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The city-county databases have the date of construction with GIS data which can easily be mashed with Google StreetView. The combination could easily be annotated by architects and designers for historic preservation potential now. If it really matters, build a relationship with each owner. Once a building changes hands with the intent of demolition, adding any delay multiplies the financial risk to the developer. No one likes risk.

The interesting question is where is your constituency? Architects and the building trade benefit more from development than preservation.


i have never verified it, but local historian roy roos told me that the city didn't track date of construction data till 1905 or so. for all pre 1905 stock, city assessors would walk around and make a fair guess. so the numbers are not particularly accurate.

you can head down and check out the construction permits which often will give you a more accurate date.

A Nonny Mouse

In your list of historic renovations, there is one project missing. Mercy Corps's renovation of the Packer Scott building is nearing completion.


FYI, an interesting test of the City's demolition delay could soon be at hand. The PDC is proposing to demolish the Dirty Duck - a modest but nonetheless contributing building in the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District. There will be a discussion of this proposal on 8/24 with the Landmarks Commission. Here is a link for more info: http://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?c=42259&a=257615

Agustin Enriquez V

Val B:

Are you taking a position on whether or not demolishing the Dirty Duck should be allowed?


Just wondering where this is going. Are folks against all building demolishing, or just some? And how do we determine that. I agree that buildings with historic value should be saved but it seems like where we break down is determining just what should be saved. For instance I don't think Centennial Mills is historic or worth saving. You could do a lot better on the waterfront with a new well-thoughtout development. But I know a lot of folks think otherwise.


Agustin, I'm still reviewing the information on this proposal, but at first blush it should be noted that the PDC owns almost the entire block on which this building stands - and much of the land is already vacant - why tear down the historic building?

dave, I'm certianly not against all demolitions. For example there is a true eyesore of a "house" at SE 9th and Division for which a demolition permit has been applied for. I would be happy to see this bastardized-beyond-recognition building demolished and replaced with something worthwhile. Interestingly, due to the City's no net housing loss policy, there is currently a demolition delay in place for this house. Of Course, this building is just old - it's not a recognized historic building. Age does not make something historic, but it certainly helps. In the case of Centennial Mills, I think that is certainly historic as an example of Portland's industrial architecture. The mill was also a large player in Portland's economic history. There are examples across the country of cities recognizing this aspect of their past through the preservation and adaptive re-use of old mills or similar buildings.

As far as determining what is important to save - that is why we have the National Register of Historic Places along with local landmark designations and a Landmarks Commission. We also have the outdated Historic Resources Inventory, and while it doesn't hold any true weight, it should be the guide for understanding what buildings or what types of buildings should be preserved in the city. That this inventory is more than 25 years old, means that few buildings from post c. 1935 were really considered and may parts of the city were under-surveyed to begin with. In other words, there are buildings out there around the city that should be recognized as historic or architecturally significant, but aren't. A new inventory should be created as a "living document" and continually updated as structures age or are otherwise deemed historic or architecturally significant. Today's technology would allow for the creation of such a document, it's up to the city to find the money to do it.

A final thought regarding buildings such as the Dirty Duck: There must be a balance in what is preserved. If only the superlative buildings are preserved, it will be hard for future generations to see the real fabric that makes up this place we call Portland. There also needs to be accommodation for new development, because the goal is not for the city to become stuck in time either. There should also always be consideration of the environmental impact of demolitions as well. If a building is mostly structurally sound, why waste the materials by land-filling them or even dismantling/recycling what could be renovated in place? I think the idea that new development can only occur from a blank slate is an attitude that needs to change if we are going to ever achieve a more sustainable society.


The remaining portion of the block is not currently under the control of the PDC. NW Natural has a lease on the parking spots, and their lease requires that their parking spots be replaced in the event of future development. This lease is a leftover from the Chinese Classic Gardens.

As for Dirty Duck, this aging and structurally deficient building will make way for new and more efficient Blanchet House which will pull the existing queueing off the street (has anyone else seen the line that seems to exist during operating hours?), as well as offer their clients better services.

By recycling this building, the site can be cleaned and redeveloped. Improving this corridor can help to stimulate future redevelopment of the two NW Natural blocks in this area, and possibly the enclosed parking lot to the south as well. This will help to compliment the newly renovated East of Pearl building as well as improve the existing streetscape.

Understandably, some people will be upset over this shift in the urban heritage and landscape, but just because a building is old, doesn't mean it should permanently remain in place. Right now the current FAR, Height, and density is underutilized in North Old Town/ Chinatown. If the city can remove some of the blight in this area, perhaps the financiers of Uwajimaya might be willing to gamble on this catalytic new project.

Kim Williams

Would like to learn more about the old water pumping station on the Willamette on the west side of the river opposite Waverly Country Club


Demolition of the Dirty Duck "...for new and more efficient Blanchet House..."(Kim Williams) is a decent trade-off. Will we learn on this weblog what the design for the new Blanchet House building consists of?

What will its design style be; something on the order of the Holst designed Resource Access Center discussed in an article posted here recently...or will it be a design that reflects the architectural style of the present Blanchet House and its neighbor, the building that houses the Dirty Duck.

I think architects could come up with something creative in either style, so I'll be interested to learn which they're allowed to produce for this space. Neither of the buildings housing Dirty Duck and Blanchet House are architecturally spectacular, but both of them convey a very comfortable, functional feeling that some modern designs fail to manage. So does the firehouse across the street that's been boarded up for a long time now (it's time for that to be opened up and filled with life again). All three buildings nicely complement Union Station located 3-4 blocks away.

I understand that it can be tough for a developer to successfully manage a cost effective construction budgets when obliged to have their projects conform to certain design guidelines. It's the public though, that has to live with what they've done, long after developers pack up and move on to the next project. The public is well advised to have those that represent them carefully monitor and, when needed, guide how the design and aesthetics of the city progress.

Ms. Sherman

So PDC has owned the Dirty Duck since 1999, it was behind the nomination of the Chinatown Historic District it will if the Kiernan building comes down become the owner of the original/current Blancher House. What is the future of Historic Preservation in Portland?

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