SERA present New Market Theater expansion to Landmarks Commission (images)

SERA Architects have presented designs to the Historic Landmarks Commission for a new 4 story addition to the New Market Theater building. The project would include three floors of creative office space over two ground level retail spaces.

New Market Theater North Wing

The New Market Theater at 50 SW 2nd Ave was built in 1872. The cast iron building once included a public market, commercial offices and a “lavish 800 seat theater”. Though the interior has been significantly altered over the years, the exterior remains largely intact. Almost as soon as the New Market Theater was completed, construction began on the North Wing, which was finished in 1873. The North Wing was demolished in 1956. All that remains of it today are the cast iron arches that face onto SW 1st Ave, which we reinstalled on the site in the 1980s. Today the New Market Theater is a Portland Historic Landmark and a contributing structure in the Skidmore / Old Town Historic District.

Materials proposed for the addition include red brick, custom wood storefront windows, steel and glass canopies, fiberglass upper level windows with painted wood spandrels, cast stone accents and sheet metal cornices. The existing cast iron arcade facing the Skidmore Fountain would be disassembled during construction and then reassembled in the same location.

New Market Theater North Wing

A memo [PDF] to the Landmarks Commission was published before the February 8th advisory hearing, outlining potential areas for discussion. These included the scale and compatibility of the addition; whether the arcade should be relocated in order to create a wider sidewalk per contemporary Bureau of Transportation standards; the materials for the addition; and the ground level program. The project drew a warm welcome from the members of the Commission present, who universally agreed that a sidewalk dedication should not be required and the addition be built to the historic building line. The applicants were encouraged to design the ground floor to be as permeable as possible, with doors and windows that can be wide open in order to reinforce the market character of the Skidmore Fountain plaza. Near the end of the hearing Commisioner Engeman offered her thoughts on the appropriateness of the design:

 I really think this is a great start to the design. I was really pleased by the direction that you guys chose. I know that in the new Design Guidelines [for Skidmore / Old Town] that are going to be adopted we show a range of ways to meet the Design Guidelines: some buildings using a more modern approach; and some being designed pretty close to the historic style. This is maybe leaning a little bit more towards the latter. I think that given the location with the fountain, the fact that we have numerous either missing teeth or maybe not quite as historically supported buildings around the fountain currently, that filling in this amount of frontage behind the fountain warrants an approach that is similar to what you’re taking here. Which is to maintain that arcade, and use a language and materiality that is really supportive of the historic district.

The project will be required to go through a Type III Historic Resource Review with public hearings before the Historic Landmarks Commission.


2 thoughts on “SERA present New Market Theater expansion to Landmarks Commission (images)

  1. Portland, where is the vision? Two huge missed opportunities: 1(To blend the old with a bold new design that both respects the past and embraces the present. and 2) to build on one of few truly interesting spaces in downtown–Skidmore fountain. And what do you think will occupy this Disneyland addition? You guessed it: a coffee shop or a whiskey bar below and above gamer guys in hoodies programming how to make video work better on your iPhone. Where is the vision Portland? We’re putting our signature public market in a tangled nest of auto bridge ramps yet surrendering one of the last spaces of Portland’s past to mundane retail and office. And to make matters worse we’re not even getting great design but rather sentimental mimicry. Add to this the likely demolition of all of Centennial Mills and the United Workmen Temple building for private development and it’s clear we are very much in need of Urban Design leadership in this town. The irony of this proposed New Market expansion is the fact we are tearing down REAL historic buildings and building new FAKE ones. This is madness. Yes we have private property rights, development pro forma and seismic costs to overcome. What we don’t have is the leadership and the regulatory structure to shape those forces for better outcomes.

  2. I couldn’t agree more! Portland is stuck in a rut. A self-satisfied rut that starts with great, inclusive intentions and then gets lazy. What will these new “old” buildings look like in 30 years? These projects are offered up by the supposed leaders of the profession of architecture in this town but only show lack of aspiration, courage and cynicism about “what’s possible”. It’s all about playing nice and doing what expected so that the check can be cashed.

Leave a Reply