Support the Revitalize Main Street Act!

AHC members are encouraged to share their voice and their feet in regard to an important bill coming up for consideration in the state Senate Finance Committee – the Revitalize Main Street Act (SB 565). This bill would create an Historic Rehabilitation Fund for repair and renovation of commercial buildings all around the state, and in turn stimulate economic development and cultural sustainability.

Introduced by Restore Oregon, the bill would provide a 25% rebate for work on historic buildings which is certified to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The fund will be capped at $12,000,000 per year. The Senate Finance Committee is likely to make a decision on March 4 at an 8:30 am meeting in the State Capitol Hearing Room A, 900 Court St NE, Salem, 97301.

The immediate goal is to get the bill passed out of the Senate Finance Committee so that it can proceed to the next legislative steps. Please support Restore Oregon’s efforts by sending emails to your state legislators asking them to contact their Finance Committee colleagues and ask them to vote yes on this important measure, and attend the hearing and voice your support.

Buildings + history make the start of a wonderful equation equaling the saving of the past for the present and future. However, an additional factor is needed to make the preservation equation possible — dollars and cents. This bill is a very important part of preserving and maintaining the tangible brick and wood and mortar and stone that allow us to actually touch the past. Please voice your support and continue to follow the process of the bill.

You can find more information here:

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Irvington Historic District Boundaries Challenged

The Oregon State Historic Preservation Office has received a completed application by a group of Irvington Historic District property owners seeking to reduce the district boundaries. The application proposes the removal of all or part of 27 blocks in an area bounded by Fremont on the north, Knott Street on the south, 21st Avenue on the west, and the existing boundary near 27th Avenue to the east. The district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in November, 2010.

The Irvington Community Association (ICA), which sponsored the original historic district nomination, has engaged Kirk Ranzetta, the professional historian who prepared that nomination, to assist in developing the case against the boundary change. The ICA intends to oppose this change with all the resources at its disposal.

In its partnership role with the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources, the AHC will be considering responses to the proposal, which is extremely detrimental to the principles establishing historic districts, and could set damaging precedents for districts around the nation. The Architectural Heritage Center is opposed to this proposed change in the district boundaries.

The State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation will consider this application on Friday, February 20, 2015, at which time testimony will be taken from parties concerned with this case. The complete application and re-nomination that would effect this change can be downloaded here. For distribution to the SACHP prior to their meeting, send public comments to Ian Johnson at the State Historic Preservation Office by January 19:, or Ian Johnson, Oregon Heritage, Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept., 725 Summer St NE, Ste C, Salem OR 97301. Comments sent in later can be distributed to the SACHP at their February 19-20 meeting.


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Portland City Council Hearing Regarding Building Demolition Code

Architectural Heritage Center president Fred Leeson was one of more than 20 people to testify at last week’s Portland City Council hearing regarding amendments to the Building Demolition Code. As not everyone was able to speak, the hearing has been continued to February 12, 2015 at 2 pm. In the meantime, you can read Fred’s testimony below.

On February 12th, the only people who can testify are those who had already signed up for the December hearing and could not be heard. You can write a letter or email and send to the Mayor and City Council and we encourage you to do so.

Here is Fred’s  December 17th testimony to the Portland City Council:

I am Fred Leeson, board president of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation and its Architectural Heritage Center.  We have been an active member of the Portland Coalition for Historic Preservation and provided a venue for many of its meetings.

One of our primary concerns entering this process was a definition of demolition.  Many cities, including Ashland, Oregon, Berkeley and Pasadena, California and Amherst. Massachusetts, define it as a loss of a specified percent of roof structure or exterior walls – commonly 50 to 60 percent.  We regret that DRAC chose NOT to accept this kind of definition as recommended by the Landmarks Commission.

The idea of a 50% or 60% rule was to encompass “virtual demolitions” that left little or nothing standing of the original house.  These will now be captured by the “Major Remodel” category, a new category included in this package.  At first, it seems to be a distinction without a difference, since the same 35 delay would apply to a demolition as well as to a major remodel.

So why is the major remodel in there?  I suspect there is some sort of “gamesmanship” involved that we will discover over time.  If the council eventually adopts a 120-day demolition delay, as we hope the council will, the potential for fudging becomes apparent. Leaving a chimney or a single door standing would be a “major remodel” rather than a demolition.  The loophole would be almost big enough to drive a bulldozer through.   I think there are grounds for skepticism whenever any particular industry writes its own regulations.

We hope that BDS will publish permit information on line so that we can track demolition and major remodels in coming months.  Tracking those statistics will help us determine how effective the changes have been and help us monitor the application of the major remodel category.

Not every house should be saved.  But when the exceptions come along, we need tools to allow opportunities to protect them.  Once they are gone…they are gone… along with the adverse impacts on sustainability, moderate-income housing, neighborhood compatibility and sense of place.

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Laurelhurst Booklets Shed Light on Early Days of Neighborhood

c.1912 map of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

c.1912 map of the Laurelhurst neighborhood and surroundings. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

With October being Archives month, plus with all the interest in Laurelhurst these days (most notably the Markham House on NE 32nd and Glisan), we thought we’d share a couple of Laurelhurst real estate booklets from the Architectural Heritage Center library.

The first, entitled Laurelhurst – The Addition with Character is from c.1912.

c.1912 image of the F. F. Meade residence. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

c.1912 image of the F. F. Meade residence. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

You can download a FREE copy of the 1912 booklet here!

