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"Unfortunately, though, the Riverdale board -- while not people I wish to vilify personally -- seems to be hung up on the issue of security"

Is there some crime or terrorism problem near Riverdale that I have somehow missed hearing about?


I'm impressed that this group has rendering and drawings available so soon, while the demolish-build new group took forever to release any for their design proposal. Didn't see the video yet, but I like what I see in the renderings.

It seemed to me from the pathetically small renderings of the demolish-build new group's design proposal that finally made their way to this weblog, that there was at least some attempt to reproduce the essence of the Doyle Riverdale building in the new building. That makes it a somewhat acceptable route to go.

I'd say though that the design sketches representing the expansion plan of the original Doyle building that Path Architecture has created for Preserve Riverdale, so far, looks far preferable to that of the demolish-build new group's design proposal.

If I was still a kid going to grade school, I'd like the idea of open space, the plaza, between buildings that would naturally let you go outside from classroom to lunch, to the gym, etc. Does the Riverdale School area have some special security issues that would make a one unit building so essential? I don't guess I quite picked up on what that might be.



Safety issues at the School typically do not deal with terrorism ( I am sure you know this). One safety issue immediately comes to my mind which is both play areas are next to the parking lot and vehicle drop off site. Vihicle traffic and kids play areas typically are not built right next to each other because if a vehicle and a kid run into each other the kid typically loses.


It's nice to know there is still an effort being made to save this building. Unfortunately, the people in control are ignorant of the value of historic preservation and of quality architecture; the replacement building is a pathetic replica. Did Mahlum pull some designers off a Disney project for this one? Sad thing is it's the kids who lose out in the long run. Hopefully they will learn a valuable lesson.


its a same the design community isnt making a huge effort to save this building like they did with the Memorial Coliseum.


Security and safety is only one of the reasons for the new building. Please do not assume that if you solve that issue that this is an acceptable design.

Having said that, it is an attractive looking design at first glance and I do like the amphitheater and open plaza feel. However, there seem to be some things missing or maybe I just can't find them. Where is the science lab or technology lab? What are the proposed dimensions of the class rooms? They look awfully small to me. Where are the break out spaces or pods for differentiated learning needs? The library looks to be the same size as it is currently and it is too small and cramped as it is today. The halls in the current building are way too narrow ( major complaint from current staff and students). Does this design fix that by expanding them? I see little or no room for kids lockers which is another complaint from students and staff. What are the proposed dimensions of the play areas. They look like they are much smaller than the current space. Additionally, the placement of both play areas adjacent to the parking lot and vihicle drop off lane would seem to be a big safety issue.

I know this is a quickly slapped together design, but there is a lot to fit into the limited space available and at first glance it looks extremely limited in terms of class rooms size, play areas, hall dimensions, break out spces for differentiated learning, library space and science and tech. labs to mention a few.

The new building addresses all of these in a very methodical manner.

I would like some feed back on some of my issues to better understand how this design would address the educational needs that the proposed new building design clearly does.

Corey Martin

Hi John,
Thanks for taking an educated look at the proposal.

The new classrooms are roughly 27' x 37'.
Science and tech labs can be housed in the two extra classroom spaces on the east side.
Break out spaces are diagrammed adjacent to and between classrooms.
The library is a bit larger than before and could be made even larger if need be.
The hallways and some classrooms in the Doyle building have been enlarged.
Lockers can be introduced in the larger hallways.
Play areas are slightly smaller yet more functional with a better connection to public spaces and classrooms.
Play areas are separated from the parking and drop off by retaining walls, landscaping and fences.


Please be more specific regarding sizes of class rooms learning spaces, hall ways and play areas. How much smaller is the play area? The class rooms do not appear uniform and the Kinder rooms look tiny.

As for the buffers near the parking lot and drop off, how much space will that encumber. short walls and burms typically attract kids more than keep them away and fences are ugly.


People like John can't be convinced. They will always find reasons why new buildings are better then old. No sacrifice to them is ever worth making.



Your obnoxious and nasty comments regarding Mahlum cause you to lose credibility on this issue.

