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Building watchers look for more than renovation

The Tribune asked Portland architects and developers: What type of renovation should be done to the downtown Meier & Frank building?

Stuart Emmons, principal with Emmons Architects: 'It's a classic. If Meier & Frank doesn't want to stay in there, we should have a Bloomingdale's or another big retailer in there. They could cut light wells to bring natural light into the middle of the building and put housing on top of downtown commercial buildings like in Berlin. It works well to keep downtown alive after retail closes. I don't want to get a lot of small retailers like the Galleria. That didn't work that well.'

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Craig Sweitzer, vice president of Trammell Crow's urban retail group: 'I'd do mixed-use retail with residential. Apartments, condos or hotel. Or a conversion to a hotel/condo with ground floor shops. (Pioneer Courthouse Square) could use more residential base. Part of the failure of that building is, it is an old, traditional department store and doesn't have windows. You have to show light, activity. The days of cavernous department stores are long gone. The first two or three floors for retail, maybe some other type. It's such a great central location.'

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Bill Lennertz, principal with Lennertz & Coyle Architects and Town Planners: 'The best use of the building would be ground floor retail, office space in between and residences on top. It's important to keep employment downtown. É Another option up on top would be a ballroom or a restaurant or a public meeting space of some kind. We have these great historic buildings, but the public can't always enjoy them because they're privately owned.'

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Henry A. Ashforth III, chief executive officer of Lloyd District developers Ashforth Pacific Inc.: 'Retail and residential. I've not seriously looked at it for office use. All three should be looked at. Keeping businesses downtown is as important as keeping residents downtown. It deserves all the study we can muster to preserve its history and incorporate sustainable design. The city should be doing anything and everything it can to retain businesses downtown Ñ from tax incentives to grants.'

ÑÊDon Hamilton

and Kristina Brenneman