Category Archives: 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

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

Latest News on the Old Waverly Baby Home

As Portland Preservation reported last month, plans are underway to redevelop  the old Waverly Baby Home at 3550 SE Woodward in Portland. Although not designated as historic by the City of Portland or any other entity, this building has major historical  significance, and not just because the main building is of a fine architectural quality. Perhaps more importantly, this building has a lengthy social history as a home for orphans and other children. So it is sad to report that demolition plans for the site are moving forward.

Earlier in the week we learned that the current owners of the property (Trillium Family Services) have applied for a demolition permit for the building. The building is listed on the City’s Historic Resource Inventory (HRI) with a rank of II, so we thought that there would at least be a demolition delay, but alas no such luck. Apparently Trillium has asked to have the building removed from the HRI, and according to City regulations, that is all they have to do – ask. Once the removal from the HRI is processed, the demolition will likely be allowed to proceed without delay.

Regardless of what you think about the plans for the new development on the Waverly Baby Home, doesn’t this seem like a wasted opportunity? Couldn’t they have come up with a plan that was far more creative and neighborhood friendly, as well as sensitive to the historical significance of the site? Shouldn’t there be some sort of mechanism in place to prevent such needless demolitions from occurring? And how sustainable is it to demolish a rather massive brick building to replace it piecemeal with single family residences? It could take years for the new development to fill out, in the meantime we will have lost another small chapter of our past.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Local History, 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

Breaking News: City to Host Portland Plan 2035 Meetings Focused on Historic Preservation

This news is fresh off the press. Mark your calendars now for these important meetings in May and June specifically addressing historic preservation and Portland’s efforts to plan for how the city may look in 2035.

Historic Preservation and The 2035 Portland Plan 

The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has now scheduled the Historic Preservation-specific sessions we have all been waiting for. After many months of discussion and many Portland Plan meetings on an array of other subjects, please mark your calendars and plan to attend two VERY important symposia on Historic Resources.

#1 FRIDAY, May 20th, 9:00AM – 12:00 Noon
1900 SW 4th Avenue (City of Portland Development Services building))

#2 FRIDAY, June 17th, 9:00AM – 11:30AM
1900 SW 4th Avenue (same location)

The intent of session #1 is to identify historic preservation policy issues, from the views of important stakeholders including the Landmarks Commission, property owners and developers, preservation advocates, and others.

Session #2 will present the findings from the first session, with the objective of arriving at Historic Preservation Policy documents for inclusion in the Portland Plan.

This is our opportunity to define the future of historic preservation in Portland.

Bosco-Milligan Foundation executive Director Cathy Galbraith will be participating in these important meetings. We hope to see many more preservation advocates there so your voices can be heard.

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

On Old Buildings, Demolition, Deconstruction, and Reuse

In her seminal work The Life and Death of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs argued “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation – although these make fine ingredients – but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.”

Most people would probably agree with Jacobs, at least to some extent, yet we continue to lose old buildings daily in Portland.  While undoubtedly some areas of town are able to absorb some such losses others are extremely fragile and have already perhaps lost too much. In these areas do we just let them go or should we work to ensure their continued existence?

It is with this in mind that this recent article in the Daily Journal of Commerce, about building deconstruction in place of demolition, caught our attention. This is likely a touchy subject so we’ll preface things by stating that building deconstruction and salvage is certainly preferred over demolition. We greatly appreciate the work carried out by area deconstruction and salvage organizations. But at some point however, an elephant enters the room that must be given attention: Why deconstruct (or demolish) in the first place?

Former apartment buildings at NE 6th and Couch. These buildings are now in the advanced stages of deconstruction, to be replaced by a half block mixed-use building

In the above mentioned DJC article, a local contractor estimates the cost of deconstruction at five times the cost of demolition. If this is indeed the case and the developer really does wish to reduce the environmental impact of the project, couldn’t they have taken the money set aside for deconstruction and applied it to a renovation of the existing buildings? It is noted in the article how fantastic and of high quality many of the building materials are from the two apartment buildings being deconstructed at NE 6th and Couch. If that’s true and there is a presumably a significant pot of money available for deconstruction purposes, couldn’t those two elements have contributed to a creative and interesting new development that integrated the existing buildings with new construction, preserving building materials and energy on the one hand, and a little bit of the old neighborhood on the other?

Preservation economist Donovan Rypkema has long asked “Why invest money to tear down and reconstruct what’s already there? Historic buildings by and large have water lines, gutters, and streets already in place. Older ones, designed before cars were the dominant mode of transportation, instill surroundings with strong pedestrian orientations. If our future is aimed at reducing our reliance on automobiles, using buildings planned for human access is the smart place to start.”

Rypkema has argued that “Razing historic buildings results in a triple hit on scarce resources. First, we are throwing away thousands of dollars of embodied energy. Second, we are replacing it with materials vastly more consumptive of energy. What are most historic houses built from? Brick, plaster, concrete and timber. What are among the least energy consumptive of materials? Brick, plaster, concrete and timber. What are major components of new buildings? Plastic, steel, vinyl and aluminum. What are among the most energy consumptive of materials? Plastic, steel, vinyl and aluminum. Third, recurring embodied energy savings increase dramatically as a building life stretches over fifty years.” 