I have kids in this School and my issue is not about old vs new. It is about providing the best educational building and campus for the money.

So far saving the building has not coincided with providing the best educational facility.


Unfortunately the school board here believes that a 52-48 victory is a mandate to destroy a 100 year old community building. If the children are as important as the Board always preaches, then why doesn't the Board teach the children respect for history and heritage. The Board is in such a rush to tear down the Doyle building that they won't even wait for permits to be issued for the new school before they start their demolition. Why not wait until June of 2010 and do it the right way. This rush is typical of the Boards actions. They know they are doing something thats not quite right so they have their backs up like kids who have been caught doing something wrong.


John, that is probably because you see the building as nothing more than a shell that is meant to have a function...then if that function isnt met with the current building, then it must be torn down and replaced with something shiny and new.

I am not trying to change your mind or anything because in this case, you definitely have more of a valid opinion than I do because of your direct interaction with the school.

But the point I am trying to make is this issue that has created much of the problems that we have with suburbs...if it is old and doesnt meet its new function, then it must be torn down...architecture should never work that way, with the amount of history this country has lost with each building it tears down, it is important to think of the possibilities to reuse architecture because there is no replacement for old buildings.

Also, your issues with the amount of space this renovation would have seems to be trapped in a very small image. Currently we do not have more detailed drawings that would depict the amount of space this would create, but you have to admit, this does show that there is a clear possibility that would allow for preservation over demolition.

To you, you may just see a building that is meant to house education, but under that mindset, you should also hold little value in your house and neighborhood because it is just a place for living.


I really appreciated Corey Martin's reply of information in answer to John's questions in his comment posted immediately before Corey's.

It was good that Corey offered some comparison in terms of space and size of various areas in Preserve Riverdale's design to that of the existing building, showing that increased space is being provided for. I'd think people would also be interested in knowing how this increased space provided compares to that provided for in the demolish-build new group's design.

Have plan details of the demolish-build new group's design that would enable such a comparison, been made available for this purpose, and if so, could someone study them and post their notes here?


Guys, this is beating a dead horse. This process has been going on for two years now. Presenting this option two years later is a bit late to put it mildly. The recent vote on the board members does not create a mandate to do anything, but it does demonstrate that a majority of residents have confidence in the current Board's decision.

For what it is worth the vote would not have been nearly this close if the opposing candidtaes did not make their main campaign issue about spending less money and giving some tax relief back to community members (save the Doyle was barely mentioned).

Preserve the building was only truly compelling to a much smaller percentage of people.

Dennis, You are right! my mind will not be easily changed just like I will not change the minds of the building advocates on this blog.

I contribute on this blog to demonstrate that there are valid arguments on the other side whether you agree with them or not.

The unfortunate thing for the preservationists is that the save the building group did not get involved until after a decision was made. If their passion, designs and effort had been their during the process this whole debate might not be necessary. I am sure that this current design and other suggestions would have been considered and weighed against the educational needs of the school. That is not to say that the outcome would have been any different, but I am confident that all sincere suggestions and options would have been considered.

Benjamin Kaiser

The Preserve Riverdale organization asked that we at PATH design a school that preserves the A.E. Doyle building, saves the school district substantial money, keeps the students on campus during construction, more appropriately engages the site and addresses the scale of the area, and above all, results in inspiring spaces for their children to learn. We believe our campus design accomplishes those objectives.

We believe that in this time where conservation and architecture are moving closer and closer together, the demolition of an existing masonry school building to build a school building in its place is an odd decision. Regardless of the “green” measures applied to the new school, it probably won’t be standing long enough to recover from the negative effects of demolition, lost materials, and all of the energy of the new materials used.

The Riverdale school district is a declining enrollment district. To demolish the work of one of our best known architects to construct in its place a school that surpasses the national average in square feet per student, in a declining enrollment scenario, seems to be a another very odd decision.

With the demolition not only will an A.E. Doyle building be lost, yet so will go the fond memories of the faculty, the parents, and the thousands of students who have attended the school over the years.


