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Don Arambula

While you correctly point out that "only the Blazers' Jumptown proposal actually retains the inside of the building as an arena without compromising the integrity of its signature bowl-in-a-glass-box design... retaining the Coliseum as an arena is the cheapest option and the most sustainable." Lets keep in mind that Blazers proposal to reduce seating has a considerable economic sustainability downside. As some opponents to the Rose Quarter redevelopment proposals have pointed out, "there is no public benefit in reducing seating capacity because it is the largest events that are the most profitable. The reduction of seating capacity precludes events like the Davis Cup tournament and full house events like popular concerts, graduations, and the Obama and Nader rallies. However, all three of the proponents propose reducing seating to the range of 6,000 to 8,500 seats. The Blazers justify the reduction contending that fewer seats make the bowl more intimate. Yet without reduction of bowl size, it is difficult to understand how fewer seats in the same sized bowl leads to greater intimacy. It is understandable that fewer seats make the Coliseum less competitive with the Rose Garden for larger, more profitable events."
Starving the Coliseum of its most profitable sources of revenue while maintaining its physical form smacks of "sustainability-washing"


In the case of Portland Public Schools, they closed several schools in North Portland including Clarendon School, built in 1970, to justify building a new “green sustainable” school about ½ mile from Clarendon. To make the sustainability claim more ironic the new schools was financed with a new market tax credit through New Columbia Community Campus Corp and HAP, so PPS does not actually own the building but instead they rent the space, while Clarendon sits empty.

The project is also a cautionary tale of public private / partnerships since PPS’s partner in renting the facility, the Boys and Girls Club of America, is now being questioned about the excessive salaries and expenses of its top executives, jeopardizing millions in federal funding for the national charity.


Say what you will Brian...Preserving the interior of a building that is vastly underused by the population is not economically or environmentally sustainable...to relegate such a prominent site for minor league hockey and nostalgia is ridiculous. It made sense 25 years ago, but the metro region has vastly changed, and our region has dense zoning rules preferences and an urban growth boundary for a reason..

I'm very much in favor of preserving certain prominent aspects of the exterior and entry, however without a massive programmatic and exterior retrofit the Coliseum will never be sufficiently utilized by the public, and as a result a new facility somewhere else in the metro region will be built somewhere else.

In all likely hood this facility (whether it is a sports complex, baseball stadium or entertainment center) will be in a much less urban part of town (without any of the political and developmental baggage) will generate more traffic and new construction (green or otherwise) will happen..the Memorial fight strikes me as just typical PDX NIMBYism just in an urban context..

If we were talking about a small private building in a less prominent urban site I'd be in favor of preservation of the building and programmatic function for historic purposes, but in my mind the long-term redevelopment value of the coliseum site is more important to the city and general public than the value of the building...if the site was less important to the city plan or the building was more historically significant I could be swayed..and it's really more about how prime the real estate is to downtown, mass transit, etc...It is a shame that 10,000 residents don't live on that site everyday and can more fully utilize the existing infrastructure (that would be more sustainable than tearing down the building)..instead they just go to a concert or sporting event there once every few weeks..I've been to the place once in the last 5 years..I've been to the Rose Garden probably 30 times..

Brian Libby


Memorial Coliseum hosted as many events in 2009 as the Rose Garden.

It is NOT vastly underused.

It is not relegating the building to minor league hockey and nostalgia.

Dear God, Jason, do you really think preserving historic, one-of-a-kind architecture is merely nostalgia?

Nostalgia is making a new building look like an old one. Memorial Coliseum is a great design that transcends eras.

If we tore down every old building, Portland would be a vastly lesser city.


In her 6/09 U of O thesis “Respect and Reuse: Sustainable Preservation In Portland, Oregon,” Bethany N. Johnson states, “Due to constraints of the research, as well as the specialized goals of the accrediting systems, embodied energy does not play a prominent role in either the National Register or LEED systems. While LEED does award a point for building reuse, the system grossly undervalues the impact of reusing an existing building”

While she acknowledges that recent progress has been made in improving the LEED system she concludes, “More action and forward movement, however, is needed if historic preservation is to assert itself as a valuable tool in addressing climate change.”

“The heart of sustainable preservation is the integration of inherently 'green' historic design principles and features with modern sustainable technologies.” “Historic preservation can help the sustainable building movement address its environmental, economic, and socio-cultural responsibilities in order to achieve truly sustainable development through the incorporation of historically environmentally sensitive passive designs. These historic designs include south-facing windows, thick masonry walls (for thermal mass), centrally located and easily accessible urban sites, spatial flexibility, access to natural light and ventilation, and passive heating and cooling systems. Sustainable preservation also offers the opportunity to positively affect development in the most destitute and desperate corners of our urban environments, helping sustainable development to address its socio-cultural responsibility.”

Brian Libby

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout, my man.



1. I absolutely agree with everyone's criticism of LEED and how it undervalues the significance of adaptive re-use in their scoring system. Hopefully this will be addressed in future green-building programs and civic legislation.

2. I am a huge advocate of adaptive re-use and encourage incentives that would resurrect the life of historic building stock in all neighborhoods. Nowhere in my previous comments did I advocate tearing down every old building in town, that was a pretty lame rebuttal. I just feel the Memorial Coliseum and site is a particular exception to the rule.

