Category Archives: Infill Development

Update on Endangered Hawthorne Houses – Public Meeting

Back in August we reported on two endangered historic homes on SE Hawthorne at 27th. Redevelopment at this site is moving forward and now it appears that one of the homes may be saved from deconstruction and moved to a nearby lot.

If you are concerned about these homes or have questions about the development, the Buckman Community Association will be discussing the issue at their monthly board meeting tomorrow evening.

Here are the meeting details:

Location:  Multnomah County Boardroom – 501 SE Hawthorne

Time: 7:00 PM

For more information about the Buckman neighborhood click here.


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Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History

Survey Seeks Your Opinions on Parking and Design of New Apartment Buidings

Amid growing concern over the lack of parking requirements for new apartments being built around town, the Citywide Land Use Group has prepared a survey on the subject and is now seeking public input.  There are only a few days left to fill out the survey, but it is important that city leaders understand how new apartments, however much-needed, are having a major impact on Portland’s traditional neighborhoods. As an example, we will soon be losing two classic homes over on Hawthorne, all in the name of density. Streets like Division and Williams Avenue have also been seriously impacted by new apartment construction.

But this issue is not just about the parking either. Some of the survey questions get at other issues related to design and zoning and how new construction impacts adjacent and nearby neighborhood buildings.

If you are concerned about such issues, please take a few minutes and complete the survey.

The deadline to fill it out is Saturday, November 10th.


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Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Sustainability

Historic Preservationists to Attend Upcoming City Council Meeting

At the Wednesday, March 7th, 9:30AM meeting of the Portland City Council, historic preservationists from around the city are planning to gather in support of reforms to the historic design review process and fee structure. This comes in the wake of recent concerns raised in the Buckman neighborhood (and elsewhere) over the exorbitant fees for even minor exterior changes to a building in a designated historic district.  Preservationists are encouraged to show up and show City Council that these places matter – even if you don’t wish to testify.

There’s more information at this Facebook event site.


Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past, Schools, Sustainability

An Update on the Proposed Buckman National Register Historic District

In the city of Portland there is a dearth of methods by which a neighborhood can work to protect their historic integrity. One of the only options is to seek a historic designation. With this in mind the Buckman Historic Association has been working tirelessly for more than two years to draft a nomination for a portion of the neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places. This movement was in response to several redevelopment projects in Buckman that were whittling away at what was the first suburb in East Portland.

In recent months their work has come under fire, mostly from those concerned about the exorbitant fees charged by the City of Portland for their historic design review.  Such fees could apply whenever a major exterior building alteration is proposed.

In response to various news reports, the BHA has released the following announcement about where things stand with their proposed historic district nomination:

When the effort began to form a historic district in Buckman, we had two main goals.

1. Improve neighborhood pride and cohesiveness
2. Protect our neighborhood’s historic resources and unique character through demolition review and design review.

After much feedback, we find that many residents are opposed to the concept of a historic district, mainly because of current design fees and the design review process. Additionally, we have discovered that demolition review only delays demolition, and does not halt it. We had also hoped it would be possible to develop our own design guidelines for the district. The city, despite having standards that are hard to interpret and, therefore, hard to enforce, does not want any help in developing new design review guidelines.

In the meantime, the Buckman Historic Association has committed to work with other Portland historic districts and historic preservation groups to campaign against the outrageous design review fees. We can’t say how long that might take and our success cannot be guaranteed. However, the historic association and volunteers have put in countless hours towards this project and the nomination is nearly complete. We are on track to have the application ready to hand in on March 1st. We don’t want to see our efforts go to waste, or to have to start over from the beginning at some future point, but we also see that continuing as planned would be harmful to the neighborhood.

A solution has appeared!

We have a chance to preserve our work, while also taking some time to pause, to bring the community together and to address the issues causing in ways we all find agreeable.

Our work can be submitted as a “Determination of Eligibility” (DOE), rather than as a nomination for a historic district. This gets our work on record but does not have the restrictions of a historic district. In the meantime, the state, and possibly the landmarks commission, would review and evaluate the DOE. No regulations would be imposed by the city. No design reviews. No demolition reviews. No new fees. If approved as a DOE, it would not become a full nomination until we initiated that process, which would involve outreach and the same review timeline as a historic district.

The Buckman Historic Association and neighbors opposing the historic district have joined together to share our views and to work towards finding solutions. Over the next few months, we’ll send out information, announcements and updates as we talk to our local politicians and plan gatherings, workshops and events. And as we head towards elections, the Buckman Neighborhood Association and other organizations around the city will host candidate forums and we encourage you to attend and participate.