Well stated Benjamin. We can only hope the school board is still listening.


The enrollment has declined from a peak in the mid 90's of around 350 to projected current enrollment of around 305 depending on the final tally for transfers and tuition students and residents coming and going. So based on the last 10 to 15 years your statement is correct.

However, the enrollment in 1980 was slightlty over 200 and between then and now there has been steady growth with a few peaks and valleys along the way. The conclusion that there is declining enrollment is a statistic sited to support your argument, but is not accurate when you take a period of time equal to the period of time that the new building is supposed to last.

With continued expected population growth in Portland and with this states desire to manage sprawl it would seem short sided to assume that the enrollment statistics will continue to decline. This is especially true when you factor in increased interest from out of district students. Lastly, if you have seen the state of the grade school today (much of it is dilapidated and falling apart) it is amazing that the enrollment has held up as well as it has. Much of the school is ugly and characterized as a dump by many.

I would argue that the likely hood that enrollment continues to stay flat or decline is remote.

The energy required to build a new school is energy well used even if it does not meet with your sustainability standards.

If you are really worreid about energy consumption there are much bigger issues to address before using conservation as an argument to build a smaller school. That is not the first priority in my opinion. Regardless, there will be many "green" aspects of the new building.

Benjamin, not quite sure why you think memories will be lost if the building is demolished.


Some clarifications are essential here:

First of all, Mr. Libby, can you really reduce the myriad issues regarding the Riverdale campus renovation, discussed over a two-year period to ONLY security? You continuously want to reduce this complex project to one issue and it's just silly.

I would also like to clarify that the candidates won by more than 52-48, in the recent School Board election. In fact the school board chair was elected by more than 11 percentage points, and others were 8 and 4. (By comparison, President Obama won with 52% of the vote and that was considered a wild success)

When the District floated a bond in 1996 to remain independent and build Riverdale High School, the margin was even slimmer than this. Ironically, the president of Preserve Riverdale was (commendedly) on the campaign to maintain independence. At the time, he was the first one out of the gates to declare that victory a "mandate." I guess, when you're on the other side of an election, one can reinvent the meaning of the results.

I ask: When will the School Board be allowed to enact the will of the people, heal the community and move on? The answer, increasingly, appears to be: "when Preserve Riverdale says they can. The next question becomes: Who REALLY has divided the community? The answer is Preserve Riverdale. While the Board made a decision that was controversial, the rabid nature of the Preserve Riverdale mailings, complete with personal attacks and mis-information intended to incite the community, has succeeded to some extent. Fortunately, it didn't win the recent school board election, even though the incumbent candidates refused to respond in kind, apparently preferring to win the will of the people in a classy, truthful way.

I'm sure Path Architecture is a great firm. It's too bad they didn't respond to the original RFP regarding the Riverdale renovation nearly a year ago. I'm sure the District would have been happy to give them the FACTS about the project, including the FACTS about enrollment, land use restrictions, educational goals, hazardous materials in the original building and so forth. Unfortunately, Preserve Riverdale has given Path a blank canvas that doesn't take into account the educational goals of the District, gleaned from hundreds of hours of interviews with experts, staff, community members and parents.

Finally, the Riverdale District may have declining enrollment from a resident standpoint, but it does attract a number of students from outside District boundaries to mitigate that situation and thank goodness for that. Because of sound fiscal management from the current board, Riverdale is not making any cuts in its staff or programs, while surrounding Districts are facing heartbreaking cuts. This Board has demonstrated its commitment to education and to the community, even re-examining its renovation decision when those very late-to-the-party demanded to be heard. Now they have been re-elected by a compelling margin, and they have every right to proceed with a plan the majority has supported. (Don't even start with the ridiculous biased survey Preserve Riverdale sent out, which made them a laughingstock among the community.)

Really, people. It's time to move on. This is a community with a long history, and that history contains similar issues that weren't all honey and roses. But the graciousness of those who haven't gotten their way in the past in moving on is sadly missing. That lack of grace is the most disappointing facet of this issue. One can only hope that it will reappear, and soon.


yes, here, here Steve! Nothing like promoting the tearing down of historical architecture from AE Doyle on an architecture website!