3. Historic Preservation is a double-edged sword. While in some cases it protects historic and culturally significant buildings from demolition, in many cases it also deters their greatest potential for redevelopment by imposing too many limits on what can be done. I don't believe in policies that protect the past at the expense of future generations. I don't know what their needs will be, and I think it's presumptuous of you to think you do either. What if people in the future generations don't attend the same cultural events we do and need different facilities to accommodate them, they are just stuck with this empty glass box in the middle of downtown? If we don't give future generations the freedom to redevelop our cities as required they will build or redevelop in other areas, hurting the long-term vitality of the areas preservation codes are supposed to protect.

4. Ironically, people with your perspective who want to preserve the majority of the building skin and limit the ability to demo the seating bowl are what pushed me over to the side of tearing it down over a renovation option. The building has great bones and a flexible open space interior that would allow the building to assume a variety of uses and could endure for quite along time. Keeping more than half of the existing seating kills all flexibility for adaptive re-use and in my eyes the whole redevelopment argument.

5. I challenge that you even understand the spirit of modernism. I'm sure you've read a lot of coffee table books with pictures of glass buildings by Mies and SOM, etc..but truly modern architects and theorists in the 50's and 60's like Cedric Price and Yona Friedman believed that modern architecture would be open flexible and adaptable for people to use; unlike Corbusier and Mies they did not impose a "Modern" style on people, they wanted to give people options and accommodate existing institutions.

Try and wrap your head around this Brian: I agree that the Coliseum is the most modern building in Portland (it's no doubt the most flexible space in town), but by helping it achieve a "historic status" you helped kill what made it modern and unique.

PS: My wife is part of a graduate journalism studio at UO Portland that just completed a case study where they surveyed public awareness and opinions on the MC redevelopment. It was a very thorough professional project (a couple hundred people were randomly polled); I was in no way involved - although some of my and my friends discussions on the MC may have inspired their choice of topic...Anyways they professor was talking about submitting their final info to the Oregonian, etc..I can probably have her e-mail you their findings in the near future...Spoiler Alert: The good news is that most people are amenable to a small amount of taxation to publicly fund a portion of redevelopment, however there wasn't a clear cut winner among the top 6 options..I think the MARC proposal was most popular by a hair..

Brian Libby


Thanks for your thoughtful and well reasoned comments.

I apologize if I insulted you in my earlier comment.

You make a good point about the conceptual double-edge sword of historic preservation when you say, "If we don't give future generations the freedom to redevelop our cities as required they will build or redevelop in other areas, hurting the long-term vitality of the areas preservation codes are supposed to protect."

I don't disagree that in most cases we should have the freedom to change cities and buildings as the current generation sees fit. But I would argue that the Coliseum is a special case wherein, as a landmark of particularly exceptional design, its original integrity must be maintained. By no means should this criterion be applied to every building, or even most of them. But societies have always singled out particular works of architecture as being valuable enough to preserve for their own sake.

In the Coliseum's case, it just so happens that preserving the original design is also viable economically given that the building still draws as many events as the Rose Quarter. If it doesn't break even, the Coliseum still comes a lot closer than most public buildings.

Although I'm not loving the tone in which this particular point was made, basically accusing me of ignorance (and inaccurately so), I concede you make a fair point about the original spirit of modernism with regard to flexibility. So let me fully admit that I want to preserve the original MC design, both its box and its bowl, despite this fact. Sometimes the original architects actually wind up feeling differently in this regard than the societies for whom the buildings are made.

In a similar regard, legendary Portland architect John Yeon didn't believe his Portland Oregon Visitors Center should be preserved, but I'm very glad that the city is not listening to him. I'm glad the building still stands and is being restored.

I also appreciate your sharing the results of the study. Although it's very useful information, I don't think public opinion should always necessarily be the guiding factor in deciding which historic buildings get preserved. Sometimes the public is right, and sometimes it takes time for public opinion to come around to what is best. That's why we have organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation - to put those values in clearer focus and more expert hands.

With regard to your #4 point, that people with my perspective "who want to preserve the majority of the building skin and limit the ability to demo the seating bowl" are what pushed you "over to the side of tearing it down over a renovation option", I agree that when you look at all the open space in the interior one can see a whole lot of potential for a variety of uses.

But Memorial Coliseum already has that flexibility. It's a multi-purpose arena that serves parades, political rallies, concerts, sports, conventions, and much more. If we added a bunch of fitness facilities (as the MARC proposes) or arts spaces (as the VMAAC proposes), we'd be getting more space. But we can get space from a lot of places without demolishing renowned architecture that the National Trust and the National Register seek to protect on behalf of future generations. We can't get back Memorial Coliseum once it's gutted.

Look, we probably agree on most stuff when it comes to architecture, sustainability, and other related issues. I'll bet you're not the sort who usually favors demolishing landmark architecture of international renown, and I'm not usually not the sort who argues against new fitness or arts facilities. I'm just saying that the MC transcends some of the usual, practically-inclined measuring sticks. This building has a history and a higher spirit, in addition to its existing practicality and usability, that trumps some of the usual thinking.


It appears that saving the bowl is not vital to
the Oblitz's plan.

Oblitz will not invest a dollar of his own money in the deal.

Oblitz will be paid millions of dollars in
fees from the city for his brilliant plan.

The city will float 10's of millions of bonds and will backstop the payments if the facility goes bust.

The mayor has delayed the decision at the last minute at the request of Oblitz to give them more time to break their long-standing agreement with the Blazers who have long-term rights to manage the facility.

Go figure.


Any chance that this conversation can get back to the Historic Preservation is Sustainability theme?

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