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Adam H.

If you preserve every old house and refuse tear-downs that increase density; you end up like San Francisco, where only the rich can afford to live.

Brian Libby

Adam, that's a great point. I'd meant to say something similar in my post: that even though we need to stop historic homes from being demolished at an alarming rate, we do need to keep committed to density itself.


"On major arterials, thriving buildings are being demolished to make way for bigger ones."

Are we really seeing this? Williams and Division are probably the two streets that have changed most in the last five years. In both cases the new buildings have largely gone up on lots that were either vacant or derelict. I'm really struggling to think of somewhere where a thriving building or institution has been lost.

Perhaps some people will mourn the loss of what Williams looked like in 2011 (https://goo.gl/maps/4HNo6) or what Division did in the same year (https://goo.gl/maps/u1Jre), but I don't.


The church is a fantastic building, a local landmark. Adaptive reuse is the intelligent solution.
Density, this word makes little sense in urban planning. We should focus on creating neighborhoods that are vibrant, complex and have a "soul." Always look at the existing under utilized spaces first. Then maybe build small infill. Quality, scale, richness is the key. A city that is dense (density) may be dull.


While I appreciate the preservation of meaningful historic structures, keeping everything just isn't realistic. As you say:

"The church has sat vacant for years and no one came along who was both willing and financially able to preserve the building, either as another house of worship or converted into some other type of facility."

If there is no viable use for a structure, yet someone can make use of the land for a productive infill, then tear it down. If we artificially preserve every building over a certain age we will end up with a core of crumbling vacant buildings and sprawl in the burbs (and even higher prices in the core...)

Brian Libby

Jason, thank you for your comments. But NO ONE is saying we need to preserve every structure. Of course that would be ridiculous. And wanting to preserve this church is not absurd. It's fine if you don't like this church and want to see the profit motive carried through to its natural conclusion here. But you're framing this as if the desire to preserve this longtime community landmark is somehow outlandish, and that isn't the case. Many churches such as this have been preserved as community centers, arts facilities, or new churches. You're completely right that the community had their chance here and that there's no evil going on per se in tearing it down. But again, to want to protect this church is not to call for all buildings to be preserved, and to suggest as much frames this conversation in a way that isn't fair.


Point well taken B, key buildings should be saved and up-cycled. But I can support Jason in saying that much of our housing stock is completely out-dated and poorly laid-out. These old houses are big energy-wasters. Additionally they are not siesmic-braced or fire-sprinklered. Yes I know one can retrofit all this, but it is expensive, time-consuming and often only partially effective. Almost every house you bike by every day, could be replaced with beautiful energy-efficient modern housing with more units per acre. We should support that as policy and code. The statement of the Commissioner throws huge uncertainty into the already expensive and complex marketplace. We don't need vague concepts in the hands of generously-paid city employees with no skin in the game.


I'm all for preservation of historically valuable and *unique* buildings. But many of the 75-100 year old homes in our neighborhoods are indeed energy hogs, too dark, poorly laid out, and cling to a conservative notion of what a home should look like (picture a kindergartner drawing a square with a triangle roof on top).

We need more contemporary, interesting architecture on our residential side streets (think of Skylab's pre-fab Homb house on NE Ivy between MLK and 7th. I'd also like our residential side streets to be used more efficiently, in the form of rowhouses and 4-6 story buildings.

No, I'm not a developer. I'm the homeowner of a condo near Alberta Street, which has sadly turned into a low-rise boutique strip mall with almost no buildings higher than one or two stories. Missed opportunities on every block and fewer places to house all of our new residents. Not to mention the parking hassles because we didn't build densely enough to transition away from needing a car.

Brian Libby

Peter, I think you make some reasonable points. I too like the idea of neighborhoods being enlivened by an infusion of modern architecture. I also agree that not every home needs to be saved, and even that plenty of those old houses are not so great a place to live and be in, so it's understandable if many of them go. And I agree in most cases about the value in adding more multi-family dwellings. I just think it's sad when we start to think about the majority of the existing building fabric being replaced. There's something special to me about the homes in Portland's neighborhoods and a character greater than the some of its parts. I like that some of the old homes are tiny and a little rough around the edges. Of course some of that will go, and even should go. All I'm saying is that I think we all want to try and find some kind of proper balance.


I'm generally in favor of destroying old homes for increased density, but that church is practically a landmark. It's a real shame it's going to be demolished.


Older buildings- usually pre-WWII, like people need rehabilitation. They take time to understand and truly appreciate. The old growth lumber, plaster walls and ceiling, douglas fir flooring, built ins make for a good place to live. The "delight" becomes evident. Portland's spirit is alive with a good balance of old and new. That balance, once breached cannot be taken back. Proceed with caution the population may decrease and then the density mantra may be seen as foolish.

David Dysert

This is the challenge for our city. Most have enjoyed the low rise, low cost, easy access city Portland has been. In fact these qualities contribute much to the perceptions people have of Portland. Can Portland still be "Portland" if we lose those qualities? At the same time most have aligned with the IDEA of urban density and public transit over the auto. We like the idea of those concepts but it's not clear we will like the results. Perhaps we are the vegetarian who orders a veggie burger with bacon. Few cities of distinction have figured out how to grow up without becoming expensive and exclusionary. For many Portlanders this has become an emotional issue largely due to our curious need to continually define what Portland is and use it as a borderline to mark our identity. But in a very concrete way we are feeling the effects of this growth, and for too many that feeling is one of fear.

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