The Bureau of Development Services has published its Staff Report and Recommendations to the Portland City Council [PDF] for the demolition of the Buck-Prager Building at 1727 NW Hoyt. If the review is approved, the applicant proposes to build a half-block residential building, with 82 units. The developer is Gerding Edlen and the architect is Holst.
The building was originally built as a maternity hospital in 1918, and has seen a number of uses over the years. Most recently it has been used as an office, but has been empty since 2007. Because the property is a contributing resource to the Alphabet Historic District, a Type IV Demolition Review is required, in which the City Council makes the initial decision. The staff report is advisory only, but recommends denial:
Comprehensive Plan Objective 12.3.B states: “Support the preservation of Portland’s historic resources through public information, advocacy and leadership within the community as well as through the use of regulatory tools.” This Demolition Review process is part of the regulatory toolbox in the City’s charge to meet this objective. Staff calls attention to the city’s own charge that preservation of the city’s historic resources be preserved through leadership within the community. This Demolition Review process presents the opportunity for City Council to squarely meet this objective by advocating for and supporting the preservation of this historic resource. The City, as a whole, will look to this determination for guidance on future similar proposals.
Staff notes that only one Type IV Demolition Review has been processed and approved in the City’s history. This 2010 approval allowed demolition of the historic Kiernan Building, also known as the Dirty Duck Tavern, at the northwest corner of the Chinatown/Japantown Historic District. In the decision of the City Council it was noted that “a new proposed facility, encompassing low-income housing, a soup kitchen, and other related services, predicated on Title 30.01 (which requires City Subsidized Properties to maintain a minimum of 60-year low-income affordability requirement) is the highest and best use of the site.” It was also noted that the proposed project was “designed to meet the unique and special needs of a targeted homeless and/or at-risk population, while providing a safe and stable environment that encourages workforce training and personal growth.” Council found that on balance, the proposal met the approval criteria to approve demolition. Where there are multiple objectives, as in this case, the Council must review the proposal against each objective. If a proposal is consistent with certain objectives but inconsistent with other objectives, the Council determines the weight to be given to each objective, and evaluates whether on balance the proposal is consistent with the City’s goals.
As outlined above, staff does not believe that the proposal to demolish the Buck-Prager Building, a contributing resource in the Alphabet Historic District, and located at 1727 NW Hoyt merits approval. Staff notes demolition of this historic resource would establish a dangerous precedent where private development is prioritized over preservation of our collective heritage. Demolition is only one path toward improving the condition of this half block; however, other options are available to achieve this purpose, including redevelopment of the half-block to the north and development of a smaller building, or even open space, to the south, as well as rehabilitation of the historic resource. The proposed replacement building is severely out of scale and character, and would significantly detract from the historic character of nearby Landmarks. Demolition of the historic resource would forever remove a portion of the history of the Northwest neighborhood and the Alphabet Historic District; as staff noted above, the history of this structure, and its potential significance, is not yet completely understood. The purpose of the Historic Resource Review process is to ensure that additions, new construction, and exterior alterations to historic resources do not compromise their ability to convey historic significance. On balance, this proposal does not meet the applicable Historic Resource Review criteria and therefore does not warrant approval.
The City Council will consider the review on December 10th.