Is the New Portland Building Still the Portland Building?
“If you cover the character-defining features, how is that historic preservation?” said Kate Kearney, president of the Oregon chapter of Docomomo, an organization that advocates for the preservation of modern architecture. “Personally, I don’t think that holds up. I just find it very odd that these high examples of an architecture movement are really being altered or completely erased from our architectural heritage.”
When asked whether there was any explicit requirement that the listing itself be maintained,1 auditor Tenzin Gonta, who works under Caballero, cited project records “that reference historic integrity being part of scope. Each references the listing on the National Register as background about the building but not maintenance of that status as a specific goal.”
So is historic integrity (broadly defined) the city’s mandate for the renovation of the Portland Building, or did it have a duty to maintain the National Register listing by conforming to federal preservation standards, which warn against alterations to a building’s historic features and fabric?
In fact, the City of Portland never sought National Register status for the building from the National Park Service. The building was nominated in 2011 by a local architect, Peter Meijer. “It was never a goal of the project to maintain its National Register listing,” said Kristin Wells of the City of Portland’s Office of Management and Finance, contradicting the auditor’s finding.
- 1. The audit’s release included a written response from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler which disputed some of the financial findings, arguing that the equity grants were always intended for release at the end of the project and citing a series of City Council briefings on budget changes. But the matter of the Portland Building’s National Register listing and potential de-listing is left unaddressed.