PORTLAND TRIBUNE: DEAN BAKER - David Dysert is a financial planner and member of the Pearl Neighborhood's planning and transportation committee. He feels city needs a code and mechanism to encourage keeping old structures and repurposing them.A 103-year-old former fire station on the edge of the Pearl District is about to be torn down and replaced by a 12-story building with 150 apartments, ground-floor retail space and underground parking.

Some neighbors object — not just for sentimental reasons but because they fear the loss of diverse building styles in the Pearl.

These community members hate to see demolition of three buildings at Northwest 14th Avenue and Glisan Street: the old Fire District No. 3 building (Touché Restaurant & Bar) and the nearby Hawaiian Time and Le Bouchon restaurants.

The neighbors favor economic development, but worry the Pearl is becoming a cookie-cutter neighborhood of new high-rise apartments and ever fewer old funky business buildings.

It’s probable the old building will be taken down, said Sam Rodriguez, senior managing director of Mill Creek Residential Trust, owners of the site and builders of 55 residential towers all over America.

“We’re in the early stage of development, and all options are on the table,” Rodriguez said. “One option is we could use the bricks from the old structure inside the building and reconstruct the façade of the old building,” he said. “We could try to save the old building, but that is highly unlikely in terms of current configuration, or we can take it down. It’s highly unlikely we can do anything else.”

He pointed out the building has been remodeled from its initial use as a fire station, and has drifted far from its original purpose in 1913.

“People naturally get upset when old buildings come down, but at times the city and state have a role to decide which are truly historic and need to be preserved, and which don’t,” he said. This building is not protected.

“This building is not a Historic Landmark, but listed only on the City’s Historic Resource Inventory. Zoning Code section 33.445.510.B allows an owner to remove this resource from this listing by written request,” said city spokesman Ross Caron. “When and if the property owner requests to have the structure removed from the Historic Resource Inventory list, the demolition of the structure is allowed by right under the city’s current construction regulations.”

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: DEAN BAKER - Jonathan Luczycki wonders why there hasn't been more of an effort to incorporate the old fire station building into the new construction.When the project moves into the design review stage, the public can suggest plan changes and appeal any decision made by the city.

The first step in the approval process is a pre-application conference, That will be before the city’s bureau of development services at 1 p.m., April 20 in the hearing room at 1900 S.W. Fourth Ave., fourth floor, Room 4A.

The big picture in Pearl development bothers some neighbors.

A mix of old and new buildings makes a central city attractive, said David Dysert, a financial planner and member of the Pearl Neighborhood’s planning and transportation committee. Dysert lives a couple blocks from the old fire station.

“That’s my major point,” Dysert said “We don’t build with imagination. We don’t build in a simple adaptable way any more. But once the old buildings are gone, they are gone.”

He said the city needs a code and mechanism to encourage keeping old structures and repurposing them, to keep diversity and continuity between past and present.

“That doesn’t mean every building has to be saved,” he said. “But there needs to be a blend of saving structures outright, knocking less useful ones down and building new ones for reasons like density and seismic viability. The third option, which we are not seeing any of, is taking an existing structure and adding onto it, to create a new typology.”

He said, “If you go to interesting cities, vibrant cities, you see a variety of different types. If we keep going as we are, you are going to see the same thing everywhere.”

But Rodriguez said the Touché site at 1425 Glisan St. is small as it is, with only 15,000 square feet, and limited or no parking underneath, is unacceptable.

Lamenting potential loss

Jonathan Luczycki paints landscapes and historic buildings, and he’s actively mourning the possible loss of the Pearl District Fire Station.

“I’m political, but I’m not activist,” he said over his easel as he examined the building a few days ago. “But these buildings are being lost, and I care.”

“Couldn’t they somehow include the building in their plans?” he wondered.

Widely published architecture critic Brian Libby said, “It’s really unfortunate that that old fire station may be demolished. Portland prides itself on being progressive on a lot of fronts, but we do not do nearly enough to protect historic architecture. On both a city and state level we don’t have enough carrots or sticks. We need both more protection for historically significant buildings and more incentives for renovating them.”

Libby pointed out a measure to give tax credit for renovating old buildings failed in the Oregon Legislature last year, and the city hasn’t updated its Historic Building Inventory since the 1980s.

“Unfortunately this fire station is just one of countless historic buildings of all types that are under threat,” Libby said. “And it’s not just a matter of sentimentality or reverence for history: Great design and historic places have tremendous economic value. The best cities, and the ones we all want to spend time in, are the ones with the most layers of history and an enduring sense of place.”

Historic preservationist Tanya Lyn March agreed.

She suggested Mill Creek could spare the historic firehouse and build two structures with 150 apartments next to it.

“It will soften the massing of the overall project. A collage of building eras makes for a vibrant pedestrian experience,” she said. “Saving the building would enhance the experience. Construction on the vacant lot and former gas station site (Hawaiian Time café) should be encouraged. The building helps create a sense of place.”

Mill Creek Residential Trust

Senior Managing Director: Sam Rodriguez

Rodriguez’s company has overwhelming experience. Based in Dallas, Tex., Mill Creek has built 57 apartment buildings in Seattle, Portland, the San Francisco Bay area, Southern California, Denver, Dallas, Austin, Houston, South Florida, Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York, and Boston.

Portland-area buildings:

• Moderna Goose Hollow, 2004 S.W. Jefferson St.

• Eddyline Bridgeport, 18049 S.W. Lower Boones Ferry Road, Tigard

• Cordelia, 777 N.W. 19th Ave., and Savier Street Flats, 2270 N.W. Savier St.

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