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Aaron G

"Burnside occupies a special role in the city as the only street touching NW, SW, SE and NE Portland."

I don't think Burnside is unique in that regard. Broadway includes N, NE, NW, SW.

Aaron G

Oh, but it doesn't hit SE. I wonder why I thought it worked.

Bob R.

It's quite a coincidence (for me) that you posted this today. I was just in the building at 13th & Burnside today, visiting a photography studio space on the 4th floor. (I was scouting a location for a client.)

I suppose change is inevitable, but I would like to point out that the current building is home to just about as close as you can get to the prototypical artist/studio lofts, with lots of raw open space and a gritty environment. And affordable. The sort of thing that attracted artists and galleries and creative types to the Pearl before it was even called the Pearl.

The new "gateway" developments from this informal proposal, or some other developer's proposal, may indeed prove worthwhile and viable, but the Pearl becomes just a bit less "oyster" and a little bit more "precious" with each shiny new tower.

Again, not knocking new development proposals. But I like the fact that the Pearl still includes a lot of adaptive reuse, and such a strategy may be a better "gateway" than complete redevelopment. There's plenty of room in South Waterfront, after all, for glass spires.


Would the top few floors of a Pearl District mixed use building be the right place for the Schnitzer Collection? No

Any museum benefits from being on the ground floor for the same reason retail benefits from being on the street level, accessibility to intended visitors and exposure to unintended visitors through street traffic, making the collection more “public” as Jordan desires.

I hope the Schnitzer Collection could be the core of a new museum, but the museum should have room to expand and collect work beyond the Schnitzer Collection. In addition, it would be great to have large spaces for performances and new exhibits and a sculpture garden.


Brian, you're starting to sound like Nicolai Ouroussoff! There are thousands of incredibly talented designers all over the world. You don't have to drop the names of your favorites in this context, we all know those folks. Otherwise, thanks for this interesting post.

arcto eric

... or maybe the Schnitzer collection doesn't need one of those "world class" architects, or even a modern building. There's another gateway to the Pearl, from Old Town. And there sits the gorgeous old Custom House, which just happens to be going up for auction soon.


arcto eric - well said.

Jordan - man up!

Douglas K.

Yep. Custom House. From the outside, it looks like it should be a museum. Don't know about what it looks like inside, but this seems like a great way to keep it in public use, even if that means some interior renovation. Put together the Jordon Schnitzer collection, the large collection of contemporary art already owned by the City of Portland, and maybe some pieces on loan from the Portland Art Museum ... there's a building and a collection. Still needed: leadership and funding.

Brian Libby

A Jordan Schnitzer Collection in the Custom House sounds fabulous to me! If you all want to make that happen, I'd be happy to lead the organization. :)

arcto eric

Douglas K wrote:
> Don't know about what it looks like inside ...
The GSA website has photos:
I haven't been inside, but would like to. Perhaps a tour could be arranged?
> Still needed: leadership and funding.
Sound like Brian can help with the leadership part. Shall we talk about funding ideas?

Douglas K.

Thanks, arcto eric.

I find it hard to eyeball it .. are we looking at 10' ceilings in there? 12'? Is there a realistic possibility of gutting sections of the interior to create large galleries suitable for major exhibitions?

If so, I'm all for it.

Funding: funding will follow community support, particularly if some prominent people get involved. If Jordon Schnitzer likes the idea (and face it, it can't happen without the guy who would donate the collection), there may be some Schnitzer family seed money right up front to get things off the ground.

I think it would help to make it a public museum, owned by the City of Portland (or possibly Metro if they want to step up) and operated by a non-profit. Under 40 USC §§549 - 550, it should be possible for the GSA to "surplus" the building for "a museum attended by the public," allowing the City of Portland to acquire the building as a public museum/community art center. It would help if Congressmen Wu and Blumenauer were on board to make that happen.

If the City is able to acquire the building for public use, it might be possible to get federal funding -- even earmarks -- for seismic and energy efficiency renovations of a public building. Although the State of Oregon is dealing with a severe budget crunch next biennium, renovating the Custom House could be the sort of "economic development project" that qualifies for lottery funding.

With champions in public office as well as Jordon Schnitzer, this project would have the sort of profile that could attract public funding from corporations and foundations. Once the project is up and running, a "friends" group would form around it and probably generate some clever fund-raising ideas.


The existing buildings in the block should remain (and be touched up where needed). I like the artist loft use for the main building. Is there a better way to support the seeds needed for creative Portland?
Besides the existing building provides a more fitting, in-scale gateway. There are plenty of other places for glass highrises. The Crystal Ballroom on one side and the loftstyle building on the other honors the historic nature of this area. These buildings are part of the historic flavor of the Pearl District and should be preserved.

kristin b.

nice bunch of comments for an interesting post, Brian. Thanks for reminding us that Burnside should stay special, and improving it won't happen by turning into an annoying couplet. Burnside is one of our few instinctively, logically, understandably different streets - we can keep those positive qualities while making it pedestrian friendly in ways that don't involve mangling it into a couplet.

and the custom House is wonderful inside, and Jordan Schnitzer's collection would be great for it! Love the idea.


It bothers me that anyone would have an issue even crossing Burnside...it isnt even that big of a street, so what if it has two way traffic and you might actually have to wait for the light rather than wondering out into the street like every other intersection in Portland.

As for the project, it is an interesting idea, it would be really interesting to see the PSU program extend this idea into another quarter of developing to see what comes from it because the 10 week schedule is never enough time to fully develop an idea, especially one this complicated.


"It bothers me that anyone would have an issue even crossing Burnside..."

Spoken as someone who rarely has to cross it no doubt. I know... I know... this is where you reply and say you cross Burnside 75 times a day and truly understand the issues involved first hand. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

eric cantona

hmmmm... i cross burnside nearly every day and it's NOT A BIG DEAL. just wait for the light to change. simple. just like any street. many times i go to the crossing at Park, and then i don't have to wait at all. brilliant.

people who have a problem crossing burnside like sheeeesh confuse me. what do you want?


My wife walks across Burnside twice every work day. Like Eric ... she says it's not a big deal.


Well Sheesh, I dont cross it 75 times a day, but I do cross it frequently seeing that I live downtown and I end up walking across may streets down here frequently.

I will say there are definitely problem spots on that road where there is either no light to cross or you can only cross on one side, yet people still try to cross on both spots, thus risking getting hit by a car, or people are bothered that you actually have to wait for the light to cross this one street downtown.


The scale of Portland and the can't-get-any-bigger size of Burnside may be forcing a planning decision to the couplet but something is missing from the discussion so far: Building typology

If there is to be a gateway, perhaps a different type, that of the gatehouse, could be considered for Burnside standing in opposition to the existing fabric. That building height is necessary to a good gateway is a point well taken, however the towers are a homogeneous approach to start from. Density and porosity are important factors apart from building form and may give rise to a more creative approach.

The gallery/museum, though? Sounds simply fantastic as a program. Would be a great opportunity and resting point in the city.

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