In another recent DJC article about the Multnomah County Courthouse in downtown Portland, County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury is quoted as saying “If you have a building, why not renovate it?” While the commissioner was specifically talking about the courthouse, she makes a very valid point.

Why not?

Postcard of the Multnomah County Courthouse from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation Collections

As we’ve already stated, such work conserves energy and materials, but it also preserves something else less tangible – that sense of place that makes Portland interesting and special. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about our city less in terms of what we can construct that’s new, justifying such work through our admirable recycling and deconstruction efforts, and instead begin to move toward a truly more sustainable model in which we reuse what we already have – not just materials but places too.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Sustainability

City Approves Design for East Burnside Re-Development and Demolition of the Galaxy Restaurant

It came as no surprise that the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services staff approved designs for the proposed Trio Club on East Burnside. As we reported previously, the project will mean the demolition of the Galaxy Restaurant Building – the 1963 Googie-styled Chinese restaurant, that was home to Portland’s first Denny’s. It’s unfortunate that the developer and the City could not propose something that preserved the existing building – something more compatible to the nearby Jupiter Hotel, or at least they could have included some housing in the new design. It also shows that there are flaws in the design review system.

With projects of this size ($1,865.600 or less according to the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability), so-called “Type II Design Review” is hardly more than a single staff person from the Bureau of Development Services, reviewing the project and typically approving it (perhaps with some minor changes). This essentially means that the same person who has worked with the developer throughout the application/review process, is the  same person to sign-off on the “design review.”  It calls into question whether this is really a legitimate review; is the BDS staff person really going to say “no” to a developer after having already guided them through the process? It seems there should be some sort of real review by others, even on small dollar projects.

Another issue with this particular proposal is the lack of consideration given to including housing in the new design. One would think that this location is just the sort of place where the City, County, and Metro would like to see more housing density. Adding it in a location such as 9th and East Burnside, would take some pressure off of nearby single family residential neighborhoods – including some of the east side’s oldest neighborhoods that currently have no protections against redevelopment.

The Galaxy demolition/Trio redevelopment, provides yet another example of Portland’s inability to halt needless demolitions of functional buildings – whether historic or not. Once again the City of Portland has hidden behind their veil of  “no designation – no protection.” While we should expect that “designated” buildings have some level of protection, we should also acknowledge that not every building in the city is worthy of historic designation. In the 21st century, with dwindling natural resources and the ongoing environmental impacts of building material waste, isn’t there a way we can prevent needless demolition that doesn’t throw historic preservationists under the bus?


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

Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center’s Position on the Proposed Galaxy Restaurant Redevelopment

With the deadline for comments fast approaching (1/18), the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center submitted a letter to the City of Portland regarding the proposed project, noting how the proposal does not meet several aspects of the Central City and Central Eastside Design Guidelines. We thought it would be good to share this letter with the public in order to draw attention to not only this proposal, but also to show how complicated it can be to argue for or against such projects. Below is the text of the letter:

January 14, 2011

To: City of Portland Land Use Services

From: Val Ballestrem, Education Manager, Bosco-Milligan Foundation

Re: LU 10-160377 DZ909 E. Burnside

Project: Proposed Trio Club Development/Galaxy Restaurant Demolition

The Bosco Milligan Foundation opposes the redevelopment of the Galaxy Restaurant. As currently proposed, the project would not meet several criteria of the Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines (CCFDG) and the policies of the Central Eastside Design Guidelines (CEDG). We request that the proposal be denied until the design is more appropriately in compliance with the applicable design guidelines for the Central City and Central Eastside.

CCFDG Goal 2 aims to “Integrate urban design and preservation of our heritage into the development process.” The project as proposed would demolish an existing building with considerable modern heritage. Although not a designated historic landmark, the Galaxy building and its sign provide a significant Portland example of mid-20th century Googie or Space-Age type architecture. The preservation of such architecture is rapidly becoming an issue in Portland and throughout the U.S., as exemplified locally by the debate over the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 2009-2010. The renovation of the existing building and signage would better meet or exceed Goal 2 outlined above and would be compatible with the nearby renovated Jupiter Hotel, which was built the same year as the Galaxy building, and is similarly reflective of mid-20th century architectural optimism.

CCFDG Goal 4 is to “Promote the development of diversity and areas of special character within the Central City.” The project does not meet this goal as the demolition of the existing building and signage will actually remove the “special character” which is the unique existing design and replace it with something that is neither unique nor special.