The second booklet Laurelhurst and Its Park is a reprint from a booklet that dates to 1916.

Several Laurelhurst homes from the booklet Laurehurst and Its Park c.1916. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

Several Laurelhurst homes from the booklet Laurehurst and Its Park c.1916. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

You can download a FREE copy of the re-printed 1916 booklet here!

As we noted, October is Archives month. We hope you’ll support your local archives and check out the Oregon Archives Crawl this Saturday, October 18th. The Architectural Heritage Center will have a table at the Oregon Historical Society. We hope you’ll come see us!

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United Neighborhoods and PCHR Petition City Council

The United Neighborhoods for Reform and the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources have posted a petition on in regard to developing approaches for solving the demolition problem. Directed at the Portland City Council and the Development Review Advisory Committee, the petition’s six points are sound, practical, and potentially effective in tilting the balance away from neighborhood frustration over not having time to respond to proposed demolitions.

Please consider making your voice heard by signing the petition, and feel free to circulate the link.

You can find the petition here:

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City Council Gets an Earful on Demolition Issue

To follow up on our posts from the past week, yesterday, the Portland City Council accepted the report from the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission, that included several recommendations, including those aimed at the demolition of single family homes in the city. Hopefully now the City will begin to take a hard look and perhaps even some immediate action to address concerns expressed by residents from around Portland. The three members of Council that were present (Commissioners Fish and Saltzman were absent) heard testimony from residents of several Portland neighborhoods, including Eastmoreland and Concordia as well as members from the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources, a group of local preservationists that includes representatives from several historic Portland neighborhoods as well as from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center, Restore Oregon, and the Portland AIA chapter’s Historic Resources Committee. The President and Executive Director of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center, Fred Leeson and Cathy Galbraith, reiterated neighborhood concerns and recommendations for possible action, such as creating an actual definition for what is or what is not considered a demolition.

Here is the testimony presented by BMF/AHC President Fred Leeson. It includes some valuable arguments as we continue to raise awareness of the demolition crisis in Portland:

I applaud the Landmarks Commission for its thoughtful and perceptive report.  All its recommendations deserve positive action.

But I want to concentrate on the demolition syndrome, which is chewing its way through our most livable and affordable neighborhoods.  When we talk about livable neighborhoods – that means walkability, sense of place and affordable housing —  we are describing Portland’s wonderful streetcar-era neighborhoods mostly built in the nineteen – teens and 1920s.  Developers are now plundering these neighborhoods for three famous real estate reasons: location, location, location. 

Why do people care so much about these grand old neighborhoods?  A bunch of reasons.  From your perspective, first should be affordable housing.  Those of you who have tried to promote low- or moderate-income housing know how difficult it is to achieve.  So how can we sit idly by while what moderate-income housing we already HAVE is being torn down, one house at a time? 

What we are losing are houses built with old-growth wood and some of the best building materials known to man…and we’re shipping them to the landfill.  For the environment and the carbon footprint, we should be rehabbing and retrofitting instead of demolishing.  The “greenest” building is the one that’s already built.  If density is your concern, accessory dwelling units are a better answer than McMansions. 

Let’s not overlook sense of place.  When you say you grew up in St. Johns or Sellwood or Laurelhurst or Rose City Park, you know what that means even if you don’t have an architectural vocabulary.  It’s about building size and setbacks and yards and neighborhood feel…the things that make each neighborhood great in its own way, and all adding up to the livable city we already love and enjoy. 

One of the scrape-and-build developers had an advertisement recently that claimed he was saving the environment one house at a time.  There is hardly a bigger lie.  In fact, he’s doing irreparable harm, one house at a time. 

There are solutions for you to consider.  Others will speak to them.  I know your hearts are in the right place.  Let’s put our heads together and do the right thing.  Thank you.

Fred Leeson, Jim Heuer, and Cathy Galbraith testifyiing to City Council on the demolition issue.

Fred Leeson, Jim Heuer, and Cathy Galbraith testifying to City Council on the demolition issue.

The council meeting was covered in the local media.

The Oregonian has scheduled an online chat for Monday, 8/4 at 1pm  – where you can “Ask an Infill Developer” about demolitions. The Architectural Heritage Center has been asked to participate in this conversation.

The latest issue of the Southeast Examiner also has a great article on demolitions and the environmental impacts.

We thank you for your continued support as we work to put an end to the “demolition syndrome” in Portland. We will continue to post more information on this subject as it becomes available.



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Coalition for Historic Resources’ Recommendations for Addressing Demolition Issue

To update our post from last week, last Thursday, members of the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources met at the Architectural Heritage Center to develop a three-pronged approach to addressing the demolition issue in Portland. This Thursday, they will propose the following emergency measures to the Portland City Council.

  1. Close loopholes by defining “demolition” as the removal of 50% or more of an existing building.
  2. Require all residential demolitions to adhere to minimum delay and notification requirements.
  3. Establish a task force to identify additional building and zoning code improvements that would ensure demolitions are appropriately managed and that replacement construction responds to neighborhood characteristics.

We hope those of you concerned about demolitions in Portland can attend the meeting this Thursday, July 31st at 2:00pm, at City Hall. There is strength in numbers and this is a opportunity to show the council that the current demolition epidemic must be addressed in a meaningful way.

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