We hear fairly frequently about buildings being demolished around the city because they have no protections against such action. Indeed this is the case for most properties that do not have some sort of historic designation – like a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Earlier in the summer it seemed there was a lull around Portland in the demolition world, but my how quickly things change. In just the past few days we have learned of several major demolitions that will affect southeast Portland neighborhoods.
1. Waverly Commons – 3550 SE Woodward
The former Waverly Baby Home fills most of an entire block, from SE 35th to SE 36th Avenue, between Woodward and Brooklyn Streets. While the original building has been added on to over the years, the original 1931 building retains both historic and architectural significance. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Sutton & Whitney, perhaps best known for the Weatherly Building on SE Grand Avenue at Morrison. Sutton & Whitney also designed the Hollywood Arcade building next door to the Hollywood Theatre, and sadly, lost to a fire in 1997.
Plans are now in place to redevelop the entire property on which the old Waverly Baby Home stands. In its place are to be 18 lots for new residential construction. Such a redevelopment is supported by the zoning, so there is little that can be done to save the old building. Apparently the possibility of using the original structure as part of the new development was too daunting for the developer, although they claim that almost all of the old building materials will be re-used in some capacity. While such a re-use is environmentally sensitive, still it is not to be confused with historic preservation. There is more information about the proposed new development here.
The Waverly Baby Home is listed in Portland’s Historic Resources Inventory with a ranking of 2, noting its architectural and humanities-based significance. Unfortunately, all such a ranking does is to create a demolition delay for the building – it will not keep the demolition from occurring. Perhaps there is still a way to convince the developers to keep at least the old structure and use it as a centerpiece for the larger project?
2. 1606 SE Claybourne St.
Located just west of Milwaukie Avenue in the Moreland area, two older homes are slated to be demolished for a new development – the Claybourne Commons. 21 lots are proposed for this site, located just behind The Woods music venue, in a mix of residential and commercial development. It’s too bad that the developers couldn’t save at least one of the homes, integrating it into the new development as has been done recently with a project on SE Division.
3. 626 and 700 SE Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard (39th Avenue)
It is not known what is in store for these lots, between Stark and Belmont, along one of Southeast Portland’s main arterial streets, but we’ve been told that the two houses (dating to the early 1900s) on site are fenced off. Looking at PortlandMaps.com revealed that demolition permits have been applied for. It is fairly typical in Portland that the public receives no notice of demolition for properties unless they have some sort of protection. Interestingly, in the case of these two old homes, there are currently demolition delays in place. This is unusual since they have no formal designation, but is likely because the property owner has no immediate plans to replace the homes with new development. Portland has a policy of no net housing loss, and the demolition delay is one tool used to prevent needless demolition. Unfortunately, such a policy is ultimately toothless. Wouldn’t it be great is someone found a new home for these two vintage Portland houses?