our landmarks, our historic districts, our City, and our State. All the while maintaining his uncompromised quality of wardrobe without a hair out of place. His contributions are immense and eternal. ”

Stephenk40

Art was a unique voice in the development world. He was a pleasure to work with and always inspired the best from people. He will be missed, but his legacy and inspiration will live on in those he touched.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsor


Sponsors










Portland Architecture on Facebook

StatCounter

  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics