Four tales of Old Portland Holdouts
As Portland develops from a big small city into a small big city, remnants of the past inevitably are left behind. Despite their power, developers cannot bulldoze every small building that gets in their way.
Some fight to live another decade and new buildings are built around them. These L-shaped developments have become common in the last decade. Think of the Burgerville at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Multnomah Street near the Oregon Convention Center. One of the fast food company's best-performing stores, this Burgerville serves hungry conventioneers as well as drive-through commuters and families. There was no way they were going to give up the location, so Union Apartments was built around it. Not far east is the Sandy Hut, a dive bar on a triangle of land over which apartments now tower. As grungy spaces become desirable for new residents, it's hard to know how long such places can hold out.
The Business Tribune looked at four more of these local anomalies and their stories.
The Dockside Saloon & Restaurant
2047 N.W. Front Ave.
The Dockside, or a diner like it, has been opening in the wee hours (5 a.m. on Fridays, 6 a.m. Saturday and Monday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. on Sundays) since 1925. Named Dockside in 1986, (before that it was What's Up Doc and before that Dot's Sternwheeler) it served dock workers, truckers and night-shift workers in the industrial northwest who were heading home.
Since six stories of swanky modern offices called Field Office sprang up around it, the clientele is a little more mixed, says owner operator Kathy Peterson.
Peterson and her husband live in Maplewood in Southwest, but the Dockside is their life. They own the land under it and the business itself, and have done so for 32 years. They used to rent land as a customer parking lot from the warehouse that sat behind it. Now with Field Office in its place, customers seek out street parking, including right outside the front door.
"We hoped to buy that space, but couldn't," she told the Business Tribune.
One previous developer "tried to squeeze us out with a ridiculously low offer," she says, but they held on. Then the land next door passed to the current owner.
"He liked us and wanted us to stay."
That would be Tom Cody of project^ . The mercurial development company prefers offbeat developments and architecture, such as the Beebe Skidmore-designed renovation where Swift is located at 1250 N.W. 17th Ave., and the Hacker-designed Field Office itself, with its courtyard and greenery for the benefit of office workers.
"We briefly talked about moving into the new building, but it's very costly for a business to relocate," Peterson said. "It changes everything. It can be the kiss of death. I've seen it happen. We're comfortable where we are."
The site is still zoned industrial and she says taxes have not changed.
Peterson says not as many of the new people in the neighborhood near the Fremont Bridge have become Dockside customers as she anticipated. That includes Field Office workers and residents of the new apartments and condos along the riverfront.
"I have no idea what the future will be like. I'm not saying we're busier or slower. When we had parking we had police officers, drivers for garbage trucks and PGE workers. Now they have to make an effort to find a place to park. A lot of our older customers have difficulty and can't walk long distances."
As for the scrap of nose-in parking up front, she says "It's going away soon. We're going to put in sidewalks to gentrify it."
Touché / Modera Glisan.
1425 Glisan St.
The space formerly known as Touché Restaurant & Bar is housed in a 105-year-old former firehouse. The three buildings at Northwest 14th Avenue and Glisan Street were at one time set for demolition: the old Fire District No. 3 building (Touché Restaurant & Bar) and the nearby Hawaiian Time and Le Bouchon restaurants. The fire station survived. Sam Rodriguez, senior managing director of Mill Creek Residential Trust, owners of the site and builders of 55 residential towers all over America, at one point suggested taking it down and reconstructing the brick facade inside a new building. It's worth noting that only the brick façade is original.
The building is not a Historic Landmark, but is listed only on the City's Historic Resource Inventory. Zoning code (section 33.445.510.B) allows an owner to remove this resource from this listing and the demolition of the structure is allowed under the city's current construction regulations.
The 15,000 square-foot Touché site, with no parking under it, was considered difficult to work around at first.
Modera Pearl, Modera Belmont, Modera Goose Hollow ... anything in Portland named Modera is probably developed by Texas-based Mill Creek Residential Trust. The SERA-designed Modera Glisan will be a 12-story, L-shaped tower with studio, one- and two-bedroom homes with an average of 715 square feet with additional live/work spaces available. It will have a hotel-inspired pool deck on the 10th floor and a 12th floor, rooftop deck.
