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Salim Warrick

Every structure has a history. The structures being built will have a history. This process never stops. Stuff changes and that is good. The old days are not coming back. The new days will be better anyway. People need to stop tying themselves to the past. It's over. Sure, some things should be preserved, but those things are few.

Brian Libby

Salim, thanks for your comment. Some of the generalizations you made have merit, I think. But to say something like "the old days are not coming back" is not necessarily an argument against this specific building being preserved. To preserve and restore old buildings is not merely some kind of obsession with the past or some blanket refusal to acknowledge that time is always moving forward. When I look around downtown Portland, I see that the majority of the architecture was built in the recent past, and that's largely okay. At the same time, it would be equally ludicrous to wipe the slate clean of history. Ultimately I think we can find common ground in your final point, that a few select buildings are worthy of preservation -- like the United Workmen Temple and the Hotel Albion.


"Arthur told me some had suggested that if none of the original interior remained then it wasn't worth it to preserve the exterior."
This comment doesn't make any sense to me. If this were true, then most of historic Europe would no longer exist. Go inside a medieval or industrial age building in Holland and you find an ultra-modern interior more often than not. The exterior is vital to the city's cultural memory and our architectural history, as well a the built fabric of the city. There is so little that is old left in that part of urban-renewal ravaged downtown. I think a facadectomy is a perfect solution to this problem and one that I can't believe they aren't more seriously considering. Their argument about not being able to build on the quarter block is equally perplexing. There is an office building being proposed for the quarter block at SW Morrison and 12th right now!

Chris Wilson

Except you can save pretty much anything.


David Dysert

Thanks Brian for a very thoughtful and informational piece on what appears to be another example of our lack of creativity and commitment to keeping our built environment from losing even more texture and history. I am trouble by those who scoff at preservation. They should be reminded that much of the history of our city HAS already been demolished--many times for a piece of asphalt. We need strong code to either compel and/or incentivize developers to work with existing structures when possible. I live in the Pearl and it's scary how every low rise structure now has a target on its back. What folks are forgetting is part of the success of the original part of the Pearl is the low rise friendly collection of adaptable buildings. Even more troubling than this project is what appears to be a foregone conclusion for Mayor Hales to tear down all of Centennial Mills. Unfortunately this is the pattern our current leadership: no passion, no ability to forge consensus on important matters and no big ideas. We used to think big here--We tore down a freeway and put in a park. We built a public plaza when everyone else was building private malls. We put in a well designed transit hub. We limited the amount of parking downtown. We didn't build a freeway--we built light rail. We can disagree on some of these but you can't deny they were big ideas that required leadership. What happened to us? All we hear now is "we can't afford it". rinse and repeat. Its time to think big again -- and we can start by figuring out how to maintain our vulnerable historic buildings. Thanks Brian for keeping these important matters on the front burner.


Even in the 1981 photo it looks like a boarded up derelict building. When was the last time this building was fully occupied? Too bad it had not been kept up; maybe it wouldn't seem such a likely candidate for the wrecking ball.


I vote Facadectomy as the only real compromise.

Marlon D Warren

Great story Brian. There must be some way to utilize some of the old materials or character of the old structure in the new Design.

Comment likes " The olds days are not coming back" is very careless and and misses the entire point of doing quality Architecture that respects the history of Portland with a reflection of what is present.

If you want a specimen of this kind of thinking, look to the East Berlin Building going up at the East End of the Burnside Bridge.

Portland Native.


Cantilevering a new structure over the existing building seems like a very Heath Robinson approach. I wonder if the architects and engineers have investigated facade retention?


1. Although Portland developers/ architects have a higher standard of integrity than other locations, once the $$$$$ start to get large enough, ethics go down the crapper.
2. If the city had a policy of not rescinding Historic Designation based on Owner's wishes the property value / designation would be warning signs to all developers on the environmental impact of purchasing such a building site.
3. Get the non-owner required designation law past now! All the talk about green building is a joke if you cannot pass this law.

Ken Forcier

If the parking lot from where the piture was taken in '81 is still there, then move the Temple across the street. Or vacate the street and slide it over. Book end that block with the two old buildings and have a communal space in between. There''s too much deference given to cars anyway. This is Portland! Start vacating the streets and build on them.


John, perhaps the historic designation "warning sign" is why this building has sat vacant for so long? Just wondering.

Ken, streets pre-date the Automobile. Also hard to imagine what it would take to move a six story brick building with a basement.


The Temple building is a wonderful old building full of richness and details and gravitas that can't be matched in newer structures. We have too few examples of the Richardsonian Romanesque in Portland and we need to save what we have, especially a quirky example like the AOUW Temple. It has a wonderful Gotham-like quality to it. That part of town feels dead precisely because of the rampant demolition of the great old buildings that had human scale and that were replaced by soulless full-block structures. The Albion bldg. has a nice scale too but is nowhere near as noteworthy and could be justifiably replaced. But save at all costs the Auditorium and Temple buildings.


Thanks so much for this article, Brian. I don't have time to comment on it at length but I concur that the decision to demo before cost estimates have been developed is highly suspicious. If high cost is the deterrent to re-using these buildings you would think they'd have the numbers in their back pocket. Additionally, Arthur states that if none of the original interior remained then it wasn't worth it to preserve the exterior - the Foster project in Manhattan that he is extolling the virtues of is the Hearst Tower (http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/hearst-tower), where they gutted the building and rammed a tower into the middle of it. I am not at all a fan of facadism but if it came down to this or demo (based on a robust cost benefit analysis!) it is one of many options.

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