January 20, 2016. After several weeks of negotiations, demolition of the Ancient Order of United Workmen Temple and Hotel Albion has been delayed until at least April 30, 2016. The developer, Arthur Mutal, voluntarily agreed to the delay period to settle a Land Use Board of Appeals case that Restore Oregon brought forward late last year. While the development team continues to assert that saving the buildings is not financially feasible, they have been engaging with Restore Oregon and others about options that could retain the Workmen Temple.
Additionally, Restore Oregon has received confirmation from Mayor Hales’ office that the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will take steps to close the loophole in the City’s zoning code that allowed the Workmen Temple and Hotel Albion to be removed from the Historic Resource Inventory without the 120-day demolition delay that is mandated by state law.
Closing this loophole would mean that the 5,000 properties on the Inventory would once again be required to wait 120 days before being granted a demolition permit. As is the case today, properties on the Inventory can be removed without any public process or demolition delay. The delay period is intended to provide crucial time for alternatives to demolition to be explored and proposed.
Restore Oregon will continue our engagement on both fronts and appreciates the cordial and thoughtful dialogue with both the Mayor’s Office and Arthur Mutal.
November 20, 2015. In a move intended to delay and seek alternatives to demolition, Restore Oregon has filed concurrent appeals challenging the City of Portland’s decision to remove two prominent downtown buildings from the City’s Historic Resource Inventory. The appeals—one to the City and the other to the state Land Use Board of Appeals—argue that the Bureau of Development Services erred in their approval of a request by Eugene-based House of Gold, Inc., to remove the Albion Hotel and Ancient Order of United Workmen Temple from the Historic Resource Inventory. That decision, according to Restore Oregon, was a prima facie violation of state law and undermined the City’s own historic resource demolition delay process.
In conjunction with the appeals, Restore Oregon on Wednesday proposed code language that would close the loophole that undermines demolition delay provisions for properties on the Historic Resource Inventory. The proposed amendment is now under consideration by the City Council.
The two buildings at the center of the controversy—one built in 1892 and the other in 1906—were added to the Historic Resource Inventory in 1984. Though never listed as Historic Landmarks (a designation that, under Oregon law, would require the consent of the owner), the buildings have sufficient cultural and architectural significance to be eligible for such a designation. The buildings were removed from the Inventory to make way for a replacement hotel and office complex that is under review by the Design Commission.
Although the outcome of the appeals won’t be known for several weeks, a growing public outcry against the proposed demolition of the two buildings has captured the attention of the Historic Landmarks Commission, Design Commission, and City Council. A Facebook group supporting preservation added 224 followers just this week.
On November 19, the Design Commission held a public Design Advice Request for the proposed new development. The Commission raised significant concerns about the proposed demolition, with many commissioners requesting the project team incorporate one or both existing buildings into any new project. When questioned by commissioners about opportunities for adaptive reuse, the project team provided no evidence that the existing buildings were beyond repair. Following the hearing, the development team expressed interest in incorporating adaptive reuse into the proposed project.
Notice of hearings related to the appeals and proposed code amendments will be published as they become available.