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I'm actually thrilled you are drawing attention to this. I was sitting in my car the other day on Burnside looking at Powells and thought the same thing. It is a jewel in Portland's crown, but the building needs some work. The side of the store that faces Couch actually isn't all that bad, and I dig the pillar made to look like stacked books. The Burnside, side of the building makes it look like some homeless shelter...very dirty, outdated and very ugly.


They should just scrap the parking garage and expand into it with retail space. It's a nightmare. Used to be really easy to find on-street parking a block or two north back before that area became the "Pearl" but now I guess it's tougher.

As for the Burnside facade. I think it would look a lot better with more glass, especially if they went up a couple more stories. A couple of floors of well-lit glass windows full of books would really brighten up that rather dark stretch of Burnside.

The nicest bookstore exterior I've seen is the Barnes & Noble in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. Was there last weekend with the wife and surprised at how nice downtown Fort Worth is and how similar it is to Portland.


I concur

Jonathan Radmacher

God forbid that anything exists in the Pearl that isn't opulent, eh? I love the Burnside entrance, one of the last vestiges of that area. Mind you, I don't have a problem with the revamped Crystal Ballroom; and while it makes me a little sad that the Brewery Blocks building has so little of its working-class glory left, its functionality for the area probably outweighs the lost aesthetic value. Even the north side of Powells is fancy, from the stacked-book pillar to the open entryway. So please, enjoy something that isn't so pristine, like the south side. I love it.


The facade of Powell's Books is nasty. In the hands of a good designer that building could shine and function way better. I'm not one to critique the funkyness of the Powell's experience in general. That's great. . .and I don't think we need to compare it with the Pearl and River Dist. architecture. It could be redesigned more like some of the stuff popping up on SE Division or Belmont.


To polish up the outside of Powell's would be like removing the patina from a beautiful antique. The dull shabbiness is part of what makes Powell's wonderful. I agree with the parking garage comments, though. It is marginally useful right now.


It's beyond time for Powell's to clean up its act - I'm glad to hear you say it.

Bob R.

When people started moving into the Pearl, where a bit of grit and industrial urban form were considered part of the appeal, it was predicted that eventually the newcomers would call for the dressing up and removal of all those drab, shabby old buildings.

Looks like those predictions are coming true.

It is especially interesting that part of the critique of Powell's is that their parking ramps tie up traffic on 11th ave.

Well, where did all that traffic come from? It is coming from the new development and apparently the long-time neighborhood anchor is now "in the way".

(Just for the record, I am not a Pearl hater or a redevelopment hater. There is a lot to like about the Pearl. But for me, the grit and wear and age of a place is an important part of the character, too.)

- Bob R.


I'm fine with the Pearl as long as it's contained. Powells charm for alot of people is it's unassuming character. Some people like it because it's not flashy, which is welcoming. If Powells changes its Burnside front then I'm afraid they won't be able to hold the line, and the Pearl will flood over smothering the whole west side. I think that hideous silver testicle across from Powells is probably some scouting drone for the Pearl taking hipness readings.


I have no problem with the facade on Burnside but I also wouldnt have a problem seeing it cleaned up and modernized. The parking garage is so inefficient with its one single lane ramp and limited capacity why not just close it. Cars have to wait to enter the garage in the middle of the street backing traffic up all the way back to Everett.

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