Monthly Archives: May 2011

More on Proposed Development Adjacent to Hollywood Theatre

At recent meetings with the architect of a proposed new development adjacent to the Hollywood Theatre, concerns were raised by theater operators about the 5-story mixed-use building’s design. Taking a very proactive stance, the theater has proposed an alternative footprint for the new building as a way to meet the needs of the neighborhood, while also preserving views of the Hollywood Theatre’s wonderful facade.

Thanks to Doug Whyte, Executive Director of the Hollywood Theatre, for sharing this information.

Here is the text of the Hollywood Theatre’s response:

“The proposed project by Myhre Group and Creston Homes promises to bring more life to the commercial core of the Hollywood neighborhood. It is a great opportunity to densify a city neighborhood while taking advantage of nearby public transit and local goods and services. This project undertakes to bring an influx of patrons within steps of local businesses, supporting a community that has been a gateway to inner Portland for more than a century. 

At the heart of this business core is the Hollywood Theatre, for which the neighborhood is named. It is one of the last examples of atmospheric theatres left in Oregon, and is an important Portland landmark. The theatre provided an escape for residents from war and depression through both live vaudeville performances as well as early film. It was a focal point for the community, both by providing a venue for community–based events and also as a visual landmark in the landscape of the neighborhood. Today the theatre is becoming that focal point again, for the local neighborhood and Portland as a whole. 

We believe the proposed project could go further in respecting the theatre and its importance to the community. The current proposal does not relate in scale to the theater and will significantly obscure the terra cotta façade, the most widely recognized feature of the theatre, as one travels east on Sandy Blvd.The Hollywood Theatre would like to suggest that a cue be taken from the past; more specifically the Arcade building that once stood on the site of the now vacant lot. 

The building next door to the theatre kept the street edge but at midpoint of the lot turned at an angle to meet the theatre behind the marquee, providing an outdoor vestibule or anteroom to the lobby of the theatre. As seen in the photograph above it was used for events and for people lining up to get into the theatre. The scale of the adjoining building is two story immediately next to the theatre and takes a cue on height from the terra cotta façade. The two story wing, along with the two story retail to the east of the theatre entry, would help to bracket and frame the intricate façade. In addition, access to the courtyard could be maintained with a street level passageway from the Sandy side. The two story wing roof could also be used as a rooftop garden for residents, a unique amenity for rental properties (see diagram below). The new building, done in a light or buff colored brick, would blend in with the theatre and other buildings in its proximity. 

The Hollywood Theatre feels that the proposed building design could be adjusted to emulate this historic approach, deferring to the theatre on its east side and helping to ensure the theatre’s role as a landmark in the neighborhood and the city for years to come.”

Here is an image of their proposed modified design:

In this modified design, note that a portion of the new building could be turned in order to preserve the view of the theater's Sandy Blvd. facade.

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New Building Proposed Adjacent to Hollywood Theatre – UPDATED

1926 Photo of the Hollywood Theatre - from National Register nomination. Note that the Arcade Building, that burned in 1997, was not yet constructed.

In March 1997, a massive 4-alarm fire destroyed the Hollywood Arcade building adjacent to the Hollywood Theatre on Sandy Boulevard. Since that time, the lot where the building once stood has remained vacant, but plans are now underway to construct a new mixed-use building on the site. The project raises an important question:

How do you design a building  adjacent to a historic landmark?

Initial plans seemed to completely abandon any sort of deference to the iconic theater, but are apparently being revised. In any case, the proposed five-story building could impact views of the amazing Hollywood facade.

An initial rendering of the proposed new project. From a presentation recently delivered to the AIA Historic Resources Committee.

Another rendering of initial designs for new building proposed next to Hollywood Theatre.

It’s not that preservationists feel that whatever is built should mimic the architectural style of the theater. In fact, so-called “faux historicism” is just the sort of thing we don’t want. At the same time, building something completely in opposition to the surrounding neighborhood context (the theatre is the centerpiece) is also not a desirable outcome. There must be a balanced design that, to quote the city’s Hollywood and Sandy Plan (2000) respects “the character of the Hollywood Theatre” while also “emphasizing it as a neighborhood focal point.”

Policy 12.3 of the Hollywood and Sandy Plan focuses on historic preservation, specifically calling for the “preservation and enhancement of historic and architecturally significant buildings in the district.” The design guidelines for the area also “require development to respect and build off of the character of existing historic buildings by using similar siding materials and details such as cornices, windows, roof pitches, pilasters, and others.”

Completed in 1926, with a design completed by architects John V. Bennes and Harry Herzog, the Hollywood Theatre is the namesake of the neighborhood. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 because of its architectural significance – including the fact that it is a rare Portland example of a building with polychrome glazed terra cotta. That fact alone makes enhancing the theatre’s façade even more significant.

Detail of Polychrome Terra Cotta on Hollywood Theatre. Don Jacobson photo.

The project is still early in the design phase and hopefully, with enough citizen involvement, and with additional support from the city’s design review staff, the end result will be a much more context sensitive design.

Here is a link to a City announcement about the project – Although the meeting date has passed it includes some initial designs for the new building.

You can also download the entire National Register nomination via the National Park Service website. Follow this link and search for Hollywood Theatre.

If you’re really interested in the design guidelines for the Hollywood area, you can download the Hollywood and Sandy Plan in its entirety here. You can also download the area’s zoning code here.

On May 19, The Oregonian published a story on the new project. Here’s a link to that story. 

And at the meeting hosted by the Hollywood Boosters on 5/19,  the architects showed some slight modifications to the proposed building.  Here’s a link to the latest story – and a photo below showing very slight changes.

May 20, 2011 OregonLive.com photo showing the most recent design


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Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development