The City of Portland has removed historic resource status from two prominent downtown buildings, a decision that is expected to pave the way for demolition and construction of a new hotel on the site. The buildings—the Ancient Order of United Workmen Temple and Hotel Albion—were placed on the Historic Resource Inventory in 1985 and had been subject to demolition protections ever since.
On November 5, the Bureau of Development Services lifted the buildings’ Historic Resource status—a decision that nullifies all historic preservation protections for the properties. Preliminary plans for the site showed that one building would be demolished and the other irreparably altered to make way for the new hotel. Plans anticipate full demolition of both buildings for a hotel and office.
Built in 1892, the Ancient Order of United Workmen Temple is one of Portland’s most prominent remaining buildings from the 1890s. Designed by architect Justus Krumbein, the vacant six-story Richardsonian Romanesque block retains much of its exterior integrity. Revised plans received by the Bureau of Development Services on November 4 show full demolition is planned the Temple.
The 1906 Hotel Albion is best known for the venerable Lotus Café, a legacy business that has occupied the ground floor since 1924. Both buildings have enough historic and architectural significance to be considered for Historic Landmark status—a designation that, under Oregon law, would require the consent of the owner.
The city removed the buildings from the Historic Resource Inventory on the same day that the requests were made by the property owner. Due to a zoning code loophole invoked by the applicant, the Bureau of Development Services was left with little option but to approve the request.
Central to the city’s decision to take the properties off the Inventory is an obscure subsection of the zoning code that honors owner requests to remove historic resource status. The subsection was inadvertently adopted as a part of a larger package of code revisions in 2002 and has resulted in 11 same-day Historic Resource Inventory removals this year alone.
Since distributing a memo to Portland city leaders in July, Restore Oregon has petitioned for the loophole to be closed as part of our broader campaign to protect local historic resources. It is Restore Oregon’s position that the loophole contradicts not only the city’s demolition review provisions, but also the State’s explicit 120-day delay requirement for applications to demolish historic resources.
Had any of Restore Oregon’s proposed policy changes been adopted, the Temple and Hotel would have been subject to a lengthy delay process to allow time for alternatives to demolition to be considered.
Restore Oregon intends to appeal the decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals.