Arlene & Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, Portland

Arlene & Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design – A DeMuro Award Project

On November 13, Restore Oregon presented the DeMuro Awards to seven extraordinary historic rehabilitation projects. The award is named in honor of Art DeMuro whose redevelopment of historic properties such as the White Stag Block set the standard for quality, creativity, persistence, and business acumen. This is the second in our series of posts about these projects. 


511 Broadway Exterior (photo courtesy of Gerding Edlen)

511 Broadway Exterior (photo courtesy of Gerding Edlen)

In recent years hundreds of historic post offices, court houses and office buildings have been divested by the government. Icons in their communities, they were built for specific purposes and for a different time, often making them difficult to adapt to new uses.

One example was the old “511 Building” in Portland. Built in 1918 as the main post office, over time, “modernization” obscured many architectural details. In 2015, the Pacific Northwest College of Art completed a $31 million dollar rehabilitation of the Building. Today it serves as a shining example of a government building transformed into a beautiful and functional education facility.

Arlene & Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, Portland

The Arlene & Harold Schnitzer
Center for Art and Design, Portland

At 135,000 square feet, it includes classroom space, a library, art galleries, theatre, studio spaces, offices, and a student commons.

In addition to restoring the historic fabric, dramatic new elements were added, including:

  •  A 10,000 sf mezzanine,
  • A full atrium
  • And a black box theater.

The PNCA project demonstrates stewardship in many ways: from restoration of historic details, to a viscous damper seismic retrofit, and a LEED Platinum energy rating.

Tom Marley of PNCA accepting the DeMuro Award in a student-decorated jacket inspired by the 511 Building

Tom Marley of PNCA
accepting the DeMuro Award
in a student-decorated jacket
that was inspired by the 511 Building

Because the project kicked off during the Great Recession, financing was very difficult. Funding was knit together from multiple sources, including Historic and New Markets tax credits, a PDC loan, and a $15 million dollar capital campaign.

This project provides more than a world-class facility for a growing college. It is the linchpin of a larger strategy to catalyze investment in Old Town/Chinatown, and there’s already evidence it’s working.

Project Team:

Gerding Edlen Development

Allied Works Architecture Inc.

Howard S. Wright Construction

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