As homeowners and renters, we all care about our community and are invested in seeing that Buckman is livable, safe and vibrant. Our neighborhood may not have the big houses and broad lawns of some of the other historic neighborhoods, but, as Portland’s first suburb, Buckman has a diversity, history, proximity and character that, very likely, drew you here, too.

It’s a shame that the BHA effort faces opposition to what is the only current  solution for protecting this historic Portland neighborhood – a solution suggested by the City to the BHA. We should also recognize that buildings and neighborhoods don’t have to be opulent expressions of the gilded age in order to be historic. In fact, the city we live in and love was mostly built on the backs of those who lived in neighborhoods such as Buckman, Eliot, and Brooklyn. It’s time such neighborhoods received proper recognition.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History

A Few Northwest Portland Preservation Tidbits

In case you’re unaware, the historic Portland Custom House in NW Portland is up for auction once again. Most recently the building has been used as a police station in the TV series Grimm. With three days left in the online auction, the latest bid is $1,720,000.  Let’s hope that we finally see this wonderful landmark put to a more permanent re-use.

Also in NW Portland, plans are well under way for a major redevelopment at the Con-Way site. It sounds like they are still ironing out some of the details, but perhaps new development on the site will take some pressure off of other parts of Northwest Portland, where infill and redevelopment projects continue to impact historic neighborhood fabric.

On that note, a couple of projects will soon change a bit of NW Flanders. On one side of the street (2125 NW Flanders) plans are moving forward to lift a house up and install a driveway and a tuck under garage. Meanwhile, across the street a house is likely to soon be replaced with a small apartment complex. This project has been on the table for some time and the current proposal is much more compatible with neighborhood scale. Too bad however that the existing home will likely be demolished.

Perhaps they could move the existing house to the aforementioned Con-Way site? 

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development

2011 in Review – and in Rhyme

A long time ago the Galaxy Restaurant – not far away
Was slated for demolition, but remains empty to this day

Soon the Hollywood Theatre will have a new building adjacent
But is the building’s design compatible or complacent?

For now Storrs’ paraboloid remains hyperbolic
As Columbia River Crossing talks have become vitriolic

Lovers of old architecture are still stymied by demolition and deconstruction
Is it worth losing our history for a small tax deduction?

The sad loss in Richmond of a home known as Waverly
Means a new private park that doesn’t seem very neighborly

In Vista Brook and Oak Hills people swoon over Rummer
To diminish these neighborhoods would really be a bummer.

And as Buckman pursues their historic district
Design review fees have some neighbors ticked

On the South Waterfront there’s a vacant garage for the old Greyhound fleet
To see this building saved would certainly be a treat

The new Claybourne Commons will have an impact in Moreland
But the loss of The Woods is more than some can stand.

A surplus old library could see a new civic use
A shining star on the horizon in a neighborhood that’s withstood much abuse

Historic preservation myths abound about NIMBYs and Obstructionists
We’re really just lovers of the past not phony historicists

And what of the oldest buildings in our city so fair?
Hallock-McMillan and others – it’s great to know that people really do care

And oh yes, the Portland Plan is still on the table
With your help we’ll keep Preservation there – For as long as we are able

The Bosco-Milligan Foundation – Architectural Heritage Center

Wishes you a Happy New Year!

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past

What’s Going on at “The Woods”?

As we reported here at Portland Preservation back in August, the owners of most of the block adjacent to The Woods music venue at 6637  SE Milwaukie Avenue, have plans for a major redevelopment that includes 21 lots and the demolition of  the existing homes at 1606 SE Claybourne and 1605 SE Glenwood.

You can download the Bureau of Development Services’ staff report on the proposed project here:

While the initial redevelopment proposal outlined in the staff report did not meet BDS approval, according to it appears that in October the project was given the go-ahead.

Now comes word that The Woods may be closing in January, unable to afford a proposed rent increase. As it just so happens, the owners of The Woods property are the same as those proposing to redevelop the adjacent block, Claybourne Commons, LLC. While it seems that the future of The Woods building may be in question, back in August, their redevelopment proposal noted that The Woods building would be saved and only houses would be demolished. This may be good news. While it is too bad to lose the houses that are perfectly habitable, it would be a huge loss for the Moreland area to lose The Woods building, a former funeral home built in 1928. While the building is a neighborhood landmark, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore has little protection against demolition if such action is ever proposed. Let’s all hope they don’t change their minds and decide to demolish The Woods building too.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History

Public Comments on the DRAFT Portland Plan Due by December 28th – Where’s Historic Preservation?

Written public comments for the draft Portland Plan must be submitted by December 28th. Bosco-Milligan Foundation executive director Cathy Galbraith presented testimony at a recent public hearing on the Portland Plan, expressing concern that nowhere in the document is the term historic preservation even mentioned.  In fact, there is only one reference to “historic resources” to be found in the draft document – a big disappointment to those who have worked tirelessly over the past few years to keep the conversation about historic preservation moving forward.