So what you are saying is that it is important for any opposing group to stay quiet no matter what, in order to keep a community united....cause that is about all I took from that long post.

I guess we should do what Steve says and tear down the Memorial Coliseum while we are at it too.


No, Dennis. What you should take from that is that the majority of a community has spoken, and more than once over two years, in a fair democratic process. This particular community supports the education of children over bricks in a building, a small portion of which was designed by a man who has a honored presence elsewhere in this city. There is a new design in place, plans drawn, and a construction process about to begin. Sometimes people don't get what they want. It's hard to lose. But there is grace in moving on. It's time.


Steve, if I am not mistaken, the school board never mentioned that demolition of the school would be the number one option when those votes came up...actually often times, it was brought up as a far off possibility...so my guess would be that most who voted for the demolition thought they were voting for a renovation.

Brian did an extensive report about this a few months back...will have to look it up, unless Brian remembers which date it was.


Dennis, the Board specifically re-examined replace vs. renovate in December 2008, after a month-long period with extensive community input. And there was a democratic election, with a decisive, unambiguous mandate that supported the current school board and their leadership, on May 19, 2009.


you mean the vote that had very little information about it or why it was even happening, and I am guessing the number of people that responded was well below the ability to call it decisive...but either way, good luck with your new building...shame the children that go there will not be able to learn first hand the ability of preservation.


Oh the shame of it all! The kids will all suffer because "they will not learn the ability of preservation." How about democracy? Steve has been writing intelligent responses but you just don't want to listen. It's time to move on and spend that energy coming up with ideas on what is going to fill the Memorial Coliseum with other things besides parade floats.



"Much of the school is ugly and characterized as a dump by many." john

Well that there's a good enough reason in itself to tear the old hulk down. If a building can't hold up to nearly a hundred years of aging and neglect and stay looking as good as new, it must be a dump...better get rid of it ASAP. Lead Riverdale residents to believe that even after a lot of money is spent on the Doyle building, it's still going to be virtually the same dump. No surprise then, that some of them accept the idea that the new, single big barn design is superior to any other design idea, such as the more creative, intellectually inspiring open courtyard plan incorporating the Doyle building.

There must be a few people in the Riverdale School District that have seen tv shows such as This Old House. Many old buildings have good structural bones that make for excellent, updated buildings, even superior to new buildings built from scratch, and economically competitive with new construction. The Doyle just might be one of them.


Actually jim, I would say teaching children that the world is a closed system and that it is important to work with what we have and not over use our resources and stretch us beyond our means is much more important than democracy, and I think teaching democracy is really important...also think teaching history is equally important, which the Doyle school building would be apart of that as well.

What better way to teach children that we have only one world through the use or reusing and renovating a building instead of demolition it for something shiny and new.

Thank you jim for pointing out that I dont want to listen because I think preservation is very important for the world...hell, while we are at it, we are losing tax dollars by not building on Forest Park.


Oh and just for the record, I grew up in a city that decided to demolish much of their downtown for shiny new buildings and all they ended up with was a hand full of new buildings, a sea of parking lots, and poorly built low income housing...so, for me, preservation is a big deal because if we tear down everything because it is old, we will soon be left with nothing.



You missed the whole point of the "dump" comment. The point was to counter the claim that enrollment will continue to decline and that desiging a new school with out the ability to handle some increase in enrollment over 50 years would be short sided. A better looking school with much improved facilities will attract more interest from parents interested in maximizing their children's education.

As Steve clearly points out the community has been evaluating the best way to accomplish this goal and a majority of the community has spoken not once, but twice.

Contrary to the views of many not close to this issue, renovation was genuinely considered and evaluated and that option was not chosen for several reasons. Again, A majority in the community agree!


well john, as I pointed out, a majority of the community is more than welcome to destroy their own history...I just wish to point out how bad of an idea that will be because I doubt what will replace it will have any of the character and charm that AE Doyle was able to bring to the school and community.



