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I have to admit that going through design review is a frustrating thing. As the architect, we often feel caught in the middle.
It is good that they have sorted things out. The building design seems properly subdued and should fit in well.
I do have a bigger problem with the services that are being offered.
I am seeing many new projects that will provide either housing, food or medical services for the homeless. I hope that these places also offer a way off the street. Do they address problems of drug and alcohol addiction? Do they provide job training? How about treatment for mental illness?
I feel like the problem of homelessness needs to be addressed on the national level, requiring equal attention given across all states. The more Portland is "kind" and provides these basic services, the more homeless the city will attract.
I work downtown and see way too many pan handlers, walking wounded and aimless teens hanging around. It is very sad and I feel powerless to help. Mostly, I am tired of it and want someone to get these folks sorted out and made to be useful members of society.
Oops, that sounds cruel, but I am frustrated by the whole mess.


The folks over at SERA are no doubt some of the best equipped folks to deal with the conflicting goals of non-profit (cost effective) design and historic (and green) concerns. Their team has repeatedly proven that good design can solve both sides of the problem. Blanchet House was wise to chose them.

Potentially my biggest concern about this project is not really about the specific building but rather how we are designing our cities, particularly with such a dense clustering of social service activities in this particular district. While it is very nice to see good design winning its share of the effort (at Broadway/Glisan, at Broadway/Burnside and now here), it seems that these projects will solidify the fact that this neighborhood will bear the brunt of this burden for the city for at least another 50 years.

Common sense says that the need for these services is alway greater in a city's core, but I really feel that other areas should pitch in more.

Jim Heuer

The demolition of the "contributing" property in the Historic District to build the new Blanchet House is a stark example of the irrationality and city government indifference that seems to cripple the planning and development of this historic but fragile part of central Portland.

Here we have the "white hats" squaring off over the expansion of the Blanchet House by tearing down a contributing structure while the other half of that block is completely empty save for some surface parking, and is owned by... the City of Portland itself!

What is wrong with this picture? Yes, that other half block is leased to the NW Natural Gas Company (which the last time I looked was a public utility). But why didn't the City Council press the various agencies involved to sort this out, preserve the contributing structure and exploit the empty part of the block for Blanchet House needs? My only conclusion is that the Council members don't understand the importance of the District, don't give a fig for historic preservation, and are in thrall to the powerful developers who ultimately want to see the Historic District eliminated.

More power to the Landmarks Commission and its Chair Art DeMuro for demanding at least some recognition by the architects of the siting of the new building in the Historic District. Still it's sad that the City Council didn't see fit to back its Landmarks Commission and force a solution that could have been a win-win for the City, and both sets of "white hats".

Justin Wells

Many of the buildings that these organizations are offering services from - especially on Burnside - are in pretty sad shape. Expanded square footage should allow them to better offer or even expand their services offered.

Also, the quality of the built environment will only get better with projects like these, regardless of the function of the building - if they are maintained. Since they are brick, they should last a long time with minimal upkeep.

Now, as far as the design changes, I see almost no difference beyond the addition of a new floor. Of course, these renderings are not enough to go by, either.

One step closer to build-out of the district!

Justin Wells

Mudd: well, don't forget that its "one city," and while I too agree that concentrating poor people in one district can be bad (see Chicago's housing projects, such as Cabrini Green, as an example), these organizations are already located here.

On the other hand, the Central City IS the most easily accessible, particularly in regards to transit and walking, which, if you are poor, you will have to rely on.

Chinatown's district also suffers from underinvestment, abandonment by the Chinese community over the past 20 years, and a definite drug dealing problem. I have been offered drugs many, many times in the neighborhood.

However, the district HAS changed over the past 7-8 years, when I first moved to Portland in '03. The MAX Green/Yellow line additionally bring in thousands of normal people every day as they use it as their commuting path. *Hopefully,* we'll see the Uwajimayabe mixed use development be built in the next few years, which should definitely revitalize it that much more. Anyone remember what the old downtown Safeway was like?

Fred Leeson

A few comments: 1) NW Natural has a 99-year lease with the city on the surface lot behind Blanchet. That was the deal cut years ago in return for NW Natural giving up space that became the Chinese Garden. It was hard to fault that deal at the time.
2) Yes, there is a concentration of social services for the indigent in Old Town, and it's being updated and expanded as we speak. The new Resource Center nearing completion near Union Station is one element. Union Gospel Mission built a new structure at Third and Burnside. Blanchet is expanding. Sisters of the Road created an indoor waiting room for its diners. And it would be foolish to forget Central City Concern, which has done so much to eliminate inebriates walking the streets. (Does anybody remember Old Town in the 60s and 70s?) The plus side of these agencies being close together is that they can collaborate on services such as feeding, drug and alcohol treatment, low-income housing and employment searches. Still, one has to wonder whether it makes the neighborhood a magnet for all homeless on the West Coast. Word, indeed, does travel....

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