CCFDG Guideline A2 supports projects that emphasize themes “unique to Portland’s culture.” The project as proposed does not emphasize Portland culture. One of Portland’s most embedded cultural tenets is that of sustainability, achieved through the reduction in consumption of energy and resources, and the reuse of resources, such as existing buildings. One way the project developer could meet this guideline is to rehabilitate the existing building. Such an effort would emphasize Portland’s unique culture, as exemplified by the success of the nearby Jupiter Hotel, the ongoing reuse of other commercial buildings along East Burnside, and the general interest in the Portland area in preserving other iconic if not designated historic landmarks like the neon signs of Interstate Avenue and other mid-20th century architecture such as the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

CCFDG Guideline A5 states “Areas of the Central City are enhanced, embellished, and/or identified through the integration of distinct landmarks.” The project as proposed does not meet this guideline. The demolition of the existing Galaxy restaurant building and signage means the removal of a “distinct landmark” in this neighborhood. The Galaxy building and sign are iconic, rare and intact Portland examples of Space-Age or Googie style architecture. The renovation of the existing building and sign would enhance the neighborhood as already exemplified by the renovation of the nearby Jupiter Hotel. Renovation of the existing building and sign would enhance both the existing property and the surrounding neighborhood. Demolishing the existing building and sign and construction of the Trio Club, based on its current design, would detract from the district; it would isolate the distinctive Jupiter Hotel, and diminish the modernist and visually interesting intersection that exists at East Burnside and 9th Avenue.

CCFDG Guideline A6 focuses on the reuse, rehabilitation, or restoration of buildings. The proposal to demolish the existing Galaxy building and signage ignores this guideline altogether. As noted in the guideline, financial incentives are available for the rehabilitation of older buildings. We encourage the project developer to investigate such incentives further. The demolition of the existing building is also a tremendous waste of resources and energy. The amount of energy and resources consumed and wasted to demolish, and then dispose of the existing building materials – even if materials are recycled – would be greatly reduced through a building rehabilitation.

CCFDG Guideline C4 “Complement the context of existing buildings by using and adding to the local design vocabulary.” The project proposal does not meet this guideline, because the demolition of the existing building and signage will detract, by removal, rather than complement the nearby design vocabulary. The existing Galaxy building is highly complementary of the Jupiter Hotel. The building design for the Trio Club only seems to mimic the massing and scale of the building across 9th avenue at 835 E. Burnside. Guideline C4 calls for complementary building design, not just the mimicry of other nearby buildings. If the existing building were rehabilitated – maintaining its complementary design to the nearby Jupiter Hotel – the project would meet and exceed guideline C4. It is possible, and we suggest, that if the developer feels a larger building is necessary, a complementary addition to the existing Galaxy building would better meet this design guideline than the demolition and new construction as proposed.

CEDG policies support the design guidelines of the CCFDG. They also support mixed use development that includes housing. The Trio Club project as proposed, does not meet this policy objective, because it simply replaces a one story strictly commercial use building with another. This policy would be better met if the project developer included a mixed-use component – with housing – in the design. Such a project would also be more in line with Portland’s comprehensive plan goals of adding density where possible. In addition, the project proposal does not preserve the significant architecture of the Galaxy building or its signage and therefore it does not meet another of the CEDG policies.

The Galaxy building and its signage present a meaningful and feasible opportunity for rehabilitation with a possible complementary building expansion that would better meet and exceed the Central City and Central Eastside design guidelines, goals, and objectives. The Bosco-Milligan Foundation is supportive of such a project. The current proposal for the Trio Club does not meet these guidelines and the project should be denied at this time.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Modernism + The Recent Past, Sustainability

Is Portland’s First Denny’s Worthy of Preservation?

Burnside Elevation of Proposed new restaurant to replace the Galaxy. Image from BDS Public Notice for the project.

According to the Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS), the owners of the Galaxy Restaurant at 909 E. Burnside plan to demolish the exiting building and replace it with another single story restaurant. This raises a couple of interesting questions.

The Galaxy Restaurant - 909 E Burnside - Home of Portland's First Denny's Restaurant. Image from

First of all, unless there are irreversible structural issues, why demolish a building only to replace it with something that will serve the same essential purpose and will do nothing to add housing density or other social benefits to the community? Such a demolition is a waste of resources and energy. Even if a large portion of the building is “recycled” that doesn’t take into account that those materials will need to be re-manufactured in some way in order to be useful again – meaning the consumption of additional energy on top of what it will take to tear the place down. And even with best practices a large amount of demolition waste would also still be generated. Then of course, you have all of the new building materials, which would require even more energy and resource consumption…

Secondly, is something like Portland’s first Dennys even worthy of preservation? After a little research, it appears that this location was indeed Portland’s first Denny’s Restaurant, opening in June 1963. It was used to promote franchise possibilities for the Denny’s chain, and was modeled after the prototype Denny’s Restaurants founded in Southern California a decade earlier. The “check mark” design is one of those trademark patterns from the era of “Googie” architecture – something that we don’t have a lot of (remaining and intact) here in Portland. Not far away at NE Grand and Hassalo, is another early Portland Denny’s. If Oregonian employment ads are correct, that location seems to have opened within a year after the Burnside location.

Denny's Grand Opening Advertisement from The Oregonian, June 8, 1963

So what do you think? Is Portland’s first Denny’s worthy of preservation?

Let’s start the new year with a healthy discussion on this topic.

Happy New Year!


Filed under Historic Preservation, Modernism + The Recent Past, Sustainability