I can appreciate your point and I know that some others feel that way as well.

Steve L.

John Says, “With continued expected population growth in Portland and with this states desire to manage sprawl it would seem short sided to assume that the enrollment statistics will continue to decline. This is especially true when you factor in increased interest from out of district students.”

I have felt that part of the motivation here was to build a large new school to poach students from Portland Public Schools, but here John comes right out and says it.

Please, don’t support your new school by taking children from PPS.


John, I don't think I did miss the point of the "dump" comment. That comment didn't appear to have anything to do with capacity. It seemed to want to lead people to believe that the Doyle was no better than a place where people would throw their garbage, and that no reasonable effort could ever allow it to be a sparkling new, modern, inspiring educational facility again.

Many people understand very well, the great potential that certain older buildings can offer over new construction.


Steve L,

If by "poach" you mean allow parents to choose a better school for their children then this is simply a reality not some secret plan or intention.

The School currently has about a 15 to 20 percent non resident enrollment. It is not the goal for that percentage to increase. also, Many kids that start as non resident later become residents once they are comfortable with the school.

The nicer school is also to retain the children in the district and give them a viable public school alternative to private schools which take some of the students in the district.

Steve, why you would deny parents that right? The Riverdale school district is well run and provides an excellent education. This will only improve when the facilities are improved.

For what it is worth you cannot save PPS by preventing people from leaving. Make the school better and PPS will retain all of its students.

I guess you just need something or someone else to blame!


According to PortlandMaps.com, the demolition permit has been issued for Riverdale Grade School. Yet one more example of how weak our local historic preservation laws are.


Maybe the building is not worthy of preservation. Do you think that might be a possibility?

Brian Libby


Your contributions to the conversation are appreciated. But after months of discussion we've long since moved beyond that square-one question. The school was designed by the two most prominent architects Portland has ever produced, AE Doyle and Pietro Belluschi, and it's a leading example of early 20th century educational architecture. If you don't support historic preservation, that's fine. But there's not much room for legitimate debate on the significance of the architecture itself.


Somehow, discussion of the merits of the Doyle building over those of a new building make me think of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. I've never physically been there, but like many people having watched television, have seen plenty of it, just as many of us that haven't been to NYC have similarly seen that city and its architecture.

On the simplest appraisal, what is Oxford University's education facility, but a collection of individual buildings grouped together to form a unified whole? Over the decades...centuries actually..some pretty good architecture has come to make up this schools facility, but probably at quite an expense. All those buildings must have gotten rather old and crummy throughout their lifetime, or at least very expensive to maintain or repair. Some people might even think of them as being 'a dump'.

Maybe Oxford University should follow the Riverdale School Board's example and simplify Oxford University's educational facility: one big, new building could probably easily take the place of a number of Oxford University's old structures. For sentimental sake, the new building could even be made to look somewhat like the aged buildings.

Think how much better this would be for Oxford University students. They would have the additional security afforded by a single building. Also, there would be that 'flow' some people talk about...no need to endure the hardship of finding your way between individual buildings, or have to go out into the cold and heat and fresh air between classes.

Just imagine how Oxford University might affect the education offered to its students if it followed the example being set by Riverdale School Board for Riverdale students.


john, you've clearly missed the point I was trying to make about Portland's lax preservation laws, but I don't think you really care, do you?

Eric Cantona

ws, you hit that one out of the park. many thanks.



I have been to Oxford and your analogy and comparison is beyond ridiculous. I have also seen and been to many of the Ivy League Schools on the East Coast. Like Oxford The history and architecture of those schools cannot be compared to Riverdale.

I also walked and identified countless historic buildings in Boston as part of a project for AT&T Wireless. In fact, my apartment in Charlestown MA, was in a historic district. Contrary to the beliefs of many on this blog I actually do have an appreciation for historic buildings.

The Riverdale School will be a better educational facility by replacing it and to me that trumps prserving it.

We just disagree on the argument that education and prservation for the Riverdale School can be combined in a manner that does not require meaningful sacrifices.

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