In addition to concerns over the lack of mentioning historic preservation, here are some other excerpts from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation’s comments about the Portland Plan draft. Please consider sending your own comments to the city before the 12/28 deadline.

Entirely absent from the Plan is any acknowledgement of the existing Historic Resources Inventory

The issue of “community character” in the traditional neighborhoods is a concern that was raised time and time again in the earlier Portland Plan workshops. The omission of this concern throughout most of the Plan is an oversight that needs to be addressed now.

The Plan’s segment on Complete Neighborhoods cites (page 101) the need to “increase housing in areas with services” while ignoring the earlier description that these areas are primarily built out. 

We do want Portland to at long last be a leader in social sustainability (page 10) – as important as and equal to environmental sustainability that has been the focus of much of the city’s efforts. Avoiding displacement and understanding and preserving historic and cultural connections should be an overriding goal of any equity agenda. The once-celebrated Albina Community Plan (1993) led to the start of displacement in N/NE; it was well-intentioned, but has long been described as “aspirational.” What’s relevant for the Portland Plan is that many of the lofty “action steps” that have gone unfulfilled in the Albina Community Plan read much like those in the proposed Portland Plan.

The Plan includes a city role in “helping to catalyze complementary local development” (page 25) for expansion of PCC Cascade, and “Develop new land use investment approaches to support the growth & neighborhood compatibility of college and hospital campuses in the comprehensive plan update” (page 47.)  Our concern is the expansion through demolition and displacement that has been typically practiced by these institutions. A more important first step should be the public deliberation and adoption of institutional “master plans”, before it’s presumed that college and hospital campus expansions will be undertaken without detriment to the surrounding neighborhoods.

The historic preservation community, property owners in Portland’s Historic Districts, and developers are now assertively raising the issue of the city’s unreasonably high historic design review fees, in particular; the $3,000+ application fee for individual landmark designation has already proven to be a disincentive for designation, with a total of two such applications in the past nine years. Portland’s historic design review (and landmarks designation) fees are higher than all other Oregon jurisdictions and higher than for any comparably sized municipality throughout the U.S.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Modernism + The Recent Past, Schools, Sustainability

Threatened with Demolition: Portland’s Old Waverly Children’s Home

Architect's rendering of the new Waverly Baby Home from the November 22, 1931 Oregonian.

Last week we mentioned that the old Waverly Children’s Home (3550 SE Woodward) was slated for demolition, as plans are in the works for a new development on the site.

On Monday evening, August 8th at 7PM, the Richmond Neighborhood Association will be hearing more from the developer about his plans for 18 new home sites. If you are concerned about this development, I encourage you to attend this meeting and learn more.

The Richmond Neighborhood Association meets at the Waverly Heights Church, 3300 SE Woodward.

This recent article in the Portland Business Journal, provides some insight into the project.  In the article I was surprised to read that apparently it’s a bad thing that Portland’s walkable neighborhoods are filled with older homes. Aren’t older homes one of the big reasons that our older neighborhoods retain their interest and charm? Sure they need to be maintained, but so will any new construction – eventually. And most likely anything built today will not last nearly as long as the 80 year old Waverly Children’s Home main building.

I’m surprised that the developer has not considered the possibility of listing the home in the National Register of Historic Places. While a listing in the National Register is not guaranteed, the building today still retains much of its historic integrity and my guess is that it is certainly still eligible for listing. Such a listing might make a redevelopment project involving reuse of the building eligible for significant tax credits. That could go a long way toward the cost of upgrading and restoration work. It is possible that such a scenario would also still leave plenty of room for several new homes to be constructed.  Such an action would meet zoning code – negating fears of any conditional use controversies, it would add housing density, some new construction to appease those that simply must have new, and would preserve an important historic southeast Portland landmark.

The wife of Oregon Governor Julius Meier laying the cornerstone for the newly opened Waverly Baby Home. Image from the Oregonian, November 29, 1931.

We decided to crunch some numbers on the historic building, to show the impact of such a demolition. Using the embodied energy calculator, found on, we estimate that the amount of energy it will require to demolish the existing structure and build 18 new homes, will be equivalent to the energy in 837,285 gallons of gasoline. This number accounts for the embodied energy in the existing building, the energy it takes to demolish and the energy it takes to building the new homes. Even with generous recycling of the existing building, there would still be a significant amount of energy used in demolition – energy that could be saved and applied toward renovation instead.

Let’s all hope and work toward a better solution to the future of this historic building.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Sustainability

Several Demolitions Planned in Southeast Portland

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 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?


Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Sustainability