Brian Greeley, leasing agent at Urban Works, is part of the team that is leasing out the Touché space and the new development around it. He says Touché could be an event space or restaurant, but not housing. Other street-level space in the Modera Glisan project could be retail or creative office space, he said.
Odditorium/The Old Portland
1433 N.W. Quimby St.
Another odd standout nestles in the crook of the Reveal, a luxury apartment building at 1411 N.W. Quimby St. The six-story tower, which is set to open around Christmas, abuts the Odditorium, which is the clubhouse/rehearsal space for Portland band The Dandy Warhols.
Bandleader Courtney Taylor-Taylor said he bought the 10,000 square-foot space in 2002 for $635,000 to do something sensible with money from record sales that the group might have otherwise frittered away. The one-story building's studio and hangout area has hosted many traveling musicians, including David Bowie, the White Stripes and Motley Crüe's Tommy Lee. Inside, it's Fellini-esque, with Doric columns, a stage, a recording studio with shag carpet and log-slice stepping stones.
From the outside, however, it is quiet, with blacked-out windows and no sign. On the roof it has a basic patio — chairs, table, fairy lights — and a shed. Some days, after 4 p.m. a neon sign saying "WINE" comes on. In 2017, Taylor-Taylor opened a wine bar in the front called The Old Portland, (1433 N.W. Quimby St., 503-234-0865) which sells mostly French wine (his preference) and closes at 9 p.m. because he doesn't want to deal with typically exuberant bar hoppers. It's decorated with fixtures from Old Portland places that didn't make it, like the Lotus's mirror and Satyricon's marquee. The band still plays the Crystal Ballroom every December, but the party for a new album — in this case, 2018's "Why You So Crazy?" — will always be at the Odditorium.
Property developer and builder Alliance Residential would have had an easier time building on the whole block — like the new buildings all round them — but the band refused to sell. However, when the former trailer parts warehouse at 14th and Quimby was being demolished, the Odditorium's roof began to sag. Surveyors has not noticed that the two buildings shared a structural wall. In the end, Alliance had to re-engineer the west side of the apartment complex to make sure the Odditorium didn't collapse.
Inside, You can see the Reveal's grey steel tie-backs. They're at the top of the blue green mural which the band had commissioned years ago, when they spent their music video budget on a remodel. As Taylor-Taylor told Willamette Week in 2017, he's looking forward to hundreds of metrosexuals moving into the Reveal who will probably want some place nearby to drink wine. "We're holding out," says bartender Chris Thompson.
920 S.W. Third Ave
Across town from the Odditorium is the Auditorium and Music Hall, an 1895 brick building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the north side of it, Turner Construction is building a 10-story office tower, and on the south side a 20-story hotel. As of December, the office is going up but the hotel is still a hole in the ground.
The Workman's Temple building, which was on the Second Avenue side of the block, is gone, demolished because the old brick was too expensive to retrofit for earthquakes.
Architect Michael Great of Ankrom Moisan , who is leading the design on both of the new projects, explained that the Auditorium building is still there because it is protected by the city.
"It's protected in full, from any substantial design changes or additions," he told the Business Tribune. Add to that the fact that it's under separate ownership from the rest of the block and there was no chance of it going away. Great's client ,Third and Taylor Development LLC, owns seven eighths of the block — but not that eighth.
One challenge has been designing the office and taking care not to negatively affect the foundation of the old building. In some places it extends under the sidewalk.
"More often than not (with historic buildings) the drawings have been lost for decades. You don't know what you're going to see until you tear a wall down. You can be surprised."
The new buildings can't go over or under the old one.
There are cornices that hang out on the north and south edges, and the new buildings will have to step back a few feet from them. "We took care accommodating the cornice that pushed into our site," says Great, explaining that Ankrom Moisan couldn't design up to the property line.
The office will have terra-cotta cladding, reminiscent of the 19th-century brick next door. The hotel design is more complex, stepping back further and changing materials as it rises.
Both new buildings were subject to design review: in typical Portland style they have to "fit in" with the old building they dwarf.
"In the end, it resulted in two great buildings. It's going to showcase the Auditorium building really well; people will notice it more."
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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