WHAT IS HAPPENING? The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission is urging the City Council to balance preservation with redevelopment in its annual State of the City Preservation Report, which will be presented on Thursday, May 2.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? The City Council is under pressure to decide how Portland will continue to grow. The city's population is projected to increase by 120,000 households by 2035. Some existing homeowners, neighborhood associations and preservation advocates are warning the city's character could be harmed by too much redevelopment. Others say redevelopment will allow more people to take advantage of desirable neighborhoods that currently are priced out of the reach of most residents.
Tensions around the issue range from the council requiring earthquake warning signs on unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings to the city's Residential Infill Project and House Bill 2001 before the 2019 Oregon Legislature, both of which would require smaller multifamily projects to be built in exclusive single-family neighborhoods.
WHAT DOES THE COMMISSION SAY? The commission prefers renovating existing buildings over building new ones. The report argues that the creative reuse of existing buildings is the best way to respond to both issues. "The (commission) will continue to beat the drum of 'the most sustainable building is the one that already exists.' This is not just good practice in the field of historic preservation, this is essential for fighting climate change," the report says.
The report prioritizes a number of location and issues for council consideration. They include:
• The New Chinatown/Japan Historic District in inner Northwest Portland, where varied investment has lagged. "The Landmarks Commission supports new smart investment in this neighborhood, provided this new investment is respectful of the historic character of the district," the report says.
• The unreinforced masonry requirements, which the commission fears will result in the demolition of many historic buildings without city support. "Without a robust support system, offering financial, technical, and logistical assistance to owners of these buildings, many property owners may choose to demolish their buildings rather than upgrade them."
• Focusing on historic African-American community buildings. "Without proper identification and protection, and without a new champion for National Register listing, these buildings and the stories they represent will continue to be lost," the report says.
WHAT CAN I DO? The commission report will be presented to the council on Wednesday. You can read it at www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/article/729893.
You can give the council your opinion on the report by reaching out to the members through the contact information at portlandoregon.gov.
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