Artists rally for Pearl District tree imperiled by hotel
To a developer, Portland's skyline might seem like empty canvas. But a hotelier's plan to erase another downtown tree has inspired an unlikely preservation effort — made of paint.
It's a picture-perfect story of the silverleaf maple that stands, for now, on the corner of Northwest Flanders Street and 12th Avenue in the Pearl District. Residents call the wood "beloved," a friendly neighbor to greet each time they walk past.
"No one in this community wants to see this large maple go," one woman testified before the Portland Design Commission on Jan. 3. "If we were to lose a tree of this size, in this area, it would not be replaceable."
A proposal being prepared for review by the commission would uproot the tree in order to plant a 23-story tower on the quarter-block lot, which is otherwise home to a small shed and parking. The lower half of the 250-feet-tall structure would operate as a Hyatt Place hotel, while the top 12 floors would add 120 apartments to the pricey residential market, according to Next Portland.
The 200-room hotel is one of a slew of looming lodging developments, including other Hyatt-branded ventures at the Oregon Convention Center and in the city's West End neighborhood. They're expected to add some 2,100 hotel rooms when completed.
In the Pearl, some residents oppose the proposed building's scale — or the lack of on-site parking. The artists of the Tree Emergency Response Team, however, just want to save their friend.
"It's been an excellent neighbor in the community for maybe 100 years," John Teply, who helps organize the response team as director of the Elizabeth Jones Art Center, said in an interview.
Some 16 artists gathered Sunday, Feb. 17, for a paint-in to produce portraits of the leafy sentinel. Their work will be available to the public as soon as Thursday, March 7, when the Jones Art Center, 516 N.W. 14th Ave., will host an exhibition from 5 to 8 p.m.
Environmentalists say there's canopy cover remaining in about 8 percent of the northwest district, compared with 29 percent citywide. In contrast, there are 52 hotels providing 9,109 rooms to travelers in the central city, according to the Portland Business Journal.
"The trees are important," Teply added. "We are bringing attention to many of the vital trees in our community by painting them."